Newmarket Campus as a Porous Megaform

Hero Image 1676 X 1116 72 Dpi 1Mb Sacha Milojevic

As the impetus for this project I took the announcement that the University of Auckland was to replace two outer-suburb campuses in Tāmaki and Epsom with a new 5.2 hectare campus on the former industrial Lion Nathan Brewery site in Newmarket, consolidating the University’s land holding and spatial organisation. To the University‘s site I have added a 1 hectare ‘gateway’ site at the corner of Park Road and Carlton Gore Road in order to make a better pedestrian and visual link to the adjacent University of Auckland’s Grafton-based Health Sciences Campus, in turn linking up to the City Campus.

The overall design premise of the project is to meet the University’s goal to not only ensure specialisation but also to foster interdisciplinarity between faculties, schools, research centres, and the city’s services and industries.

A porous and layered megaform, conceptually a ‘building without parts', is counter-proposed.  The programme is conceptualised as a dense and porous aggregation of overlapping places: academic, courtyard, assembly and shared spaces, footpaths, rail station, access lanes, parking and retail. The aim is to create a special ‘place apart’ – different from the rest of the city yet contributing a good urban design through a truly permeable public urban quarter linking the Grafton and Newmarket areas.

Schools and departments overlap and share accommodation in an interconnected form which opens into its urban context at key places.

Entry into, around and through the whole site is intended to be ‘natural’ and 'rhizomic', as in a situationalist's dérive or like an entangled root system, with a wide range of options and routes and which sets up a multiplicity of connections beside and through adjacent University sectors and services.

Distinct atmospheres are achieved through tectonic and material particularity. The interstitial spaces, moments of structural porosity, are as important as the enclosed/solid spaces. In making a special academic place a part, as well as a distinctive component of the city, this project proposes an academic quarter as a public urban landform.

This 5.2 hectare project extends my preoccupation with the idea of a ‘building without parts.’ If ‘first ideas’ can be the ‘right ideas’ then Neolithic house-forms and cluster-form settlements, the earliest knowledge-sharing architectural formations known, suggest that the University of Auckland’s strategic development plan for a new multi-disciplinary teaching campus might take the form of a dense, layered, contiguous megaform.

In the way that communities in the earliest urban civilisations developed compact, cellular but fused Neolithic architectural formations, as at Çatalhöyük and Lepenski Vir, Newmarket Campus is imagined as an interdisciplinary teaching campus in the form of a dense contiguous and fused aggregation of strongly interconnected elements.

Superimposing a range of exceptional educational building projects (largely from Oxbridge and Ivy League universities) onto the Newmarket site suggested the viability of a labyrinthine density.

Overall, through the substantiality of its construction, it is intended that the Newmarket campus convey the wholeness, continuity and interconnectedness of knowledge as well as the importance of rooms, places and various atmospheres both pedagogical, for quiet study and meeting, and for the rough and tough.



Exploratory cast aluminium and nylon models of both spatial moments, at 1:500 and 1:100 and the porous whole, investigate the specificity of particular atmospheres. The interstitial spaces are as important as the spaces within.

In particular, the plasticity of cast concrete for formal manipulation and monolithic materialisation was studied. Tectonics, materiality and furnishing of a variety of spatial moments was considered when modeling: open spaces, programmatic places, and rooms for gathering in different numbers and for different purposes as well as quiet study. Designing in an organic manner from a series of single rooms outwards.

Further spatial, daylighting, tectonic and material refinement was achieved by the digital rendering of a range of places and spaces. These demonstrate complex multiple level conditions and special rooms to explore the interconnectedness of the whole, the substantiality of construction, and both the clarity and the plasticity of form.

It is intended that these visualisations of Newmarket Campus convey the atmosphere for interdisciplinary learning, the importance of spaces and places for collective gathering, as well as for private, contemplative work and rest environments.


Finished Product

Walking up out of the Auckland Domain at a corner of the site by a wide ramp or the many other stairs and ramps to the roof terraces, pedestrian and visual links to the University’s adjacent Health Sciences Campus are established.

The entries lead up and across public rooftop garden terraces to four student dormitory towers, reinforcing the idea that this is an urban landform.

Out of this ‘geology’ I have excavated scores of specific spaces to carefully daylight the rooms and perforate the mass with dozens of courtyards, from the very big to the very small.

The dense cluster of accommodation allows students, staff and visitors to see, hear and even smell the activities on site: exhibition spaces, assembly rooms, student centres, shops, technical workshops and cafes.

The campus bridges Grafton and Newmarket with a mixture of academic, public and retail spaces traversed by rail tracks, access roads and pedestrian routes through the ground level and over the roof gardens. The multitude of circulation routes extends the permeability of the immediate context into and from a constellation of hybrid academic-public courts.

This proposition transforms what has been an anti-urban industrial zone into a low dense accessible urban quarter.


Critic's Text

What makes this project stand out in what is a remarkable collection of such theses is primarily Alexander's commitment to architectural history. The position he takes is not that of an historian, but that of a designer respecting thousands of years of precedents left behind by those who have gone before him.

At the outset he presents an honest and pointed first person reflection on his previous four years at the School. He outlines what he took from each studio topic and one gets a sense of how ‘extra-curricular study’ complemented what became an increasingly refined set of architectural concerns. By the end of his account, the reasons for his focus on articulating a design process essentially based on stereotomy is clear. 

The setting out of what matters to him and making that the focus of the thesis establishes the criteria by which he selects precedents to study. There are three types: massive Neolithic buildings; university campus models; and urban development patterns.

The first half of his weighty thesis document is dedicated to discussing and abstracting the work of others. His deep understanding of their projects comes through a consistent, systemic analysis involving photography, diagrams, architectural drawings, digital models and material models. The outcome in each case is an abstracted formal ‘type’. Collectively they define a catalogue of demonstrably habitual, experientially rich forms that he brings to site and composes with.

Finally, the making – from diagrams to models to the means of presenting the models to the final document – is exceptional in the care it demonstrates for the subject matter it represents, and the insight its making yields.

— Dr Michael Davis, supervisor