Select Page

Future Islands

Future Islands is about the practice and promise of architecture in this country – a small, open society that is diverse, changing and economically (and seismically) vulnerable. In the exhibition, a grouping of floating forms – light, tough shells fabricated by a boat-building company – occupy a sea of space. Models of more than 50 architectural projects are arranged on or near, these ‘islands’. Some projects sit provisionally on their sites; others seem to have been shaken free of their foundations altogether.

Future Islands is designed as a navigational experience, to be moved through. Visitors are free to make their own inter-island connections – there’s no prescribed route. The exhibition is not didactic, but it does make a case for the heterogeneity of architectural practice in New Zealand, and the unsettled state of contemporary architecture, generally. The exhibition, optimistically, makes the case for architectural exploration. It includes projects at very different scales, from large social and educational buildings by New Zealand’s biggest architectural firms to tiny structures designed and built by recent graduates. There is a strong strain of inventiveness running through the exhibition: many of the projects manifest a desire to create alternative forms of practice, to think of new ways to do ‘architecture’.

The exhibition’s ‘islands’ are a play upon New Zealand’s insular condition, but they also allude to the rich literary and scientific narratives of islands as sites of possibility – as places of uninhibited or necessary social experiment, or incubators of evolutionary development. Accordingly, Future Islands includes many unbuilt and purely speculative projects. The exhibition seeks to provide many perspectives on the one place. In this, it draws inspiration from one narrative in particular: Italo Calvino’s allegorical novel ‘Invisible Cities’, in which the Venetian merchant adventurer Marco Polo entrances Kublai Khan with stories of wondrous places he has encountered. All these places, it turns out, are the same place – Polo’s own city. Future Islands gathers scores of projects that suggest the variousness of contemporary architectural practice. Some of these projects have been constructed, some may yet be constructed; others are intentionally speculative. Together the project exhibits a range of actualities and possibilities, indicating what is happening on our architectural front and perhaps anticipating what, in the future, may occur on these islands.

With over 20,000 visitors in Venice and many more as part of a New Zealand tour, Future Islands won a DINZ Best Awards and an AGM Interior Awards 2017.


Palazzo Bollani, New Zealand Pavilion, 15th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice

National tour: 2017 -18 including Objectspace Auckland and the Adam Art Gallery, Victoria University, Wellington.




Objectspace, Auckland, 28 July–18 September 2017

The Adam Art Gallery, Wellington, 14 October – 17 December 2017

Tauranga Art Gallery, 20 January – 18 March 2018

Waikato Museum, Hamilton, 30 March – 17 June 2018

Te Ara, Christchurch, 6 September- 26 September 2018


Creative Directors: Charles Walker and Kathy Waghorn

Creative Team: Bureaux Architects, Jon Rennie, Rewi Thompson, Steve Brookbanks, Minka Ip, Bruce Fergusson

Sponsorship/funding: Commission awarded and funded by the New Zealand Institute of Architects

Project reviews:

Bill McKay, ‘The Makers of Venice’. Architecture New Zealand, March-April (2016): 60-65

Chris Barton, ‘Biennale Bovines’, Metro, n. 40, March (2016): 106-107

Chris Winwood, ‘Reporting from the Front Desk; New Zealand at the Venice Architecture Biennale’ 2016

Interview: Co-curator Kathy Waghorn interviewed by Kim Hill on RNZ

Publication: Kathy Waghorn, ed., Future Islands: The New Zealand exhibition Biennale Architettura 2016 (Auckland, The New Zealand Institute of Architects, 2016). (ISBN 9780473347390)

Available from the Objectspace shop:

Photo credits: David St George


Category winner (installation), AGM Publishers Interior Awards, 2017.

Category winner, Designers Institute of NZ Best Award: Exhibition and Temporary Structures, 2017.