We held a seminar with speakers Crystal Olin and Farzad Zamani on Density Done Well in our Capital: The Importance of Design. Wellington faces many urbanisation challenges, how can densification and good design help contribute to the solution? Watch the video

Density Done Well in our Capital: The Importance of Design

Alongside other cities in Aotearoa New Zealand, Wellington is grappling with pressing urbanisation challenges. Its population is expected to grow by 50,000 – 80,000 people over the next 30 years, and a significant amount of new housing will be required to accommodate this growth. At the same time, prices are rising; there is pressure on infrastructure and a declining availability of developable land; the need to significantly reduce carbon emissions and prioritise environmental sustainability; and the responsibility of addressing systemic inequities stemming from our country’s colonial history. As we build to accommodate anticipated growth, we need to ensure that what is built will sustain our communities and environment into the future. In other words, densification needs to be done well – which, in part, hinges on design. In this talk, we will cover critical aspects of design to get right as Wellington grows and densifies into the future. A key strategic and regulatory tool is the suite of new Design Guides, a statutory part of the Wellington’s Proposed District Plan, which incorporates the Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS).

Presentation: Crystal Olin, Farzad Zamani, Density Done Well in our Capital: The Importance of Design, pdf.


Dr Crystal Olin is a leading authority on urban design in Aotearoa New Zealand, based at the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities (University of Otago, Wellington). Originally from the United States and architecturally trained, with more than fifteen years’ international experience spanning practice, local government, leadership, research, and university teaching. Her research focuses on housing, urban design and development – with an emphasis on placemaking, place stewardship, community formation, and medium-density design quality. Her work has ranged from strategic visions and large-scale master planning to localised revitalisation efforts, tactical urbanism projects, architectural and artistic interventions, and design guidance. Prior to her current role, she was Urban Design Manager at Wellington City Council, where she led the team responsible for delivering urban design strategy, design review, and public space delivery. She is currently Co-Deputy Director of the $12.3m government-funded 5-year Public Housing & Urban Regeneration Research Programme, a partnership-based research initiative aimed at providing robust evidence to improve the wellbeing of people living in public housing, as well as their whānau and communities.

Dr Farzad Zamani is the Urban Regeneration and Design Manager at Wellington City Council. He led the Wellington District Plan Design Guide review and drafting of new design guides (which are now notified under the proposed new District Plan). He is from the Qashqai tribe, a nomadic tribe in Iran. He completed his Bachelor of Architecture in Iran before moving to the UK to complete his Master’s. After graduating he worked in a small architecture firm in Nottingham. He then moved to Aotearoa New Zealand to do his PhD in Urban Design at the University of Auckland. As part of his research, he analysed the relationship and conflict between people, power structures and city designers. He also lectured at the School of Architecture before shifting into private practice again, this time as an urban designer. Two years ago, Farzad moved to Wellington to take up the role of Design Review Team Leader. He is interested in housing, democratising design processes and urban regeneration.

This seminar was held on 7 September 2022 at City Gallery, Wellington.

For further information please contact Libby Grant libby.grant@otago.ac.nz

Climate Change Equity Housing & Building NZ Policy Urban design & planning