Urban design competition re-imagines Porirua city decolonised

Victoria University of Wellington in collaboration with Ngāti Toa is today launching an urban design competition asking people to imagine what a decolonised city might be like using two sites in Porirua.

Aerial view of Porirua city
Porirua city

The Imagining Decolonised Cities competition, funded by the New Zealand National Commission for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), is inviting entries from around New Zealand.

Project leader, Dr Rebecca Kiddle from Victoria’s School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences explains the decolonised city concept, saying: “When I think about decolonised cities I think about cities that convey the identity of mana whenua (the iwi/hapū group whose historic roots link to that place).

“New Zealand was built around a colonial identity which did not include Māori identities, so this competition considers how we can decolonise cities to provide services, amenities and good homes for diverse Māori and non-Māori whānau and communities.”

The project team, which draws on the knowledge of local iwi, Māori and Pākehā researchers and experts, hopes to gather a range of future-orientated utopian visions from the competition participants.

“The competition is a chance for participants from a range of different backgrounds, ages and levels of experience to push the boundaries of what we know and think about urban design,” says Dr Morten Gjerde from Victoria’s School of Architecture.

Competition judge and Chair of Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira Taku Parai says: “We're interested in how the landscape, culture and aspirations of the whānau are demonstrated through new designs that reflect the existing landscape. We hope for a reconnect between culture, whakapapa and history.

“The harbour was the central hub of our existence, in terms of a food source for our people. We want to change ‘turning away’ from the harbour to ‘turning towards’ it. It's exciting to be part of this for our kids and our people.”

Participants are asked to submit ideas for a decolonised site, which can take a number of forms including poetry, essays, images, masterplans, artworks and short films.  

The sites in Porirua include the entire shoreline of the Onepoto arm of the Porirua Harbour and a papakāinga (housing development) site.

The judging panel is made up of eight people from a range of different fields, including award-winning Aboriginal architect Kevin O’Brien and architect and host of Three's Grand Designs New Zealand Chris Moller.

The competition includes a first place prize of $5,000, as well as runner up and highly commended prizes. The competition is open to both individuals and teams of up to four members, with submissions closing Tuesday 9 May 2017.

Further support for the project and prizes has been provided by Te Puna Mātauranga Education Programme: Ngāti Toa, Housing New Zealand, Peter and Sue Dow, Porirua City Council, Aotea College, Mana College and news website Architecture Now.

The competition is part of a wider research project at Victoria which looks at what decolonisation means to New Zealanders in relation to how their cities look and feel.