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New Zealand Institute of Architects









Finalist – Ryan Western

Ryan Western from the Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington School of Architecture, was a finalist in the 2019 NZIA Resene Student Design Awards for his project, 'The Hand of the Engraver '.

Project description

The site for this investigation is an abandoned strip-mining site in Central Otago – Quartz Point Reef, which appears so violated that it has lost all apparent means of restoration or reuse. This thesis proposes that by building upon these scars rather than ignoring or hiding them, architecture can resurrect place identity for such sites.

 These scars are the lessons for future generations. Rather than removing all traces of fledgling dystopias, architecture can invite such traces to actively participate in the story of their future.

Located on the threshold between fiction and nonfiction, this thesis engages a scarred landscape as a contextual setting to mine physical and ephemeral characteristics, from the points of view of the engraver and the philosopher, driving design outcomes that help to fundamentally unveil the narratives of its contextual setting. The thesis draws parallels between the deep scratches on a copper etching plate that unveil a story and the deep scars of the severely damaged Quartz Reef Point landscape that represent its ongoing story. The ‘Hand of the Engraver’ is used as an allegory for the further discovery of unexpected architecturaloutcomes.


This project is a thoughtful response to the despoliation of a remote region by the extractive industrialists of last century. Ryan uses the analogy of engraving – a skill he has recently acquired and has engagingly deployed on this project – to illustrate the disastrous effects of the large-scale scarring of a landscape. Again, this is a scheme that forces viewers, or possibly visitors, to reflect on the damage we have done to the earth. A pleasure of the project is the evident delight of its author in the craft of making objects.

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