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Strong cultural emphasis influences design – DGSE

When it comes to a favourite part of Waiaroha for DGSE as architectural designers, it’s the simple things that standout.

Ezra Kelly was the Project Principal from concept design onwards and he says the fins attached to the large water storage tanks are a stand out for himself and the DGSE team, which also included Alex Heperi as Cultural Lead and Project Representative and Stefania Ruiz as Documentation Lead.

“The fins to the tanks which act in part to ‘hide’ as much as you can 10 million litres of tank, but also add to the narrative by representing water/mist around the hills.”

With over 30 years in practice, Ezra says the Waiaroha project will be memorable from the overwhelming sense of collaboration across all parts of the project.

In my 30 years of practice this project represented the best experience of collaborative design, not just from within the core project design team – but amongst artists, client and most significantly mana whenua.

He adds that the most meaningful space for his team is the Mahau (the entry porch). “Seeing It in use at the opening event showed that Waiaroha had a broader use than simply education.

“Te Whare Waiaroha has been designed with whakairo, traditionally carved mahau representing the whakapapa of wai according to local iwi Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga which welcomes whānau into the whare from the marae atea.

Within the overarching narrative of the journey and Whakapapa of water – the education building was essentially the forest, given life by the water. ‘Ki Uta, Ki Tai’ from the mountains to the sea was the narrative woven through the site with the education centre representing the domain of Tane Mahuta, Atua of the forest.

The architectural design intent of the building was based on a forest canopy providing a sense of connection and transparency between the interior and exterior spaces.

Tane, also known as Tane nui a rangi was responsible from ascending to the upper most heaven to obtain the kete of knowledge which was also visually interpreted into the design of Te Whare Waiaroha.