What is MDH?



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Aesthetics are highly subjective and depend a great deal on the characteristics of the surrounding environment.

Medium-density housing developments should always aim for a design that is sensitive to the local surroundings and has a degree of aesthetic appeal, especially in high-traffic areas and spaces accessible by the public.

In general, the design should avoid a stark or uninviting appearance. Make use of articulation and offsetting where the design needs to differentiate between developments, dwellings and housing units.

The exterior design, especially distinctive features around entrances and street-facing boundaries, also contributes the design’s appeal. It’s more difficult to achieve this in a multi-storey MDH development, such as an apartment building. Some degree of individuality can be created by defining each housing unit on the exterior of the building using façades or other architectural features.

Med dens draft 7 v2

MDH designs should create a sense of individuality and aesthetic appeal to create interest at street level and ensure the development is an attractive place for occupants to live. (Adapted from Residential design guide, Wellington City Council, 2014)


All MDH developments should contribute to the visual appeal of the street.

The design should locate the living areas within dwellings so that they face towards the street and use windows to provide a view over public areas and a positive connection with the street. In particular, avoid long, blank and unbroken walls on street-facing boundaries.

Med dens draft 8 v2

Add windows and architectural features to street-facing dwellings to enhance the look of the development and provide occupants with a connection to the street. (Adapted from Residential design guide, Wellington City Council, 2014)

Med dens draft 9 v2

If a wall must be used, visually break it up by using different materials and adding features such as windows. (Adapted from Residential design guide, Wellington City Council, 2014)

Street appeal is particularly important in mixed-use MDH environments, where ground-floor street-facing units are often occupied by commercial and retail businesses. In these settings, the aesthetics of the development can play a major part in the appeal of the overall quality and amenity of the urban environment.

Placing awnings on the windows of ground-floor retail spaces and on the verandas of street-facing housing units provides shade and weather protection for shops and pedestrians. This can also greatly enhance the general appeal of the urban environment, enhance the character of the area and promote a more pedestrian-friendly environment.


Like most dwellings, MDH developments with views are more desirable to live in than those without views. It’s therefore important for MDH designers to make the most of any desirable views that are available to the site. To maximise views, consider:

  • location and orientation of dwellings and the housing units within dwellings
  • location and size of windows within housing units
  • placing gaps between taller dwellings to enable occupants and adjacent developments to see views
  • varying roof heights to provide vistas
  • designing landscaping so it does not obstruct views
  • for an exceptional view, creating a dedicated observation area or creating one in a shared space.