Victoria University of Wellington landscape architecture student wins an international award

A postgraduate landscape architecture student at Victoria University of Wellington has won a major international award for her landscape architecture project to help redevelop Carterton’s Hurunui-o-Rangi Marae.

Claudia Boyo, who is in her final master’s year as a landscape architecture student at the University, won the International Federation of Landscape Architect’s (IFLA) President’s Choice Award at the International Biennial of Landscape Architecture held recently in Barcelona. This award is given to the top project from a selection of five projects that selected schools of landscape architecture present at the Biennial.

“This is a prestigious and important international event that every two years celebrates the best landscape architecture projects and the top designs of the best schools of landscape architecture in the world,” says Carles Martinez-Almonya Gual, one of Claudia’s lecturers at Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Architecture.

The School of Architecture was also selected as one of the top ten school finalists for the Biennial. As a finalist, the school presented five projects as part of an exhibition, including Claudia’s award-winning project.

“Being one of the finalists and having one of our projects win this award shows the high quality of our landscape architecture programme,” says Mr Martinez-Almonya Gual.

Claudia’s winning project was the result of work completed in 2016 as part of two 300 level papers, LAND 312, taught by Bruno Marques, and LAND 321, taught by Mr Martinez-Almonya Gual. Students spent a week staying at the Hurunui-o-Rangi Marae, learning about the Wairarapa from the perspective of the Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa iwi. During the first two weeks of the trimester, students took part in a design competition to help improve the marae. Claudia elected to continue developing her design from this competition throughout the trimester.

“This project was such a valuable part of my landscape architecture degree. Having the opportunity to live in the community you are designing for and engaging with iwi was such an eye-opening experience that connected me to the place and the people, which meant the project was developed with passion and a sense of responsibility,” Claudia says.

Claudia’s project focuses on revitalising the existing marae into a thriving communal space. The proposed design includes a wide range of spaces that incorporate education through recreation, cultural awareness through traditional practices and implementation of sustainable solutions. The new exterior spaces comprise the marae atea (big meeting house), hangi hill (traditional cooking), flax field, vegetable garden and orchard, papakāinga (social housing), field market and the whai (playground).

Parts of Claudia’s project will be implemented on the marae, thanks to some funding Ngāti Kahungunu recently received.

“It meant so much to me that a project so close to my heart was being recognised on an international scale, and that the people of the marae were also given some recognition for their willingness to give up their time and energy and being so open to new ideas,” Claudia says.

“We are stoked with the win. It makes our whānau very happy to show our dreams at an international scale,” says Rawiri Smith, environmental consultant for Ngāti Kahungunu.

This project is part of an ongoing partnership between Ngāti Kahungunu and the School of Architecture.

“Partnerships such as this one are incredibly valuable for the landscape architecture programme and the School of Architecture,” says Mr Marques, who is also the Deputy Head of School for the School of Architecture. “We want our students to experience ‘real’ professional situations and be proactive in problem-solving while still keeping people at the forefront of their thinking, and partnerships like this help us achieve this. We are very lucky to have such a strong connection to Ngāti Kahungunu.”

Partnerships with Māori and with other communities that support and promote a bicultural perspective of New Zealand are very important to the School of Architecture, Mr Marques says.