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New Zealand Institute of Architects









John Belford-Lelaulu, finalist

John Belford-Lelaulu

Photo by Simon Wilson


John Belford-Lelaulu, from Unitec Department of Architecture, was a finalist for his project ‘Le Malofie’.

Project description

This project uses Le Malofie, the traditional Samoan tattoo, as a catalyst to explore, and advocate for, the influence of Pacific art in New Zealand’s architectural environment. The proposed building or complex is a ‘Talitali o MeaSina a Samoa, Niu Sila’ – a vehicle for protecting Samoa’s treasures in New Zealand. Located in a neighborhood in Manukau, Auckland’s Samoan stronghold, the facility is designed to present Samoan tattooing and the work of Samoan artists, and to preserve and celebrate Fa’a Samoa values. The intention is to transcend the superficial use of Pacific art as motif or façade, and to experience the building from inside out.      



The project beautifully describes some of the processes and artefacts of Samoan culture, and draws on and abstracts from a simulating architectural reading of Le Malofie, the traditional Samoan tattoo. Ideas about the relationship of surface and depth, skin and incision, line drawing and infill are explored in a human and technical way. Impressively, architecture is distilled through the filter of culture to propose a building that will showcase Samoan culture and render it accessible to Auckland’s Samoan community.

Other finalists