Auckland's apartments need shared living

26 January 2017
Summer Scholar Emma Ryder

Having well-designed, outdoor shared spaces in apartment complexes prevents social issues and improves quality of life, so how is Auckland doing?

This is the question 23-year-old urban planning student Emma Ryder is investigating as a Summer Scholar at the University of Auckland, with her results to be written into a journal article later this year.

Emma is among some 300 exceptional University of Auckland students chosen to conduct a supervised research project over the holiday break, many contributing to topical social issues.

Her study is titled Apartment Living: An evaluation of the social quality of Outdoor Communal Spaces for the future Auckland. It looks to local and overseas examples to present a discussion on how outdoor shared spaces can benefit the future development of Auckland.

She is also reviewing the Auckland Unitary Plan as well as relevant literature, policies and development controls to present her findings, and is supervised by Dr Lee Beattie, Acting Head of the School of Architecture and Planning.

“Auckland is changing. We are moving from traditional housing forms to different styles of living, including apartments and terrace housing,” says Emma, who is originally from Hamilton.

“Social issues such as depression, isolation and loneliness can arise when apartments are poorly designed, but I’m really interested in how good apartment design can prevent these issues from occurring.”

Emma notes she supports apartment-living and is not setting out to critique the Unitary Plan, however she raises concerns about the lack of a direct mention of communal or shared outdoor space for apartments in the document.

“There is definitely a place for apartments and terraced housing as Auckland’s population grows,” she says. “But I do think we need to recognise that apartments built under the Unitary Plan are the future homes of many Aucklanders, and it is important we create high-quality, well-designed homes that provide for all aspects of people’s lives.” 

The Auckland Design Manual does have recommendations for communal outdoor space, but unlike the Unitary Plan it is not a statutory document.

Emma says she has found some excellent examples of outdoor communal space in Auckland complexes, such as the Quest apartments in Parnell and the Parc development in the Viaduct.

“Communal spaces should be attractive and useable, and designed in a way that it is linked to the rest of the development and not made up from leftover space,” she says.

In the future Emma hopes to extend her research by interviewing people living in apartments and discussing their feelings toward outdoor communal space.


Danelle Clayton