Henry Fraser Edge of the Lake

Student Spatial 2021 Credits
  • Student
    Henry Fraser
  • School
    University of Auckland

Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere is New Zealand's most nutrient-polluted lake. It is also a crucial wetland habitat of its type in New Zealand, providing essential residences for a broad range of wildlife species. To Ngāi Tahu (the local iwi), it once represented a significant mahinga kai, however it still remains as a necessary source of mana. To all New Zealanders, it once was an important location for both commercial and recreational activities. A cause of The Lake’s pollution is the nearby dairy farming industry, with harmful phosphates and nitrates leaking into the river beds that feed the lake.

The architecture for this project was designed from a brief to develop supporting infrastructure to a proposed environmental solution to the currently polluted state of The Lake. This solution consists of turning the lake bed itself into a large floating lake farm which utilises modular floating islands based on a similar model carried out in Myanmar, Lake Tahoe and China. These modular floating islands are designed to extract the nutrients from the lake bed and provide a viable economic alternative for the nearby dairy farmers.

A large ‘floating ring’ formation is the first piece of supportive infrastructure. This intervention acts as a ‘Flag ship’ agricultural central base and a docking point to accommodate modular floating houseboats and other detachable lacustrine agricultural units.

Connected to the ‘flagship central base structure’ is a ‘multipurpose lake farming centre’.
The lack of any identifiable landmarks in the region inspired the concertina-like roof structure which creates a dramatic internal landscape and externally juxtaposes the radically flat surrounding terrain of Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere. Agriculture is significantly affected by changing consumer preferences. Thus, this building comprises a test kitchen, microbrewery and auditorium to aid research and development of new and exportable products. These facilities also showcase the potential behind lake farming to the public, budding lake farmers and investors.

The second project is a ‘processing warehouse’ that aids the floating farmland by harvesting the produce. This warehouse houses a number of boat accessible water docks, mechanised agricultural systems and processing rooms that harvest the floating crops grown on the lake bed. The second story consists of a number of pedestrian bridges and elevated platforms creating observation points for potential farmers, investors and visitors. The outcome of this warehouse helps to promote the idea of transparency behind food production.

The intended outcome of this project was multifaceted. The project helps to envisage a ‘cleansed’ Lake Ellesmere in a restored environmental state and provides a projection of what an innovative lake farming system could look like in New Zealand. The architectural moments help to entice visitors back to what was once a dilapidated site into a thriving industry filled with mahinga kai.