The research aims to understand the connection between structurally climate resilient homes and socially resilient communities and was one of twenty-nine proposals received for the Fellowship. 

Celebrating creative design thinking, new ideas and approaches to public housing, the F. Gordon Wilson Fellowship for Public Housing(external link) was awarded by Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects last November.

F. Gordon Wilson held many Government positions as lead architect for public housing from 1936 to 1959. The Fellowship, established by members of his family and the Institute, is inspired by Wilson’s leadership of innovation in public housing design. 

Kāinga Ora Director of Architecture, Marko den Breems was a proud member of the judging panel.   

“We’re pleased to support this fellowship and the research the design practitioners will complete around sustainable social housing in New Zealand,” he says.  

Having grown up in social housing in Lower Hutt, Mitra Homolja says the main aim of Third Studio’s design work is about delivering community connectivity and resilience.  

“We’re both passionate about communities – core to our architectural and urban design work is the lived experience for the people in the homes and the surrounding communities” she says.  

Their approach to the Fellowship submission was fuelled by projects they are already involved in, Mitra adds.

“Our submission was the coming together of many architectural elements we’re already involved in. It was like weaving together social housing design with mana whenua perspectives and emerging technologies to build climate resilient homes.” 

Fellow founding partner of Third Studio, Ellie Tuckey says “There is intense discussion in the industry about climate change and how that shows up in architecture to support communities. Climate events are on everyone’s radar, much more so than a few years ago.” 

Their research project will investigate construction technology in social housing, including local mana whenua perspectives alongside international architectural responses to climate change. They will produce a case study on their findings to apply to social housing in Lower Hutt, one of New Zealand’s most densely populated flood plains.   

“This fellowship gives us the opportunity to research how new and emerging technologies can be adopted in architecture. We can continue working in our business while returning to academia and hopefully presenting the industry with new ideas on the use of technology to design for the impacts of climate change,” says Ellie.  

They both agree what prompted them to make their submission for the fellowship was the opportunity to devote time to researching architectural responses to climate change. 

“We have conversations all the time about climate change adaptation and the question is always how we can do it, Ellie says.

“Our goal is to give a fresh perspective, including international learnings, on possible solutions we could adopt in New Zealand to adapt to climate change. We see this as an opportunity to provide a platform for debate on solutions for social housing communities in our region.”

Both Ellie and Mitra are in the early stages of their professional careers. The submission process, especially the panel interview, reinforced to them there’s room for new thinking in the industry.  

“Our proposal was based on current architectural issues New Zealanders are dealing with every day.   The questions asked in the panel interviews were diverse and thought-provoking.  

“Whether we were awarded the fellowship or not, the responses we got from the panel judges really confirmed what we were proposing was worth exploring and we’d find a way to bring it to life.” 

Both Ellie and Mitra were delighted to be the first recipients of the Fellowship.  

“It was amazing to be awarded this fellowship and we’re excited about what it could lead to. We hope our research leads to further exploration and solutions for a very real issue facing so many communities.” 

Marko says Kāinga Ora is pleased to support the thought leadership this research presents.  

“We are excited about reviewing the outcomes of the research, and the potential opportunities to ensure state homes can be made resilient to the effects of climate change. We look forward to hearing more as Ellie’s and Mitra’s work develops.”