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James Durcan, 2015 Student Design Awards winner

James Durcan

photo by Simon Wilson


James Durcan from the Victoria University of Wellington School of Architecture, has won the 2015 NZIA Cadimage Group Student Design Awards with his project ‘Indigenous Digital Craft: Expressing Indigenous Maori Culture’.

Project description

James was brought up in Timaru where he attended Roncalli College. His project ‘Indigenous Digital Craft: Expressing Indigenous Maori Culture with progressive and increasingly homogenised fabrication techniques in Architecture’ combined contemporary digital fabrication techniques with traditional Maori craft methods and design approaches. The proposed structure was conceived in collaboration with Poverty Bay’s Ngai Tamanuhiri iwi, and is intended for off-grid construction at a coastal site near Gisborne. Competition judges Pip Cheshire, the President of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, Wellington architect Cecile Bonnifait and Brisbane architect Michael Banney said Durcan’s work was “the result of huge engagement”. “It reveals a willingness, on all sides, to learn and collaborate to produce a meaningful outcome.”


The project proposes both a building for a Maori community on the Poverty Bay coast and the off-grid technology that will enable its construction. The work is a most impressive fusion of contemporary digital fabrication and indigenous craft culture. It combines digital design, self-taught craft skills, material experimentation and inventive engineering, and was made possible by the author’s personal commitment and the support of the local Ngai Tamanuhuri iwi. The project is the product of huge engagement, and reveals a willingness, on all sides, to learn and collaborate to realise a meaningful outcome.

Other finalists