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Life lessons from the landscape: spatial education for earthquake preparedness

A 120 point thesis submitted to the Victoria University of Wellington in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Architecture (Professional)


Nga Aho practitioner:
Samantha McGavock

Life lessons from the landscape: spatial education for earthquake preparedness

Architecture can be conceived and designed as an active participant in enhancing awareness of the prevalence of seismic activity by illuminating the unremitting transformation of the landscape and providing places where interaction is focussed around seismic issues.

The continued awareness of changes to our landscape, potential loss of life, property, and national cultural or historical artefacts is an important means by which future preparedness can be encouraged. This thesis argues that an awareness of the message to safeguard one's future and one's family's futures could be understood through a spatial experience. This thesis proposes an architectural approach for seismically active contexts using a specific site – a recreational reserve called Harcourt Park in Upper Hutt – as a design research case study.

The site is of great geological significance to the Wellington region and New Zealand as its natural landmarks can be used to measure and publicly witness the direct effects of seismic movement along the Wellington Fault line which runs through the centre of the site. The thesis uses architecture to transform the site into a living memorial, which recognises the past devastating earthquakes in New Zealand and provides for the commemoration of losses from future damaging earthquakes should public preparedness not improve.

The architecture also functions as an earthquake education facility and geologist research facility in order to enhance the educational experience of the site. The intention of the thesis is to use architecture as a means of actively enhancing public awareness of the need to understand and prepare for the effects of seismic activity.

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