Happy Hour at the Grogzone: Architectures of Alcoholic Aotearoa

Maito Promo Land Maito Akiyama

Happy Hour at the Grogzone: Architectures of Alcoholic Aotearoa is an ongoing investigation into how architecture can be used as a framework to interrogate Aotearoa's binge-drinking culture. 

This thesis argues that alcohol as a substance is not the issue. Instead, it is Kiwis' attitudes toward it which have contributed to the current drinking culture in New Zealand. 

The paradox is that Kiwis are aware of this issue, but choose to hide behind a mask, brushing off binge-drinking as a social norm. Our nation's thick skin and masculine ideology both culminate in the culture seen today.

In two parts, this thesis investigates how architectural propositions can act as an incubator for social agency, firstly by using architecture as a medium to reveal the issue, then secondly, as an instigator to shift the culture. A network of five urban disruptions is scattered throughout the Auckland CBD acting as 'stations' that unveil specific programmes associated with our binge drinking culture. These 'stations' then converge at a 'terminal' which incorporates acts taken from the five stations and cross-pollinates these ideas into a social condenser to initiate a shift in Aotearoa's drinking culture. 

Throughout this thesis, the programme will act as a narrative to represent and reinforce key ideas: exposing, facilitating, and shifting the good, the bad and the ugly side of drinking in Aotearoa. The architectural explorations within Happy Hour at the Grogzone argue that New Zealand's binge-drinking culture isn't entirely dictated by behaviour and the cultural climate; instead, regulation, and consequently the architecture, play a significant role. 

The Terminal Building addresses this by using architecture as a framework to flip the existing legislation around alcohol consumption and presents a hyper-real and exaggerated version of this environment. This maximises the exposure of the topic and furthers the discourse on how regulation can impact spaces and social behaviour. 


My design research is a concoction of three key processes: Firstly, collage is used to splice together aspects of New Zealand's binge-drinking culture from various media sources, as a direct representation of this culture.

Secondly, vacuum forming is used to explore the concept of the pressure potently prevalent in the drinking culture of New Zealand, and as an unpredictable generator of form. The unpredictable nature of this process is a manifestation of the unpredictable nature of drinking. It also aims to critique contemporary architecture's emphasis on flawlessness.

Thirdly, the collage and vacuum forming processes merge with 1:100 model making to create spatial manifestations of drinking scenarios. These models are a hyper-exaggerated version of existing drinking scenarios. They populate central Auckland and embed themselves into the existing urban fabric. The entire project is presented in this potently exaggerated and hyperreal condition which essentially aims to reveal the obvious to spark a discussion on the drinking climate of New Zealand through the architecture. 

My personal practice uses architecture as a lens to view different aspects of society, turning up the dial on existing situations and scenarios. Architecture thus becomes my medium and methodology for interrogating spatial issues.



The architectural manifestations of New Zealand's drinking culture are represented as a series of 'stations' that are a part of a Free-Flow Pub Crawl. A Free-Flow Pub Crawl takes the idea of a traditional bar-hopping style pub crawl but gives participants more freedom by having no prescribed route. 

Participants can choose to pop-in and pop-out of the crawl, encouraging the dispersal of conversations and ideas that each station projects onto its visitors. By having these stations scattered throughout the Auckland CBD, it maximises the exposure of topics revealed in each design as this region has the highest concentration of people in New Zealand. 

All stations are intrinsically connected through the designs' material quality, construction techniques, atmosphere and form. The continual relationship between each building references Bernard Tshumi's 'Parc de la Villette' and brings forward the notion that these stations are individual parts in a "discontinuous building, but nevertheless a single structure, overlapping in certain areas with the city." 

Station 1, The Closet Sinker, talks about closet alcoholism within New Zealand society through the vacuum formed mask.

Station 2, The Bank of Pre's, reveals our nation's pre-drinking culture through a two-storey beer bong.

Station 3, Pub Politics, confronts the politics surrounding alcohol legislation and the impact this has had on rural pub closures with the idea of pressure being exerted onto the vacuum-formed debating chamber.

Station 4, The Piss Stop, exaggerates the relationship between drinking, bathrooms and sex. It focuses on the problems that occur when these elements overlap, by using a one-way mirror and flipping the regular conditions of the bathroom environment.

Station 5, Mixed Media, displays the potential impact the media and advertising industries have had on our drinking culture by using the crate box as a symbol of overindulgent consumption.

Each station is designed to reveal a different aspect of our drinking culture through its architecture, and revolves around a narrative. The narrative focuses on specific characters who would typically inhabit the spaces. They are used to justify why these particular buildings should exist or require designing. 

The fictional characters presented in the Free-Flow Pub Crawl section of Happy Hour at the Grogzone: Architectures of Alcoholic Aotearoa, frame the architecture, giving the audience something to relate to, acting as a reference point and are purposefully stereotypical. Satire is used throughout these narratives to open up the work for a wider, receptive audience, thus allowing more people to understand the ideas and intent behind the designs. 

The characters themselves inhabit the architecture, and in turn, their behaviour shapes the architecture. This allows the narrative to act as a receptive form of media. As Lim states, "The act of binding architecture into the story of its inhabitants can only bring a new relevancy to the built environment, projecting, but not predicating, the rules of its occupation."


Finished Product

The Terminal Building is the finale or end result of this project, but it also acts as the conglomeration of ideas and architectural motifs explored in the previous five stations. 

The spark which resulted in the driver for the Terminal Building occurred during the composition exercise when the station models were lined up horizontally in a linear fashion. This reminded me of the linear strip of Queen Street and the carnage that occurs there late at night on most Wednesdays (student night), Fridays and Saturdays.

3 Plan Maito Akiyama

The key finding of my design research was that architecture and regulation are entirely linked. The Terminal Building is the concluding design which addresses this connection and aims to create a shift or alternative to the current drinking culture by regulating consumption through complete public openness. 

Because people tend to behave differently in public spaces compared to in private, the design uses casual surveillance as a key driver to reduce the harm of binge-drinking, visibly facilitating control and normalisation. 

The Terminal Building takes over Queen Street, which is the main commercial thoroughfare of Auckland city with a standard BYO on-license. The building has a roof which extends up and down the street, making the entire area one building and therefore bringing it under one liquor license. This means that the whole of Queen Street becomes a public BYO space, conforming to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012.

The Terminal Building has several food vendors open 24/7 to comply with the Alcohol Act. The building also contains coma capsules and a hangover lounge bar to publicly expose the fundamental ills of drinking in addition to a mocktail distillery and vaping hot boxes as alternatives to alcohol.

Within this thesis, the focus was on New Zealand’s drinking culture and how it influences architecture. Still, in particular, as the thesis progressed, a clear lineage was established between the five stations of inebriation and the Terminal Building which unearthed the relationship between the country’s regulations, architecture and drinking culture. This resulted in a further inquiry into how regulations impact architecture and vice versa, which is the notion that brings this thesis to its conclusion.

The conclusion of this thesis argues that New Zealand’s binge-drinking culture isn’t purely dictated by behaviour and the cultural climate, instead, regulation and consequently the architecture resulting from regulation play a significant role. 

The Terminal Building addresses this by using architecture as a framework to flip the existing legislation around alcohol consumption and presenting a hyper-real and exaggerated version of this environment.


Critic's Text

The turning point of Maito Akiyama's thesis 'Happy Hour at the Grog Zone: Architectures of alcoholic Aotearoa', is the The "Terminal Building". 

It came about almost by chance after Akiyama had completed much of his experimental design research using collage, vacuum forming and interpretive and scale modelling to test various scenarios identified in drinking culture. At this stage, he had a series of discrete models including the "Piss Stop" (addressing the bodily needs of drinkers) and the "Mixed Media" pavilion, which located the relationship between drinking to excess and the use of social media to record, circulate and normalise such behaviours. 

During a mid-year presentation, a guest critic commented on a photo of all the models collected together as if it was a proposed design. At that stage, it wasn't, but there was a strong conviction that the next step would involve some sort of assemblage that would not only critique binge-drinking culture, but also examine whether architecture might be a tool to shift cultural attitudes to drinking as well as smoking and vaping. 

This led to an exploration of curation of the models, a pivotal step in developing the final design. Drawing on a strong lineage of work in the School, as well as in speculative architectural design research more broadly, the research deploys a satirical approach. Novel and intriguing, the sophisticated design making is ambitious and provocative and proved rich in opportunities for both architectural and social critique.  

The satirical representations of an extreme architecture of alcohol consumption provided a test of the scope of the built realm in shaping or supporting changes in behaviour while uncovering the paradoxical effect of regulation. This creative exploration culminates in the "Terminal Building" which uses architecture as a tactic by which architects might claim some agency to disrupt regulations (such as the building code and liquor licensing laws) through design.  

Here, the thesis attaches to theorists Michel de Certeau and Beatriz Colomina and through its clearly articulated modes of making, brilliantly fabricates a coherence between theoretical position, methodology and questions.

The extended roofline in the Terminal Building occupying Queen Street in Auckland extends the license of a premises out beyond the walls of a building. It makes drinking culture highly visible in the public realm. The capacity of Akiyama to reveal the significance of the research in this way is excellent and demonstrates a high level of independent and critical thinking.

— Chris Barton - supervisor