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New Zealand Institute of Architects









Highly Commended: Victoria Carran

Victoria Carran from Te Whare Wānanga o Wairaka Unitec School of Architecture has received Highly Commended at the 2023 Student Design Awards for project 'Of This Place: Reimagining Architectural Education in Aotearoa '.

Project description

Of This Place imagines the return of Aotearoa’s architectural education to a grounding in the principles of Te Ao Māori, including mana, ahi kā, manaakitanga, whānaungatanga, taonga tuku iho, and kaitiakitanga.

These principles informed the design of Te Kura Hoahoa Whare o Maungataketake, a campus for built-environment professionals. The campus sits on the coastline of Ihumātao, where Maungataketake, a 70m tall volcano, once stood. Maungataketake was confiscated through raupatu, and its terraced slopes have been destroyed through quarrying.

This project draws inspiration from Maungataketake’s past function as an active pā and regenerative living system. It imagines the reclamation of this extracted landscape, taking it from a site of desecration to one that radiates positive benefits to the community.

The campus aims to reprioritise te taiao within the minds of our future built-environment professionals. It focuses on responsible water use, with a wetland water filtration system and walking tracks that encourage the continued monitoring of the waterways. The built forms are constructed using recycled, organic, renewable, Indigenous, and low-carbon building materials.

Entry to the site is through an active waharoa. The thatched form resembles a pākē (rain cloak) to symbolise the welcoming in and protection of manuhiri. The wāhi hui is located where the original peak of Maungataketake was. Structural pou indicate the direction of significant tohu of mana whenua.

The studios are open spaces protected by large, tensioned, lashed timber frames covered by a waxed canvas canopy. These are places of experimentation where tauira are encouraged to build their own learning spaces.

Ultimately, this project aspires to return Maungataketake as an asset for future generations. It aims to uplift and acknowledge mana whenua by enabling ecosystems to return this whenua to a site of harvest, cultivation, and gathering of kaimoana while nurturing tauira as they navigate architectural education.

Jury citation

It will be exciting to see this type of regenerative thinking taken into the industry and the future. Regenerating a place of pain and trauma is such a positive resolution and it’s inspiring to witness. Restoring mauri to the land and uplifting the mana of mana whenua brings healing and community back into the site. The ideas of welcome, wellness and tikanga are all present.

The question that has been posed is ‘how do we heal a site of conflict and pain?’ and that is being done through a regenerative framework of thinking. If you put the trauma to the side for a moment, how do you bring a site back to a meaningful condition and make a positive contribution back to the environment. This is represented by the water that’s collected, filtered and cleansed. This is a high-level starting point, which then turns into a campus for an architecture school based on Te Ao Māori principles. It confirms a strong sense of self and culture and being able to view the world from that standpoint.

The investment in the built environment is courageous. There is opportunity to construct and deconstruct, there’s a pragmatic economic approach and a wholistic approach – the thorough thinking is commendable. The view on architecture is generous and as a regenerative learning centre, it embraces community.

Detailed modelling shows how this project is resolved on many levels and reveal the designer’s strong, centred spirit.