spacelamp 3 ash holwell

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Director
    ash holwell
  • Ringatoi Matua / Design Directors
    ash holwell, Henry Fisher
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    Nick du Bern, Sheridan Jamieson, Sarah Tuck, Bop Murdoch
  • Kaitautoko / Contributors
    Rebecca Asquith, Ged Finch
Judge's comments:

A design activist who cannot be constrained by any one design discipline. Ash has successfully used his rich life experiences to challenge and inspire the way we practice Spatial Design in Aotearo. It is clear Ash brings strong passion ,conviction and effort to ensure his projects are authentically considered from a social and environmental perspective.
Ash is a designer who exhibits experience, passion and knowledge beyond his years. With strong interests in modular design, sustainable practices, social and environmental impacts, Ash is an unstoppable activist who brings his invaluable expertise into the spatial realm. We await eagerly to track his next project and see this award as recognition for all that he has achieved to date, and all the potential he has yet offer.
Ash exhibits exceptional design leadership - the power to inspire, engage and enrol others in a transformative idea. Two Fifty Seven exemplifies the place of design in bringing about great social, environmental and community outcomes.


I love an approach to design that drives small yet powerful projects from inception to completion and operation - seeing conceptualisation, validation, scoping, instigation, implementation and construction all as key parts of a design process focused relentlessly on social and environmental impacts.

After completing design studies in Wellington, I worked in Rotterdam, where taking work to Design Basel and Milan Designweek whilst founding and living in a squat left me fuming at the inadequacies of design focused solely on market outcomes in relation to justice, equality and sustainability. I began to exercise this understanding during my masters thesis in Vienna by collaborating with the Natural History Museum of Vienna to create dramatic institutional shifts towards waste reduction within the 150 year old institution.

Upon returning to Aotearoa I founded, designed and built the community bike workshop Whare Bike in an unused warehouse. In the first two years of operations the space repaired and gave away over 200 bicycles to members of the local community who needed them most, and taught countless people how to fix their primary mode of transportation.

The space the bike workshop started in, lovingly called Wood, has since been home to over 20 community organisations. a simple, modular and adaptable space allowed organisations to use the space as they needed. The space is now home to Food Rescue Northland, which I am privileged to chair - in 2021 we provided 274,000 meals to those who needed them, which also resulted in reducing 108 tonnes of carbon emissions that year.

co-founding a theatre company, which I was primarily the set designer for, led to the temporary use of an unused church owned by the local council. seeing the potential in the space, we successfully campaigned to take over the building from the council. collaboratively developing the space with a massive community of supporters, within two years the space was recording over 13,000 visitors a year, and has become a critical and beloved cultural hub.

Finding myself with the opportunity to found and create a larger project in another city, together with an amazing support team, I founded Aotearoa’s first climate positive coworking and events space - two/fiftyseven. the work on the project includes concept, vision and business case developmental; site acquisition; collaboration with architects, furniture designers on design; co-developing and prototyping an innovative mental health support programme for the construction industry; collaborating with external studios and a small in house team on the branding and wayfinding; and, ongoing co-design of the organisations social architecture.

two/fiftyseven is currently used by over 70 organisations with 150 members, with its transformable space providing space for workshops, conferences, arts markets, live gigs, art exhibitions, dance classes, and a pop up restaurant within its first year of operation - all on a 700sm footprint.

My work tries to approach the social and the spatial as relentlessly complimentary, we have multiple new projects underway in Whanganui-a-Tara, and my interest remains in changemaking projects that create change by enabling people to access and engage with the power of place.