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CUE Haven Learning Centre – Concept Designs by Unitec Architecture Students

August 12, 2013

On 24th July 2013 Jeanette Budgett, senior lecturer from Unitec’s School of Architecture, and some of her third year students visited CUE Haven for a site visit and to discuss the future CUE Haven Learning Centre. At that time the students had a look around, took pictures and planted trees to get a feel for our project.


Since then the students have been working on concepts and designs of how they think the future learning centre might look.

On  8th August , we again met with Jeanette and students Alexis, Anthony, Carleone, Chanel, Geoff, Georgina, Jamie, Jordyn, Kim, Mark, Natasha, Ratu, Rebekah, Shirong, Sudhir and Tom at Unitec’s design studio.  Each of the students presented their design and explained the concepts and what they were trying to accomplish.  For the presentations, the students showed drawings and models and talked about their concept and its features.

The presentations were critiqued by Jeanette and her colleague Kerry Francis from the School of Architecture. Also present were faculty members Penny Cliffin and Ian Henderson from the School of Landscape Architecture and Nick Spratt from the School of Graphic Design and Animation, who provided additional input.

It was a high stress environment for the students, but they all coped well, especially considering that they had only had twelve working days to come up with their designs.

Jeanette opened the session by introducing all of the participants and setting the ground rules.


When the students visited CUE Haven, we had explained the project and our philosophy.  The CUE Haven Learning centre is intended to accommodate up to 100 visitors for day visits and up to 30 students over night.  It will need cooking and sleeping and ablution facilities.  The centre will need storage facilities, and meeting rooms and should make use of indoor and outdoor space for learning.  The centre should utilise sustainable building materials and eco friendly energy and waste disposal systems.

The students heard what we said and considered our principles in their designs.  Their designs make use of timber and renewable materials.  They incorporate ideas for solar and wind power as well as rain water harvesting and designs for efficient use of waste water.  Several of the students’ designs include plans for areas for vegetable gardens and composting and waste management.  The concepts that the students came up with are fully responsive to our needs and have also given us some additional ideas on what might be possible.

This short post cannot do justice to the complexity and sophistication of the students’ designs but here is a brief summary of the designs with photos to give an idea of the variety and creativity of the ideas they came up with.

Here, in no particular order, are the students with their designs for the CUE Haven Learning Centre.

Jordyn’s building featured a dramatic roof design which would incorporate solar panels to provide electricity for the centre.  A particularly interesting aspect was the use of both indoor and outdoor learning spaces.



Kim’s design featured an interesting way of using interior and exterior space with a long dining/work table as the centrepiece.



Antony’s bold concept was designed to take advantage of views of the Kaipara Harbour.  His building also features a traditional Maori cooking pit in the terrace.



Tom’s approach was to envision the centre as an integral part of the forest that we are planting at CUE Haven and his building features massive timber columns which represent tree trunks.



Ratu’s very unique design drew on ideas from his native Fiji and featured curved roof lines that reminded us of big leaves.




Chanel’s building featured a dynamic use of space through the use of sliding glass doors and a dramatic roof.



In designing her version of the learning centre, Natasha proposed that the building itself could be used to educate.  For example, her design proposes that visitors see how water is collected and purified and that they have to make some effort to get the water they use so that they appreciate it as a precious resource.



Georgina remembered that she enjoyed climbing and camping when she was young and thought that it would be interesting to incorporate those ideas into her building.  The idea of the timber lattice is for people to be able to climb up to enjoy the views or perhaps stargaze in seats built into the beams.



Mark’s innovative building features a modular design which could be added to as necessary.  It includes a water collection system designed to maximise the amount of water harvested from the roof, and includes space for growing vegetables for the kitchen and also for composting and waste disposal.




Shirong came up with an exciting design that incorporated Japanese and Chinese features and materials.  The tile roof sets off a dramatic angular roof which creates interesting and unusual interior and exterior perspectives.  The tiled roof would also serve as a unique water feature as the rain flowed over it into the water collection tanks below.




Alexis’s design featured a complex of buildings arrayed around the currently disused dam.  She proposed that the dam be converted into a pond which would reflect the structures and the surrounding landscape.  Her plan includes an unusual roof design constructed from bamboo.



Sudhir’s building design was distinguished by his use of plant and animal forms as part of the interior structure.  For example, the roof beams were sculpted to look like flying birds.



Jamie’s simple yet sophisticated design featured a striking roof and focused on integrating the building into the landscape and facilitating the use of communal spaces.


Geoff’s design was interesting and unusual from both the interior and exterior.  We thought that from the outside the building resembled a giant weta, which fits very nicely into the CUE Haven landscape.




An interesting and dramatic use of interior and exterior space made Rebeka’s building quite unusual.  She has also incorporated innovative eco materials into her design.



The award for out of the box thinking goes to Carleone for his “Tower” concept.  The idea is to suspend the structure from a dramatic tower.  This would provide visitors with a panoramic view and also create interesting options for future expansion of the building.




We are thoroughly impressed with all of the plans and we really appreciate the effort and enthusiasm of the students.  Hearing their ideas about how their building would fit into the CUE Have property has given us new ideas and incentives for the project.

We were also very impressed by the ways in which the students and lecturers interacted during the critique.



A big thank you to Jeanette for her support and for giving her students the opportunity to work on the CUE Haven Learning Centre design this semester.


And thank you Kerry, Penny, Ian and Nick for participating in the critique session and providing valuable feedback.

Our many thanks to the students, for a fascinating and inspiring afternoon. We were completely blown away by the presentations.  Each design was creative and the presentations were professional and interesting.  The students had clearly listened and observed when they visited and we were very impressed by the commitment and interest they showed in our project, which was evident from their efforts in producing quality and thoughtful designs.

Each design was unique and each had features that we want to work into the ultimate design. We learned a lot from the students and also are energised about the possibilities for the CUE Haven Learning Centre given all the wonderful ideas that the students came up with.

Thank You!! Thank You!!

We look forward to our continuing relationship with Unitec faculty and students as we work together to develop the CUE Haven Learning Centre.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Mosese Druavesi permalink
    August 5, 2015 9:08 pm

    Hi Jeanette,

    I thought the practical approach for the students gave them much confidence
    in coming forth with awsome and great design concepts

    Principal Architect.
    Ministry of Works Fiji

    Mosese Druavesi
    Unitec 2003 – 2007

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