Taonga o te Whenua: Material Healing of the Land

Jasmine Hemi

Weaved Wood
Separation and Healing Interpretive Model

In Aotearoa New Zealand there is a common Māori narrative of the loss of culture, knowledge and land, causing generations of indigenous dysphoria as a result of colonisation. This process has diminished one of the fundamental and vital areas of their culture - the architecture.

Though the Western world admired the ‘exoticness’ of these structures, it was also the governing infrastructure that aimed to undermine all Māori building typologies and ways of living. 

The contemporary buildings of Aotearoa reflect a primarily Westernised world, lacking any acknowledgement of the pre-colonial architecture that was shaped by the whenua (land and its natural resources).

Responding to this context, this thesis aims to explore how the combined application of customary Māori building materials and techniques can have a decolonising and restorative influence within modern-day architecture. Using the methodologies of research, fabrication and translation, this thesis aims to develop a whenua-based design palette. This process investigates the potential influence of using Māori materials and techniques in architecture, whether in their current state as a restorative method or through the means of abstraction in contemporary design.

Processes Images
Māori Materials and Technologies Explorations
Material Application Explorations

The thesis is a research journey through the lens of Ngāti Kuia and the devastation induced by the Crown’s 1856 Te Waipounamu purchase. By reclaiming customary building methodologies, acknowledging Ngāti Kuia ancestral pūrākau (story) and histories, this thesis seeks to regain a tangata whenua (people of the land) presence within this rohe (territory).

Collage Explorations 2
Fracturing Explorations

The output of this thesis will be the creation of a design process which can be applied to nine architectural pouwhenua (land markers) located at the wāhi tapu (places of significance) of Matua Houtere’s ancestral narrative. These structures are to provide whānau with the ability to re-establish, re-connect and share kōrero (conversations/narratives), as well as teach and identify their Ngāti Kuiatanga (Ngāti Kuia practices, beliefs and culture). For this research, only one of these pouwhenua structures is designed: the whare wānanga (place of learning) at Titīrangi.

Ngāti Kuia Pūrākau and Pouwhenua Locations (Site Plan)
E Elevation
Whare Wānanga: East Elevation
W Elevation
Whare Wānanga: West Elevation
Section 1
Whare Wānanga: Section One
Section 3 4
Whare Wānanga: Cross Section

Together the kaupapa (intention) of this thesis is to develop a design pallete and process that uses architecture as a tool to reactivate Māori materials, mātauranga (skills, knowledge and understandings), wāhi tapu and pūrākau, and apply them within the context of contemporary design, renewing the connection of tangata whenua with their lands.  

Views Test
Whare Wānanga: Perspectives