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18 October 2022

Out and about on site

Site Visit

During the Covid-19 lockdowns in New Zealand over the last two years, site visits were cancelled as construction workers were prevented from working on site. As we move back to business as usual, Context recently organised a site visit for our Architectural Graduates to see their designs come to life. Jessy Yao talks about the experience.

We have been working with client Wilshire Group for several years on creating an integrated urban design, architecture, and landscape design strategy for their Richmond development. Close to schools, recreation, entertainment, and transport links, Wilshire’s Richmond development is bringing contemporary terraced home living to the heart of Auckland’s Mt Wellington. With the first three stages completed (Richmond 1, Richmond 6, and Richmond Secret Garden), 230 homes have been added to the community in typologies ranging from two- to five-bedroom terraces to one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Last week, we visited Stage 4 (known as Richmond Fellow). When we arrived, we were met by two of the site builders and were taken through a Health & Safety briefing. Although we all have Site Safe certification, the briefing is mandatory given the many contractors, heavy-duty machinery, and equipment associated with a construction site. While workplace safety is embedded in our DNA at Context, I was still grateful for the tips on negotiating the scaffolding.

It’s been a while since I have been able to go on-site, and it always amazes me how different it feels realising the space and the physical parameters that the builders are working within. It’s very different developing a masterplan and then seeing the actual houses being built from the ground up. I found it really interesting to understand the sequence of construction. Watching the saw cutter in action made me realise the need to allow for movement in our designs as invariably, not everything will go according to our plans.

Some of the dwellings have timber framing in place as the builders progress to make the houses watertight before adding the cladding. Others have roofs, with plasterboard walls, and plumbed-in bathrooms. The building programme is carefully co-ordinated, and the slick process means that specialist contractors can go about their work before handing it on to the next profession.

For me, to be able to see how our plans are being brought to life was fascinating. When I was a student, my learning was very much classroom-based, being on-site gives a totally different perspective. I also found it useful to be able to talk directly to the contractors and understand more about what they do and how our designs impact on their roles on-site.

We’re planning on another visit when the site is complete, and I can’t wait to see the finished housing and landscaped gardens. It’s been a huge and sometimes challenging project, but it’s been incredibly exciting to be part of building a new community for the residents of Mt Wellington.