The SCALA Seminars are designed for architecture, landscape design and landscape architecture industry practitioners, students and staff, to provide you with high quality, relevant information from other industry practitioners and from academics. Join us for these free seminars and learn about a variety of topics relating to the multi-disciplinarilty of architecture, landscape design and landscape architecture. See our previous and upcoming seminars below.

CPD points are available to practitioners by the NZ Institute of Landscape Architects, the NZ Registered Architecture Board and Architectural Designers New Zealand.

Keep up to date on upcoming Scala events:

Upcoming Seminars

Xanthe White: The Human Ecology

Thu 22 Aug 2019, 12.30-1.30pm

Xanthe will take us through a look at landscape design, architecture and gardening and its role of influence in human ecology. She’ll explore alternative ways we, as designers, can use process and relationship to create interventions in perception of landscape without high impact design. Her presentation looks at how these relate to public and private spaces and how designing with a focus on human ecology can influence the way our societies develop. It also looks at how the biomass of the suburban home landscape influences the form of our cities.

Xanthe White is a well-known and award-winning garden designer. While based in Auckland, Xanthe and her team travel extensively in the creation and installation of innovative gardens for wide-ranging briefs, including prestigious flower shows, competition entries, memorials and private commissions. She has also authored several books - all emphasising her belief in careful plant selection that is empathetic with the environment and soil management based on health development.

The SCALA Seminar Series is organised by Sue Wake. As of 2019, Sue is in her 20th year of organizing the series which has featured a dazzling and varied array of speakers and topics. SCALA seminars are FREE and can earn CPD points.

Venue: Building 1, Room 2075 (Lecture Theatre 1, level 2), Unitec Institute of Technology, Entry 1, Carrington Rd, Mt Albert.

Parking available adjacent to Entry 1, around Building 1 or behind Building 12. (Mt Albert campus map, Building 1 map).

CPD points: NZILA CPD 0.5 points (category 3d). NZRAB CPD 10 pts (register to sign at seminar). ADNZ CPD 2 points. For further seminar information or to join mailing list contact Work Experience points available for attending BLA students (10).

The Political Fault Lines in the Rebuilding of the Energy Infrastructure in Post-disaster Christchurch

Thursday 8 August 2019, 12.30-1.30pm

by Prof. Hugh Byrd1 and Assoc. Prof Steve Matthewman2
1School of Architecture, Unitec Institute of Technology and 2Head of Sociology, University of Auckland

The devastation of the city centre of Christchurch after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes presented an opportunity to rebuild infrastructure in a coordinated and efficient manner to allow for a city that was energy efficient, low carbon, resilient and provided both energy security and justice. The research described in this paper records the processes taken to attempt to rebuild the energy infrastructure. The story is one of political decisions overriding appropriate technology and ultimately is a lesson in how not to handle the implementation of post-disaster energy infrastructure. Lack of clarity in decision making by central government and then not pursuing consultant’s recommendations led to a scheme that was effectively abandoned in 2016 and described as ‘a total failure’. The presentation records the critical events that occurred and explains why the proposed energy infrastructure was both politically and technologically inappropriate.

This research was supported by the Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ) Marsden Fund ‘Power Politics: Electricity and Sustainability in Post-Disaster. 

Venue: Building 1, Room 2075 (Lecture Theatre 1, level 2), Unitec Institute of Technology, Entry 1, Carrington Rd, Mt Albert.

Parking available adjacent to Entry 1, around Building 1 or behind Building 12. (View a map of Mt Albert campusView a map of Building 1).

CPD: NZILA CPD 0.5 points (category 3d). NZRAB CPD 10 pts (register to sign at seminar). ADNZ CPD 2 points. For further seminar information or to join the SCALA mailing list. Work Experience points available for attending BLA students (10).

Tom Reutlinger: 1:1 The Rural Studio Way

Thursday 1 Aug 2019, 12.30-1.30pm

The Rural Studio has celebrated its 25th year in its ongoing mission to provide sustainable solutions for housing affordability and quality across the various communities of Hale County, Alabama. What does reaching this milestone mean for the student-driven design and build program, and what exactly have they accomplished in this quarter century?

Get to know the story, and a behind-the-scenes look into Auburn University’s Rural Studio as Tom discusses his experience there as Unitec School of Architecture’s first student to attend the world-renowned program. As a developing opportunity for Unitec students emerges, share a discussion with Tom about the experience they can expect, what access to this education means for our students and how it can be applied to our own built environment, and the future of Unitec’s relationship with the Rural Studio.

The SCALA Seminar Series is organised by Sue Wake. As of 2019, Sue is in her 20th year of organizing the series which has featured a dazzling and varied array of speakers and topics. SCALA seminars are FREE and can earn CPD points.

Venue: Building 1, Room 2075 (Lecture Theatre 1, level 2), Unitec Institute of Technology, Entry 1, Carrington Rd, Mt Albert.

Parking: available adjacent to Entry 1, around Building 1 or behind Building 12. (Mt Albert campus mapBuilding 1 map).

CPD points: NZILA CPD 0.5 points (category 3d). NZRAB CPD 10 pts (register to sign at seminar). ADNZ CPD 2 points. For further seminar information or to join the mailing list contact Work Experience points available for attending BLA students (10).


Previous Seminars

Charlotte Graham & Nigel Borell

Thursday 9 May 2019, 12.30-1.30pm

Charlotte Graham: Te Waiora

Char will discuss her recent installation, ‘Te Waiora’ - a ground based temporary artwork that wove its way through 9 blocks at Britomart earlier this year. 1,200 decals from 24 hand painted water drops were applied to 9 blocks acknowledging the waters of the  Waitematā that once covered Britomart before the land was claimed. “My constant over the years of making works is that that they are around land and people, whakapapa, indigeneity,” Graham says. “It’s us looking back, honouring the past, moving forward, and acknowledging all of that.”

Charlotte Graham is a prolific Māori artist who draws on her whakapapa to explore environmental issues affecting indigenous people. Graham is an ambassador for The Kauri Project, and recently undertook a residency in Bosque Peheun, Chile, to investigate indigenous ecosystems alongside local community, artist, scientists, educators and curators.

Nigel Borell: Pirirakau; Bush Beautiful

“Within the Maori worldview two things are essential: whakapapa (genealogy) and whenua (land).” Nigel will be speaking on the body of art work created at an artist retreat held in Waipoua Forest, Matatini marae, Northland. “The work emphasises the whakapapa links that Borell has to a number of tipuna stretching up to the Te Rarawa region as well as to Hokianga. In Pirirakau Borell demonstrates the importance of whenua, in this case the bush, to his whakapapa, specifically his hapū from Tauranga, and the ways in which they are inextricably linked.” (Ngarino Ellis, ArtNZ, 2007).

Prior to joining Auckland Art Gallery Borell was Associate Curator Māori at The Auckland War Memorial Museum (2013-2015), Kaiwhakahaere Toi o Manukau- Māori Arts Manager for
Auckland Council –South (2009-2013). Borell is the current chair of the New Zealand-the national Māori visual arts committee Te Ātinga, Toi Māori Aotearoa.

Jason Quinn: Passive Houses in New Zealand: Lets talk details

Thursday 16 May 2019, 12.30-1.30pm

Our performance based code is almost a myth in the practical world of acceptable solutions. If you design a building so it looks like the Acceptable Solution but performs as bad as you’re legally allowed to is that good? We can and should do better. Learn what has been built in high performance homes in New Zealand. Let’s review the three main construction systems used in the 24 certified Passive House buildings in New Zealand and some of the better (best?) practice details used in their construction.

Jason Quinn is the New Zealand Passive House certifier and one of the first PH designers in this country. He’s written a book about the urgent need to build better performing homes in New Zealand, arguing for an overhaul of the Building Code and a wider use of the Passive House standard. The book clearly explains what the PH standard is (and, isn’t) and why it’s relevant in this country. It also includes case studies of the 24 Certified Passive Houses already completed in New Zealand and a sample of the multi-unit or commercial projects currently being planned. It’s an attractively produced book, lavishly illustrated, and is an excellent resource for distributing to potential clients. It can be downloaded free of charge at

Natalie Allen: Neighbourhoods - what are we doing?

Thursday 23 May 2019, 12.30-1.30pm

The Urban Advisory specialises in rethinking our relationship with cities. With a background in architecture and a PhD in urban design, Natalie regularly publishes and speaks about her work across New Zealand. As a doctoral scholar, Natalie’s research was focussed on the relationship between delivering urban intensification in suburbia and maintaining or enhancing the liveability experienced by residents. Natalie now incorporates this expertise into her work with developers, Councils, Government and Community Groups to ensure the delivery of neighbourhoods and not just houses.

Natalie’s talk considers the future of neighbourhoods and some of the key innovations she thinks we will see in future Auckland. This includes a focus on designing for well-being alongside developing and delivering a diverse ecosystem of housing models, tenure types and typologies across the housing spectrum. Drawing from her research and consulting work, Natalie will talk about the changes she is already seeing evidenced in projects throughout New Zealand, including Cohaus in Grey Lynn and the country’s first Property Cooperative, in Katikati. Natalie will explain the challenges facing these projects, and the changes needed within the industry to support these collaborative development models. Most importantly, she will talk about why all this matters and how the built environment profession can be an enabler of positive change.

Image: internal street of an apt building, Hunziker Areal, by Mehr Als Wohnen (Zurich).

Lizori - Learning from INTBAU Italia Summer School 'Cultural Landscape and Heritage Skills'

Thursday 20 September, 2018, 12.30-1.30pm

Meagher, Rhiannon Churchward, Thomas Kerby) and Bachelor of Architectural Studies (Angel Leung-Wo, Tarunpal Singh Taak, Young Kyung Kim), headed by Dr Renata Jadresin Milic, Senior Lecturer in Architecture, attended and performed successfully the International architectural programme 'Cultural Landscape and Heritage Skills', organised in Italy - Lizori (Lizori, Campello sui Clitunno) from 20 - 28 June 2018 by INTBAU Italia (International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism). The programme is recognised as a major event for the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018.

The Unitec students were taught by leading academics and practitioners in Italy from renowned Italian universities Politecnico di Milano, Università degli Studi di Perugia, and Università degli Studi dell'Aquila. Practical and theoretical modules provided both taught and hands-on experience, with many opportunities for discussion, debate, and learning. The students received tuition in measured and freehand drawing, digital heritage skills, three-dimensional modelling, computer graphics, and cultural heritage communication. They had field and software training of 3D laser scanning – point clouds, Photogrammetry and B.I.M. technology. The students will share their experience with the audience during this lecture. 

Madagascar II: The Spiny Forest

by Sue Wake, Senior Lecturer, Landscape, Unitec Institute of Technology

Thursday 23rd August, 2018, 12.30-1.30pm

Sue presented a seminar in May of her travels to the rain forests of the east and the stone forests (Tsingy) at Bemaraha in the west of Madagascar. In this part 2 seminar she will head to the dry south with its spiny forests, home to greater biodiversity and more extreme adaptations than any other Malagasy environment. In these inhospitable places live strange plants and animals, eg. the tourist (vasahar) trees with white peeling bark and resin, octopus trees (Didiera spp.), radiated tortoises, giant hissing cockroaches, sifaka lemurs and a further baobab species - Adansonia za.

The local tribes inhabit the coast as fishermen (the Vezo) or the desert-like interior (the Mahafaly), where extreme poverty is commonplace. On the journey south are quaint towns of wood craftsmen, wild silk spinners and paper makers as well as the eerie Ihorombe plateau where some members of the Bara tribe have turned to cattle rustling and general banditry, making night travel dangerous and illegal. The sandstone buttes of L’Isalo National Park date to the jurrasic period and make a welcome midway break, rich in geology, plants, animals and tribal significance.

5 continents: 5 gardens  - A discussion about planting design in different cultural and climatic contexts

by Andy Hamilton, Landscape Architect, Andy Hamilton Studio.

Thursday 16th August, 2018, 12.30-1.30pm

Andy Hamilton is an Auckland-based Landscape Architect (a former student of Unitec) who is the director of his own studio. The practice has urban and rural projects around New Zealand as well as a number of international projects.

Andy lived in London for 11 years working as an associate of Tom Stuart-Smith Ltd, a renowned British designer and plantsman. During his time in the UK Andy designed private and public gardens in numerous countries each with different cultural and traditional connections with gardening as well as very contrasting climates.

During this talk Andy will discuss five different projects each located within a different continent. He will explain the influence of culture and climate on the design of the gardens with a particular focus on planting design.

The Mad of Madagascar: Place, plants, people

by Sue Wake, Senior Lecturer, Dip in Landscape Design, Cert in Home Garden Design, Unitec, Auckland.

Thursday 24 May 2018, 12.30pm - 1.30pm, Bldg 1 room 2075, Unitec Institute of Technology, entry via Gate 1

The fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar has almost mystical status - an island jewel nestled in the Indian Ocean and a biological ark full of strange specimens like the legendary lemurs, found nowhere else.

Like New Zealand it has a very high degree of endemism (approx. 90% of plants compared to NZ’s 80%) due to long geographical isolation. However, in Magagascar’s case, much of the wildlife blew, flew or swam across the Mozambique Channel and then developed into very divergent species from what is now found in Continental Africa. NZ’s development of species was instead one of isolated evolution. Another big difference is wealth - Madagascar is regularly listed as one of the 10 poorest nations. Sue Wake achieved a long-held desire to visit for 3 weeks in July 2017 and she will share the colour and beauty of the parts she visited - focused on plants although bewitched by the animals.

See directions and CPD information in the attached poster.

Embedded Potential: Physical Transformations that Lead to Human Ones

by Rick Archer, CEO and Founding Principal, Overland Partners, Architects, Texas, USA

Thursday 3 May 2018, 12.30pm - 1.30pm, Bldg 1 room 2075, Unitec Institute of Technology, entry via Gate 1

Architecture is a dialogue between the invisible and the visible, a belief that all things have embedded potential waiting to be discovered. In any project, there is always something beyond what’s apparent, something truly inspirational that can be achieved within prescribed parameters. Overland’s work is founded on this premise.

In this presentation Rick shares the firm’s unique approach to achieving innovative architectural and planning efforts across the world. This approach has influenced sustainability practices, aided in creating a new model for homeless recovery centres, and encouraged global communities to overcome perceived limitations.

Overland Partners, founded in 1987 in San Antonio, Texas, provides comprehensive architecture and planning services throughout the world to create places of transformation that lead to human ones. Sensitive to the environmental and aesthetic contexts of its projects, Overland strives for a thoughtful integration of technology, art, and craft to uncover innovative sustainable solutions for highly complex projects. The design process is collaborative and has led to many awards and accolades.

See directions and CPD information in the attached poster.

(Non) Linear-infrastructure and episode

by Henry Crothers, Landscape Architect/Urban Design, LandLAB, Auckland.

Thursday 1 October 2015, 12.30pm - 1.30pm

Cultural Identity and Kaitiakitanga: Moving beyond the conservation estate

by Desna Whaanga-Schollum, Designer, Artist and Researcher (DWS Creative Ltd).

Thursday 30th July 2015, 12.30-1.30pm

Desna’s work is connected through the kaupapa of exploration and articulation of identity. She has designed, managed and delivered branding, websites, arts and museum exhibitions and events. In her fourth term as Co-Chair of Ngā Aho, Māori Design Professionals Society, Desna is actively involved in Māori Identity discourse in Aotearoa via Treaty of Waitangi research, exhibitions, wānanga and speaking engagements.

Desna’s mahi explores the practical role that design communication can play in bridging gaps of understanding between cultures and business practices in the New Zealand landscape. Kaitiakitanga in relation to landscape is often perceived as a conservationist ethic, precluding human integration and business practice. What does active kaitiakitanga look like? How can culturally connected design improve the articulation of a māori way of knowing the environment and in doing so, support the validity of māori knowledge within science and business practices?

The Moorish legacy - gardens, plants and landscapes from northern Morocco and southern Spain

by Sue Wake, Senior Lecturer in Landscape Architecture, Unitec Institute of Technology.

Thursday 20th August 2015, 12.30-1.30pm

The Muslim Moors from Morocco in North Africa invaded Spain in 711. They were finally ousted from Andulusia (Sthern Spain) in 1492 (the Reconquista), 250 years after other parts of Spain. As a result, architecture and garden-making in Andulucia persisted in its Moorish influence much longer. The Moorish courtyard (with water axes) references the paradise gardens of Persia, which is spoken of in the Koran. It is also a practical response to the hot climate and Palaces such as the Alhambra typify this. Other layers have since been added – eg the Mudjejar style developed by Moorish craftsmen after Catholic rule was re-instated and the later Spanish influence as seen in the patios of Cordoba and the Carmens and Casas of Granada.

Sue Wake visited Nthern Morocco and Sthern Spain in Oct 2014. In this seminar she will show famous garden examples that reflect the Moorish design similarities between Moroccan and Andulusian gardens, as well as some less well known Spanish gardens and a glimpse at the majestic Atlas cedars, complete with Barbary apes, in their Middle-Atlas Moroccan home.