Breaking the mould

By mixing traditional Māori materials with 3D technologies, an East Coast iwi is building a unique hub for its community.

Design collboration between Ngāi Tāmanuhiri and School of Architecture of a manuhiri whare—a pavilion for visitors on Muriwai Marae

Ngāi Tāmanuhiri has teamed up with Victoria’s School of Architecture in the design and construction of a manuhiri whare—a pavilion for visitors on Muriwai Marae.

The project is part of a collaborative research laboratory between Victoria and Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, known as SITUA (Site of Indigenous Technologies Understanding Alliance). The alliance partners with iwi and enables projects within iwi domains, using both mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) and new technologies.

The whare is being constructed using 3D printed tiles made onsite from locally sourced clay using a custom-built ceramic printer, and then pieced together by hand.

“Apart from the technologies, everything used to build the structure is their own,” says Derek Kawiti, founder of SITUA and a senior lecturer at the School of Architecture.

“There is concern that modern architectural processes fail to reflect the culture of indigenous communities. We focus on working closely with the people, to find out what their needs are and how we can express them.”

Master’s student James Durcan designed the whare, incorporating a motif inspired by the local kaitiaki (guardian)—a whai (stingray). James won the 2015 New Zealand Institute of Architects Cadimage Group Design Award for the project.

“We have a group of students based onsite at Muriwai village,” says Derek. “It’s special to us that they become involved with the iwi and they’ve really taken them under their wing.”

Derek, of Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi, Tūhoe and Ngāti Porou heritage, works alongside Professor Marc Aurel Schnabel, who specialises in architectural technology, and says they hope to inspire the younger generation in the iwi.

“Computer modelling software makes the creation of structures like this much easier. We’re hoping to spark their interest in these technologies and make more using iwi knowledge and materials.

“So far, we’ve had strong encouragement and hope to build on what we’ve done for other iwi or Pacific Island communities.”