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New Zealand Institute of Architects









Finalist: Antonia van Sitter

Antonia van Sitter from Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington School of Architecture is a finalist for project 'Toitū te Whenua, Toiora Te Wai, Toitū te Marae: Let the permanence of land remain intact, let the water abound, let the marae remain connected'.

Project description

Cyclone Gabrielle made devastatingly evident the complex risks and challenges facing marae resilience as a result of the changing climate. Eighty per cent of marae are built in low-lying coastal or flood-prone areas, fore fronting the scale of marae at risk of repeated flood damage.

Toitū te whenua, toiora te wai, toitū te marae poses the reframing of architectural methodologies in a response to he huringa ahurangi the changing environments by foregrounding the exploration and testing of Indigenous methodologies. The study takes its critical conceptualisation from climate change, settler colonisation, and mana motuhake-inspired indigenising practices organising through orientations to te kore, te pō, and te ao mārama. The objective is to engage with the ahi ka of iwi, hapu, whānau, experts and architects alike. This is facilitated by the practice of indigenised methods such as whakapapa plotting and mahi toi as representational and expressive techniques of speculative design.

Kaupapa Māori names the overarching methodology. The methods will include mahi toi, participatory design, and expressive techniques as a design practice alongside the process of pūrākau, waiata, moteatea, haka, whakatauki, and karakia which will draw alongside kōrero, kupu tuku iho and hikoi.

Jury citation

This represents a wonderful invitation to experienced practitioners working in the industry to keep learning.

The doors of marae have always been open, but many are now under threat by adverse climate conditions. History is at peril, not just the buildings but the sacred land close to the marae and what that land holds.

The research undergone here takes goes deep into cultural wisdom, which is rich in guidance for the present and future. Approaching change by applying familiar, traditional concepts manages potential outcomes for confrontation that may result from the prospect of change. Looking at the past and traditional methods is also a constructive way of framing the future.

The design response takes us from dark to light and the immersion into culture reframes the approach to architecture, which is exciting. Sustainability, resilience and healing the land are all so relevant to us now, if we are to have a future.

Each community that has been part of the project’s research is different in their needs and wants and that has been expressed. The drawings are beautiful and demonstrate the tension, nuance and different sets of conditions.