Wai-fi may be just a private joke for New Zealanders

Text by Martin Bryan. Image by William Hatton and Yousr Ali.

Wai-fi may be just a private joke for New Zealanders, but it has had a big impact overseas. 

WAI-FI WAS THE NAME COINED FOR a design scheme by Victoria University Wellington’s (VUW) landscape architecture students William Hatton and Yousr Ali.

The scheme was submitted into Urban SOS, an international interdisciplinary student design competition conducted late last year by Aecom US, the van Alen Institute and the Rockefeller Center.

The competition challenged students to tackle cities’ most pressing issues and explore the sharing economy – creating more equitable access to resources, improving the built environment and enriching the quality of life of urban residents.

Working with ASU education student Paula Wheeler, Yousr and William’s scheme was one of the finalists in the competition.

The scheme proposed a stream and parkland along the transport corridor of Adelaide Road and the Basin, near the site of the Waitangi Stream. But it was more than a daylighting project: it included a geo-intelligent network of public spaces, accessed by smartphone. This network highlights important stories of the space – such as historical sights, ecologies along the stream, Maori legend and knowledge; and enables the public to upload their own stories and information.

Thus, it merges historical oral narratives with the Maori tradition of hikoi; blends environmental needs with digital technology in a real and virtual spatial dimension.

Wai-fi is, of course, a play on words, but it opened up the ideas of how water and the internet are powerful connecting forces in urban environments. The scheme was developed as part of the fourth year studio design programme at VUW, which is undertaken in conjunction with IPENZ Sustainability Society members. Last year, students from VUW won first and second place in an Australasian competition, This Public Life


UrbanMartin Bryant