Te Whare Pūkākā & The Agile Collective (Part 2)

In Part 1Nick Kapica and Nick Mouat discussed the creation of the Te Whare Pūkākā activity based staff workspace at the College of Creative Arts (CoCA) at Massey University in New Zealand. In Part 2, they share the story of the enabling of the CoCA staff workplace.

Food and drink to forge relationships. Image courtesy of Nick Kapica.

Te Whare Pūkākā, a new Activity Based Workspace for staff at the College of Creative Arts (CoCA) at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand opened in 2015. From day one, Te Whare Pūkākā evolved and responded to user needs. The Agile Collective was proposed as an idea for a group to facilitate Te Whare Pūkākā and evolve its operation without focusing attention on a single individual. The collective would use agile project management to develop evolving working practices within the Te Whare Pūkākā community. Using ‘agile’ in both workplace and project management definitions, the Agile Collective would revisit the original keywords and workplace concept to provide users with an improved workplace experience. By forming a ‘collective’ the responsibility for this evolution aimed to not focus on an individual and thus avoid hierarchical structures.

Agile organisations focus on value and outputs and are characterised by trust, delegation and collaboration. Above all they understand that ‘People are the organisation’ and embrace this fact. Agile approaches help teams respond to unpredictability through incremental, iterative work cadences, known as sprints, as an alternative to waterfall, or traditional sequential development. One of the easiest ways to introduce agile project management is through an approach called Scrum.

Sutherland, Jeff, 2014. Scrum: The art of doing twice the work in half the time.

As the description above clearly identifies, there needs to be a commitment to ‘challenge and change’. A commitment which is often difficult within the project budgets and timelines of an institution’s traditional facilities management structure. While immensely successful in many ways, the potential of Te Whare Pūkākā may have been more fully realised over a longer period if funding had been tagged to both research and ongoing spatial updates. There is an important distinction between ‘updates’ as opposed to ‘rebuilds’ from both a cost and speed perspective. These updates fall into a gap between the traditionally distinct funding avenues of Capex vs Opex (Capital expenditure vs operational expenditure).

Collaborative open and enclosed settings. Image courtesy of Nick Kapica.

The Agile Collective aimed to provide solutions that helped evolve the workplace experience, build community within CoCA, and provide practical solutions to managing the space. This sought to enable staff to collectively own and facilitate the space by identifying and applying solutions to real needs.

The Agile Collective emphasised empirical feedback, team self-management, and striving to build properly tested increments within short iterations. Daily 15 minute check-ins with the Agile Collective would describe each issue within Te Whare Pūkākā in a User Story form. An example might be: “The barista has difficulty helping visitors because they do not know who all staff are”.

Welcome and hosting. Image courtesy of Nick Kapica.

Anyone who was keen and had capacity to quickly solve the problem was tasked with a Sprint to see what could be done to improve the situation. In this way Te Whare Pūkākā aimed to be a living and evolving place as opposed to the traditional design/document/construct/occupy project. This traditional way of delivering spatial projects is wary of, and vulnerable to, change. In contrast, the conceptual thinking and fortuitous circumstances that gave rise to Te Whare Pūkākā invited and celebrated change as a means of continuous improvement.

Te Whare Pūkākā was, and is, very successful in many ways. Despite not delivering on all its potential, it used the design thinking skills within CoCA to question, disrupt and deliver a workspace that broke ground for a different academic workplace. The learnings from this project have helped inform other workplace projects both within and outside of academia. It is a great example of leveraging opportunity from constraints and applying the very teaching and research of an organisation into their own space.

The Sanctuary. Image courtesy of Nick Kapica.


To learn more about the process of developing Te Whare Pūkākā, its diverse spaces and activity zones, and impacts of the space on the culture of the college, download the 2015 paper, Te Whare Pūkākā: College of Creative Arts Workplace from Part 1 of this blogpost.


Nick Kapica has worked in many areas of design from typography to design thinking. He has lived and worked in London and Berlin and now calls Wellington home. Now at Isthmus’ transdisciplinary studio, Nick champions design thinking, co-design, tactical urbanism, environmental graphic design and brand – always promoting participation over typical public engagement.

Nick Mouat is an associate at Athfield Architect’s Wellington (NZ) studio where he works across a wide range of typologies for the tertiary education, museum, gallery and library communities. Te Whare Pūkākā is one of many projects Nick has been involved with at Massey University including teaching and research studios, laboratories, library, music recording studios, and marae.

One thought on “Te Whare Pūkākā & The Agile Collective (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: Te Whare Pūkākā & The Agile Collective (Part 1) | Integrative Briefing for Better Design

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