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Unitec honours outstanding 2022 post-graduate researchers

  • Post-graduate research awardees

Unitec Institute of Technology has announced the recipients of its 2022 post-graduate research awards. L to R: Marcus Williams, Danae Ripley, Martin Steinmann, Tanya Bezuidenhout, Ahlia-Meri Hinearo Ta'ala, Matthew Ryley, Ali Keivanmarz, Martin Carroll

It’s an outstanding achievement for all the graduates, says Marcus Williams, Director of Research. It’s not easy being a student these days, these winners have achieved the top grade in the highest level course in the institute. Their work has been blind refereed with two examiners, one external to the organisation. Many have jobs and families. They have my utmost respect and that is without even considering the rich and valuable nature of their research findings.”

Martin Steinmann, Master of Applied Practice (Social Practice), Exploration of The Contribution And Limits Of Non-Māori Leadership Within Māori Communities

Supervisors: Dr Geoff Bridgman, Dr Josie Keelan

Martin Steinman is currently Digital Design Head of Business Operations at Te Pae Hauora o Ruahine o Tararua Midcentral and has worked for more than 20 years in health leadership roles in Māori and mainstream health organisations.

His thesis explored, with Māori and Pākeha leaders’ focus groups, the value and risks of Pākehā taking in leadership roles in Māori organisations. He takes a wide-ranging view of the meaning of leadership and identifies transformational leadership (which is often very low key) as being a particular style liked by both groups of participants.

Among his findings were that while speaking te reo Māori is an advantage for Pākehā, understanding of and commitment to kaupapa Māori vision and process, and being part of Māori community hui and other cultural activities, not specifically written into the job description, is the key to Pākehā acceptance and success.

Alex Helg, Master of Architecture (Prof), AC 2070 SARS-Cov-2,

Supervisors: Annabel Pretty, Graeme McConchie, Maurits Kelderman

Alex Helg was a finalist in the 2020 annual Te Kāhui Whaihanga Resene Student Design Awards and was awarded Distinction for Architectural Design for his Master of Architecture Professional in 2020.  

His thesis project was created during a lockdown for another future speculative lockdown in 2070.  The project is a hypothetical and provocative project that takes the idea of a virus which spurs a growing epidemic, to a conceivable situation 50 years in the future. The narrative follows the concept that Auckland is one of the last cities successfully fighting the virus throughout Aotearoa, New Zealand. Auckland 2070 has become walled off from the rest of the country, and it houses the remaining few medical people able to fight the virus and produce a cure. The result is a somewhat frightening idea that takes us to a realm that few dare to fathom. However, Alex Helg encourages us to do just that, “to consider contemporary issues and what they could signify for mankind in the far future.”

Annabel Pretty, Helg’s principal supervisor, said: "The work exhibits highly advanced ability in all areas relevant to the proposed study, with an emphasis on Alex’s exceptional talents in mastering spatial representation approaches that incorporate sophisticated software components.” 

The resulting people-free film achieves the desired impact of shock and provocation—nobody wishes to be there. The work shown here contributes significantly to the field of architecture by addressing future issues and employing media outside the ordinary purview of architectural practice.

Matthew, Ryley, Master of Architecture (Prof), Trails and Tribulations

Supervisors: Assoc Prof Hugh Byrd, Min Hall

Matthew Ryley's research project “Trails and tribulations: a journey through mountains” combined his love of tramping in Kā Tiritiri o te Moana, the Southern Alps, with his passion for architecture. As Matthew says: “In a time where humans have realised the need to value the wilderness and the joy it brings people, there is an opportunity to use architecture as an educator, a destination and a tool for tourism. A journey of great importance to locals, bridging the extremes of New Zealand’s wilderness, from West to East, would allow for a cultural awareness of the trials and tribulations of Ngāi Tahu and their quest for pounamu.”

Matthew’s careful and respectful research led him to the story of Raureka and her discovery of a pass through Kā Tiritiri o te Moana which consequently opened the way for Ngāi Tahu to access pounamu. This narrative provides a springboard for the design of three bespoke huts along the trail. The architecture draws from relevant parts of the story, the physical characteristics of each location, and the legacy of back country huts as places of refuge for weary travellers.

Ryley’s associate supervisor Min Hall says: “These are no ordinary backcountry huts. This exemplary and brave research-by-design project challenges the status quo by embedding cultural narratives within the architecture.”

Tanya Bezuidenhout, Master of Architecture (Prof), The Tomorrow of Yesterday - Understanding the layers of Built history

Supervisors: Graeme McConchie, Dr Christoph Schnoor

Tanya Bezuidenhout's passion and affection for historic architecture and her skill and mastery in dealing with it are clearly evident— she completed her Master of Architecture (Professional) degree in 2021 with a Distinction for Architectural Design. 

Throughout the thesis, The Tomorrow of Yesterday: Understanding the Layers of Built History, it is clear that Tanya has a solid understanding of the historical, social, and cultural values relevant to architecture, as well as the project's impact on the broader community; knowledge of histories and theories relevant to heritage architecture; and knowledge of appropriate written and visual means to communicate relevant aspects of architecture. This project is breath-taking in terms of complexity, layering, and design understanding on the subject of historical protection of the post-earthquake Canterbury Provincial Council Chambers.

Her principal supervisor Graeme McConchie says: "Tanya's diligence and approach to the restoration of the council chambers break the boundaries of a complex building; she has been very strategic in her approach to the conservation, with the earthquakes becoming an embedded layered response."

 Ali Keivanmarz, Master of Computing, Vein Pattern Visualisation and Identification using Conditional Generative Adversarial Networks

Supervisors: Dr Hamid Sharifzadeh, Dr Soheil Varastehpour

Ali’s thesis proposed a machine learning model based on conditional Generative Adversarial Networks (cGANs) that performs vein pattern visualisation from colour images.

To develop the model, a dataset was collected and used from the New Zealand population, which includes 600 synced RGB & NIR images from the forearms and palms of 300 participants.

To fight child sexual abuse material (CSAM), the identification of criminals and victims is vital. While typical biometric identification methods are effectively used in conventional evidence images, in the CSAM cases, these methods are not helpful due to the typically covered face of the offenders. Ali’s thesis proposed a new model that performs vein pattern visualisation from colour images that can be used for forensic investigation in CSAM cases.

Danae Ripley, Master of Creative Practice, No Hem; Handling Deviance in Inhabited Worlds

Supervisors: Emma Smith, Richard Fahey

Danae Ripley’s Master of Creative Practice research studied the language of modern “horrors” to apply them in her painting practice.

Her motivation was the negligent transformations in public institutions resulting from corporate consolidations and expansions, both locally and abroad. The exegesis referred to Comaroff and Ong’s (2013) text Horror is Architecture and the author’s claim that horror occurs when built environments are made to continuously transform.

Modern dreads, including library closures, property sales and staff cuts were researched contextually alongside horrible visual phenomena in our environment and in artworks.

 The outcome was a body of oil paintings depicting figures in vague interior settings. Comaroff and Ong’s (2013) visual traits of the “horrible,” such as: doubling, disproportion, formlessness and shifts of scale, were used in the paintings.

These confronting characteristics refer to the subject of sustained negligence. The paintings embody the ramifications of hasty transformations which are violently imposed and experienced, yet mostly unseen.

Danae has also been the recipient of the Bold Innovators Award. For this Award she has used the funding to write on a number of artists (most of whom are graduates or staff of our Contemporary Arts programmes).

Ahlia-Meri Hinearo, Ta'ala, Master of Landscape Architecture, The Fires of Ambition: Te awa tupua 2040

Supervisors: Assoc Prof Matthew Bradbury, Diane Menzies

Ahlia-Mei Ta’ala enrolled in the Master of Landscape Architecture in 2019. Her research project, The Fires of Ambition: Te Awa Tupua 2040, followed a process of decolonisation towards re-indigenisation within Kaupapa Māori Rangahau, specifically through Whanganuitanga and Te Awa Tupua.

Within landscape architecture, this research situates itself within the context of tūpuna (ancestral) landscape mapping - as the researcher is a descendent of the river, and the river is her tūpuna (ancestor). This follows a site investigative process of visualising the socio-cultural layers of histories of the site of Pākaitore and its context within the Whanganui river and to Whanganui uri, in order to reimagine the future of the urban site of Pākaitore to be a site that reflects its people and its history, through the rebuilding of the indigenous knowledge that reside within the landscape.

Ahlia-Mei’s supervisor Assoc Prof Matthew Bradbury says: “ What's most important about this project is that the Te Awa Tupua design framework can be further developed with Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui to inform and strengthen their design footprint across the landscape of Te Awa Tupua so that councils are meeting their treaty obligations by upholding the values and principles of Te Awa Tupua.

It enables the aspirations of Whanganui iwi to be the focal point throughout urban development across the landscape of Te Awa Tupua. It is a framework that can guide how the treaty partners work together in the design of our cities and landscapes – the decolonisation and re-indigenisation of Whanganui City and the Te Awa Tupua landscape from the mountains to the sea.”