Aotearoa New Zealand is in a unique position: with the Waitangi Tribunal treaty settlements over the previous few decades, indigenous Māori now have the financial resources to pursue projects of their own mātauranga.
However, contemporary architecture in New Zealand, when presented with the opportunity of conveying mātauranga Māori, have struggled with this challenge.
Dr Rebecca Kiddle, senior lectuer at Victoria University's School of Architecture, has talked about essentiallising cultural motifs and patterns in architecture, even labelling it the "sexy brown".
A koru or pou does not make architecture inherently Māori. So how can designers go beyond the superficial in architecture?
Nga Kōrero: Reimagining the Design Process was an ambitious group project that set out to answer that question, proposing that technology can be wielded to help designers connect with culture, ultimately arguing that meaningful engagement with stakeholders leads to better design—not only for cultural projects, but any project.
Basing our position from values of local iwi, Ngāti Toa, we proposed a framework focused on kōrero, materials and technology. This contrasted with current practice which focuses on the genius of the architect, and the demands of the construction industry.
Our framework led us to addressing Ngāti Toa taonga, Te Awarua-o-Porirua Harbour. We proposed using a waste product, silt—which was choking the harbour—as an additive in a building component.
We turned to emerging technologies to create a prototype.
Experimenting with robotic controlled 3D-printed ceramics enabled us to show how Ngāti Toa iwi could self-author an architecture that reflected their values of kaitiakitanga and motuhaketanga: using the harbour silt as a building element, Ngāti Toa's connection and guardianship to the harbour could be depicted in the narrative of the building elements themselves.
Nga Kōrero: Reimagining the Design Process was entered into the 2019 Best Awards—New Zealand's premier design awards. Incredibly the project took out the coveted Gold Pin in the Toitanga category Ngā Aho category.
Team: Angus Horne, Mitra Homolja, Ellie Tucky, Savannah Hunt and Luke Ransfield
Supervisors: Tane Moleta, Kevin Sweet
Acknowledgements: Ceramicist Peter Rumble, Wellington Pottery Association