Building Resilience

August 31 2023

Norman Foster probably wasn’t the first architect to say, “I think you never stop learning” and he certainly won’t be the last, but RTA Studio executive director Richard Naish is adamant that you also always learn when you teach. Naish, who has recently took part in a week-long Murcutt Masterclass in Australia about which he could “talk all day” has set up a studio programme at the University of Auckland – School of Architecture.

It's the first time in six years he’s had the time to devote to teaching and, along with his fellow tutor, Chris Barton, he will be guiding a cohort of master’s students through a paper on climate-resilient architecture. The course, which was oversubscribed, sets participants the task to re-imagine the low-lying area from Grey Lynn Park to Cox’s Bay, an enclave that was badly affected in the January floods, to develop a masterplan for managed retreat.

“Parts of the area were flooded, houses were yellow stickered and there were slips near the creek,” says Naish. “The students, who will work in groups, are asked to imagine that a tsunami has arrived and wiped out everything below the 20-metre line. How will they masterplan for flood-prone public land?”

The chosen scenario aligns with RTA Studio’s commitment to encouraging a better response to climate change and, as Naish says, “This is the generation who are designing for this new condition.”

It’s an ambitious task but an important one. And timely preparation for real-life practice. While giving something back to the profession feels good, the talent and enthusiasm of the students gives back ten-fold. As a graduate of the University himself, it’s a privilege to be able to mentor those who will take the reins of the urban condition in the future.