Architect intern designs outdoor space for new mental health facility

Published on

While on a three-week internship with Taranaki Base Hospital's Project Maunga, WITT architectural technology student Asja Fairbrother created a concept design for an outdoor space for a new mental health facility.

Her design so impressed Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora that she is now working with a top Taranaki architecture firm to bring it to life.

During her internship, Asja was exposed to all the redevelopment projects at Taranaki Base Hospital campus. This included the New East Wing Building, the Taranaki Cancer Centre, and the newly announced mental health rehabilitation facility.

Asja, who is nearly halfway through her second year of the two-year New Zealand Diploma in Architectural Technology (Level 6) has a three day a week job at Boon, one of the firms that designed the hospital’s new mental health facility.

The first part of Asja’s creative process involved researching the needs of mental health patients and gaining an understanding of how the hospital's facilities operate with consideration to clinical staff, patients and whānau.

Asja says she found the research for the project enriching and interesting, and she learnt a lot. She then presented her design to the Project Maunga team and mental health clinical management.

“After the presentation Project Maunga reached out to Boon and said we’d like to make this happen,” says Asja.

“I based the design on two main areas – a reflection area for people to take some time outdoors and a community area where residents can do activities and spend time with family and visitors.”

She’s included vegetable gardens so residents can learn how to grow and cook their own food. As well as in-built structures such as seating, tables, pathways, and food growing areas, Asja researched native plants, and their cultural significance, to suit the setting.

“Being out in the world and applying what I’ve learned in class helps me learn so much,” says Asja. “Seeing the whole design process from the very beginning to end – even though we’re still in the early stages – is cool! I get to see how things work and how it all comes together.”

Partnership enhances study

Asja’s internship with Project Maunga has been a partnership between Health New Zealand and Boon Architects.

Project Maunga is hugely supportive of development of pathways into the construction industry through training and recruitment initiatives, says Jesse Jardine, programme director for Project Maunga, Health New Zealand.

“Asja’s mini project was so impressive that we wanted to see if we could make it a reality. With Boon’s support, we’ve been able to provide Asja with a unique opportunity not often available in a region of our size.”

At school Asja loved graphic design, art, and photography. She had to weigh up whether to study at a university but says she has appreciated the WITT course because she’s been able to learn design and architecture skills in two years instead of three (for a bachelor’s degree) or five (for a masters).

“It’s cool to be able to study here in Taranaki and not have to make that big investment and move away. I’ve had so many opportunities from this one internship.”

She hopes to continue to work on the modelling and detailed design of this project once the hospital has reviewed the plans.

Photo cap: Asja Fairbrother (centre) with Erin Wesley (Operations Manager at Boon) and Jono Murdoch (Associate Architect at Boon) in the Boon office.

Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki is part of Te Pūkenga - New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology Learn more

Learn with purpose

Explore Te Pukenga

Te Kāwanatanga o Aotearoa - New Zealand Government

Te Kāwanatanga o Aotearoa - New Zealand Government

Copyright © 2024 Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki