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New Zealand Institute of Architects









Finalist – Ekta Nathu

Ekta Nathu, from Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington School of Architecture, was a finalist in the 2019 NZIA Resene Student Design Awards for her project, 'Saved by the Bell: A Feminist Approach to High School Architecture'.

Project description

The years spent in high school are formative in the development of a confident identity and in preparing young people to be resilient adults. The architecture in which this development occurs is vitally importantin providing space for identity to form freely and equal opportunity for students to succeed.

How might architecture create more equitable learning environments for high school students? Through feminist spatial theory, processes and practice.

Feminist spatial practice favours co-learning, co-creating, collaboration and interdisciplinarity.

Engaging participatory design processes and democratic communication strategies places end-users at the forefront ofthe design process. Challenging the traditional architect-client hierarchy aims to producea less prescriptive process and therefore better represent the diversity of potential users. By designing with and for a better represented group of occupants, the spatial outcome is likely to be more equitably suited to a diverse range of people.


This project is a commendable exploration of the process that precedes architectural design and demonstrates that the likelihood of meaningful outcomes is greatly increased by a sympathetic inquiry into the needs and preferences of building users. Specifically, the scheme reveals the value of really engaging with the children who inhabit school buildings and grounds. A convincing and optimistic case is made that an inclusive approach to briefing will be of enormous benefit to the well-being of children who must spend their formative years in the education system.

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