Island Life

Jasmax draws on natural forms to design a new community on a spectacular site in Takapuna, Auckland.

Island Life

Jasmax draws on natural forms to design a new community on a spectacular site in Takapuna, Auckland.

Island Life

Jasmax draws on natural forms to design a new community on a spectacular site in Takapuna, Auckland.

On an island-like setting in Takapuna, Auckland, Jasmax is designing Amaia, a village of residential buildings, and rejuvenating the coastal perimeter of the Waitematā Harbour site. Alistair Ray, a principal and senior urban designer at Jasmax, discusses the new project.

The masterplan of Amaia was inspired by the canopies of forest islands. How does this play out in its design?

We were aware that this coastal-edge site needed to be approached with sensitivity. We looked to international examples of how ‘island’ sites have been developed, with lower-height buildings stepping upwards to the centre.

Arborists Peers Brown Miller gave us an understanding of what this island site may have looked like pre-European settlement. Their investigations suggest the site was heavily forested: large and spreading pōhutukawa that form the edge of the current site would have been the sub-canopy layer, with a taller canopy layer possibly containing ngaio, tawapou, kohekohe and taraire trees. Above this, towards the centre, an emergent layer of taller trees could have contained kauri or kahikatea.

We’re not trying to replicate a natural forest, but exploring how each tree species has its own characteristics that add to the overall forest composition. Similarly, each building in the village expresses its own characteristics and adds to the overall composition.

It’s a very public spot – how does the design deal with this?

There are a number of publicly accessible routes through the buildings, as well as a public walkway around the perimeter. This opens up the coastal location, which has been unavailable until now. One of the starting points for the design was to maintain a significant area of coastal planting around the perimeter of the site. This currently contains a number of native trees, but will be significantly enhanced with further native planting to help restore the coastal edge. The buildings sit behind this, which recognises the importance of views in and out of the development.

How will Amaia be different to other apartment developments?

Although it’s well connected to public transport and local amenities, the island-type location allows us to create a greater sense of connectedness between residents. We wanted to create a strong sense of community, with places for work, leisure and recreation, communal rooms and maybe even a small healthcare and convenience shop.

How does the design connect with the views?

It’s almost an island, allowing views out from all sides and making it visible from multiple aspects. We’ve oriented the buildings to maximise views in all directions. There is no ‘rear’ side – it has to be attractive all the way around.

How have you approached materials?

We’ve broken up the massing with a solid base, responding to the bedrock formation of the site, and a recessed middle floor. Upper canopy levels are clad in lightweight metal that offers varying vertical articulation – and expansive glazing to enjoy the outlook from the upper levels.

There are 81 apartments – what do the different footprints offer?

The apartments have been designed in a variety of sizes to ensure they are adaptable for young families, independent young professionals and older generations. The apartments have been positioned to maximise generous outlook opportunities towards the city, Waitākere Ranges and Hauraki Gulf, while also providing ample northern amenity. Winter gardens have been provided to a number of units to allow year-round enjoyment of outdoor spaces, while providing varying layers of protection from the environment.

What aspect of the design do you most enjoy?

The space between the buildings is generous compared to many new schemes and so the outlook, especially considering the island setting, will be fantastic. The spaces between the buildings are also sufficiently large to offer a range of useful communal areas for people to enjoy.

This story was produced with the support of Amaia – display suite open daily at 10 Northcroft St, Takapuna, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. For more, see