Te Māra Apartments

A community-oriented courtyard complex replaces 1970's social housing blocks

Wellington City Council wanted to replace 57 residential units at the former Arlington Apartments Site 2 that no longer met housing quality standards. 104 housing units in seven 3-storey apartments were constructed around a central courtyard arranged to give a community feel for the complex.

The overall design of the complex was in scale with the surrounding area and become part of the local community.  The design team held meetings with tenants for guidance on what they saw as being important to their living environment and what landscape features would be needed.  A central court, community facilities and gardens with edible fruit are elements for tenant use, and engender a community focus.

The site location — over a filled gully with high groundwater levels — influenced plant selection and overall design.  The central courtyard allows for an overland flowpath through the site should an extreme rain event overwhelm the stormwater infrastructure.

A nine-metre fall across the site  presented challenges when integrating the buildings at different levels and providing accessible ramped access to the residential blocks. The structural design of the residential blocks resulted in a high building foundation that could not have ground loadings from gardens or paving.  A range of landscape strategies were used to meet this restriction while ensuring the units were integrated into the landscape.

Each unit has a private outdoor living space, either as a balcony or enclosed screen courtyard.  The apartments are arranged along the road frontages with a communal courtyard in the centre of the site.

Prominent whakairo artist Ihaia Puketapu carved poupou from three Totara trees that were removed from the site before construction of the new apartments started.

Mr Puketapu chose Rongomatane and Haumia-tiketike – the deities of cultivated and native vegetation – as the figures to be represented in the poupou because of the site’s historic use.

Te Māra is one of three former Arlington Apartment sites which together make up the Council’s largest social housing location. A partnership with central government resulted in the Wellington City Council leasing these units to Housing New Zealand (HNZ).

Our role

Worked with the project team to develop bid, resource consent, design and construction stages for the exterior works and the overall masterplan including hard and soft landscape elements.

The facts

ClientWellington City Council
Project teamSteve Dunn
Worked with

Novak + Middleton



Stoks Limited

Stephenson & Turner

Dunning Thornton


Urban Perspectives

Rider Levitt Bucknall


Motm Architects

Holmes Fire


Hawkins Construction

Aspen Landscapes

Project date2015 - 2018
AwardsHousing - Multi-Unit NZIA Wellington Branch