noarlunga downs wetland sculptures

Paul herzich

Ngarrindjeri / Kaurna and German


Set on the fringe of the Onkaparinga River of South Australia; a local estuarine environment has been transformed from a series of sludge drying lagoons which once stored treated wastewater from a nearby SA Water wastewater treatment plant into a thriving wetland sanctuary that houses a series of nine inter-connected ponds that hold and filter localised stormwater run-off before releasing it into the sensitive Onkaparinga estuary environment of Noarlunga Downs.
Some 205,000 native seedlings from 75 provenance aquatic and terrestrial plant species were very cleverly planted across the 16 hectare site to transform the now Noarlunga Downs Wetlands and has become a haven for over 80 different native bird species and also supports a thriving community of native fish, tadpoles, frogs and shrimp.


As an outcome of the extensive consultation and engagement that took place with the local community, local environmental groups and the local council, it was agreed upon by all to recognise the importance of the Onkaparinga estuary for the Traditional Owners.
So SA Water worked closely with Adelaide based contemporary Aboriginal artist and landscape architect; Paul Herzich and commissioned him to design sculptures that would be placed along a trail within the new wetland. Part of Paul’s brief was to design ‘seats that aren’t seats’.
With the combination of corten steel, mild steel, stainless steel and concrete. Paul’s works include two ‘seats’ in the stylised form of traditional bark canoes with fishing spears that were traditionally used as punting poles to glide the canoes across the waters of the Onkaparinga River and around the estuary.


The management of water for Aboriginal people is paramount. Whether it be for drinking or hunting, Aboriginal people would holistically look after reliable water sources because it meant sustaining their survival. Aboriginal people hunted along the Onkaparinga River for fish like Black Bream and Mulloway as well as Yabby from bark canoes made from locally sourced Eucalyptus Camaldulensis - Red Gum trees. At night, a small fire would be placed on a clay base in the middle of the canoe to attract fish to the water’s surface. The tops of the canoes are decorated with local Aboriginal cultural icons that connect people to country. They represent animals, food, weaving, environments, cosmology and spiritual dreaming stories. Radiating out from the base of the punting poles are ripples with laser cut stainless steel water droplets that contain important stories of the environments past, the present and future. The stories reflect a timeline of how the local environment has changed over time as well as share stories and connections to the Aboriginal way of life.


In 1991, Archaeological research uncovered Aboriginal artefacts along the Onkaparinga River dating back to at least 7,500 years ago. In 2011, a number Aboriginal ancestral remains were uncovered along the Onkaparinga River during the construction of the Seaford Rail Extension Project. They also dated back to being around 7,500 years old. The sculptures celebrate and value the strong Aboriginal connections to the place and area. They represent Aboriginal cultures that has survived for over 60,000 years. They are important sculptures that serve as cultural markers for both the Kaurna and Ramindjeri people who on occasions shared the area surrounding the Onkaparinga River environment.



jake chakasim



What are the most important principles and values for Cree design and environmental planning?


First, we need to genuinely acknowledge the stewardship role global Indigenous cultures continue to abide by.  Second, we need to recognize the pivotal role cultural reciprocity has to play between people and places.  Together, these provide a deep sense of economy as to how we approach, maintain and manage our individual homes and collective homelands.  At the same time we mustn’t forget we are part of global community where traditional boundaries have been blurred and personal identities have been shifted.  As a Cree designer, I’ve come to accept and appreciate the fact we are all in this together – regardless of who or where we come from – at the end of the day we all apply a different sensibility to the values we carry and where they come from.


Do these values apply for urban/city design?


Certainly.  It’s just a matter of how one decides to work, apply and/or interpret their intergenerational (or relational) values across materialism i.e. the use of cultural artifacts and/or symbols and where we exercise these values – be it rural or urban – context is everything.  The way I have come to see and experience it, Indigenous cultural values are more relevant today than they ever were, merely because half of the world’s indigenous population(s) are now urbanized – we’re more connected via technology but less connected to an understanding of place.


Also, with a change in location – be it voluntary migration or forced displacement – many of our cultural practices and formations have been re-contextualized.  Our stories have begun to take on new meanings, new interpretations, in the process revealing new modes of indigenous practices (including paradigms) for both the artist and professional design practitioner.  It’s an exciting time to think of these values in terms of modern versus traditional, rural versus urban, authentic versus synthetic, etc. as it relates to global ambitions.


How are these values and principles given ‘voice’ or expression in Canada?


I can give you a few examples that cut right to consciousness of Canadian society.  An obvious example would be our Canadian currency.  At the turn of the 21st century we started to see the recognition of Indigenous art displayed on our Canadian bank notes, most notably Bill Reid’s sculpture Raven and the First Men.  Of recent, Indigenous artists are starting to be formally acknowledged by the Canadian public at-large. For example, international musician Buffy St. Marie (Plains Cree from Saskatchewan) is one of two finalists to be publicly voted on one of our bank notes.  I know these are monetary examples, superficial to some extent, but they serve as everyday reminders of ‘who we are’ and ‘how’ our collective identities are expressed and, sadly, disposed of. Our indigenous identities are still teetering on the edge of tokenism.   Yet a more recent and promising example would have to be the Idle No More social movement; a social movement that not only ‘activated’ spaces between architectural settings (the urban fabric) – i.e. round dances in public spaces (road intersections) and blockades of transnational rail lines - was founded by three First Nations women.  These are just a few ‘voices’ or forms of expression informed by stewardship values and unfulfilled Treaty Rights. 


On a more personal and proactive front, one of the ways I have been able to give ‘voice’ and ‘expression’ is in the form of Canadian Architectural Education Policy.  To me architecture is the ultimate backdrop that informs our contemporary settings and traditional identities.  Not only does Indigenous architecture, Indigenous planning and related design professions provide the necessary context from which our traditions move forward upon but also, they provide our Indigenous youth the opportunity (a gateway) to formulate and articulate new expressionisms.  Gone are the days when architecture was mainly viewed as a middle-class Caucasian profession. 


In Canada, we have made significant strides to influence Architecture Education policy to be inclusive of indigenous ways of knowing, doing and making with the development of two (2) brand new schools of architecture in the last 5 years.  That’s pretty significant when you consider most universities are huge investment machines that help shape Canadian cities; more importantly, where future indigenous architects, engineers, and planners are created whom in turn, will be able to help design healthy First Nation communities and facilities.


If you were starting again in academic studies are there things that you would do differently?


Tough question but probably not.  I think at the time of my architectural studies I became more aware of who I was in relation to my studio peers.  My culture was a huge asset to my studies.  I say that because there weren’t any other identifiable First Nations students in the school of architecture I attended.  Instead of seeing this as a negative I saw this as an opportunity to put forward an alternative design perspective.  At the time the concept of sustainability was mainly seen as a technical response to design and planning.  The role of culture had yet to play a part with contemporary architectural practices.  If it did, it was merely at the beginning of the design process and not carried through the entire project and into the life of the building.   As one of my mentors often says, “the time was ripe for an Indigenous worldview to inform architecture within the disciplinary borders of academia.”


You have an interest in community and awareness. How do you convey your message?


Awareness has always been central to my understanding of place.  I accredit this to my grandfather who taught me at a young age about the spirit of place through generational Cree hunting practices.  This sense of awareness arrived through positioning oneself in the natural environment – developing a deep understanding of temporal forces at play - the natural.  The communal aspect came in the form of giving back – sharing one’s harvest of big game hunting with the community – essentially providing for those who may not be in a position to do so.  There’s a sense of humility in that, a good humility. How do I convey this message?  As a person trained in architecture, engineering and soon to be professional planning – I gift my skill-set back to the community – it’s a way of sustaining our culture values while reinforcing an act of cultural reciprocity – again, it’s culture in action.


How could we best move toward resilience in urban design in New Zealand, from your knowledge of the Canadian situation?


When I think of resilience I look to my twin boys – Tapwewin and Pawaken (age 9) – then I look to my grandparents who experienced and survived one of Canada’s darkest secrets – Indian Residential Schools.  Somewhere along that continuum there is strength, not in the sense of numbers but rather in the stories we choose to tell about ourselves.  More importantly, how we have overcome this dark chapter in our history and are now able to articulate better safer spaces for our future generations. Resilience and reconciliation go hand and hand but we must be careful not to wait until immediacy is upon us otherwise we will short change those little one’s before us.  Here in New Zealand, because of the size of your country, I get the sense you may be forced to act more quickly and creatively than us Canadians.  The model you have developed works and I look forward to learning from you as a community as you may from us.


What is your vision for future indigenous design expression?


It’s not so much a vision but rather a hope for future indigenous design expression.  One day I hope to see hundreds of Indigenous architects, engineers, and professional planners making well informed decisions and investments about the way our communities are designed.  Some might say ‘a return to first principles’ but I like to think of these as ‘a refinement of first principles’.

Our Indigenous communities for the most part have operated from the margins of society for so long that it comes as no surprise we can and shall always do more with less.  Some of the best problem solvers make use of one or two unknowns.  These individuals tend to be the most creative because they see things not for what they are but what they can become.  So it’s not so much a vision but rather who and what goes into it.


te arerenga
a project in two parts

Alex Luiten & Hannah Valentine

Auckland Based Artists

Ka au I te aka ‘enua – I’m not native here

Inherited through family bloodlines, Te Arerenga is both the historical land title for a coastal section of land on the Western side of Rarotonga, and namesake for an artist residency, the Te Arerenga Project.  Initiated by Pouarii Tanner and Sam Thomas, and functioning since 2015, the project started as a bare piece of land.  Gradually, with the help of family, friends, and New Zealand Architect Fritha Hobbs, two living and dining structures were built by hand, the area was planted, and an upturned catamaran with a long history at sea was transformed into an artist’s workshop.  The project came to life, the space already having supported a wide range of artists from New Zealand and further abroad, each of whom leave a trace of their practice or work at the site for following visitors to encounter.

In English, Te Arerenga can be translated as ‘The Yellow house’.  A reference to ‘The Yellow house’ studio of Vincent Van Gogh in Arles, which was used as an escape by Parisian artist, Paul Gauguin, the two spaces have kindred intentions.  Both create environments for artists to be inspired by differing climates and culture. A deeply enriching experience, the residency space will continually develop and evolve, both to accommodate residents and as a result of artists’ interaction with the site and the culture of Rarotonga.  Part of the freedom of the Te Arerenga project for an artist is linked to the opportunity to develop one’s practice without a direct outcome or deadline.  Rare amongst artist residencies, this is enhanced by the more familiar isolation from quotidian activities and distractions, and in our case separation from Auckland’s urban culture.

The layout and architecture of the Te Arerenga Project by Fritha Hobbs, in conversation with Tanner and Thomas, is in the traditional fale/are layout.  Hobbs took on the project on a very tight budget, understanding the desire to work with a traditional approach to Pacific living, yet shift it into something suitable to contemporary life. She took the process from its origins in planning, to obtaining building consent at the Ministry of Housing in Rarotonga.  The Te Arerenga Project includes an are kai, are moe and are meangiti. The separate dwellings encourage visitors to interact with the entire site, and live within the principles of Pacific culture.

A project in two parts
The intentions of the Te Arerenga Project are guided by two core principles:
Enua (Land) – An understanding that the space was donated for use as a place of work and thought. A mindfulness that  one engages with the site as well as the wider context of Rarotonga.
Teititangata (Community) – A relationship is created that allows for communication and integration between the resident and the Rarotongan community.

In April this year, we spent a week at the Te Arerenga Project in preparation for an artists residency we have been invited to undertake in early 2017. During the visit we encounted a relaxed sensibility, both from the locals and the way they build their structures.  Function takes precedence over more costly materials or design. It encouraged thought towards a project that works in with the Rarotongan flow of life.

We were fortunate to have been shown around the island by Tanner’s mother Jane, a local, and caregiver of the Te Arerenga Project while Tanner and Thomas are in New Zealand.  We shared in experiences that allowed us an insight into community life.  We observed a communal approach to land and crops between family and friends. The construction of a meal may include a tiki-tour to a relatives’ fruit tree that is particularly bountiful. Eating and talking became a very, if not the most, important part of the day. The experience inspired us to create an installation that will remain on site to be used by visitors and residents. A space for relaxation and contemplation.

Following a discussion with Hobbs, and influenced by the modesty of the structures both at Te Arerenga and more broadly across the island, the first part of our proposed idea is to create a low lying hammock structure.  This will hold 2-3 people at a time, that will be cohesive with the fale layout. The structure will function as an outdoor space for visitors to engage with physically, where they can draw, think, relax or otherwise.  With views to the mountains, the sky, and surrounding palms, it will be an open space to rest, fully immersed in one’s surroundings.

The structure is planned to be semi-permanent, and incorporate catamaran materials to integrate the aesthetic with that of the capsized catamaran-turned-workshop that has become a feature of the project to locals and visitors alike.  

The second part to the project revolves around the sustainability of land at the Te Arerenga project. While staying on the island in April we visited the Cook Island Ministry of Agriculture to investigate the potential to improve the ability to grow fruit and vegetable crops on site, as part of an integrated approach. It started with an investigation into the soil structure on Rarotonga. It is essential to understand soil behaviour and performance, as this can make nutrient management a challenge.
As various soils act in very different ways, there is no single nutrient management strategy that can be applied to all soils.  As a result, the approach to improved sustainability at the Te Arerenga project will be experimental in process and implementation.
The soil composition of Rarotonga can be simply divided into three sections:
Coral sands and coral alluvium (sand) along the coast, which has poor water holding capacity, is free draining, and has low nutrient quality.  Te Arerenga is situated in this section.
Basaltic alluvium and Basaltic colluvium (clay loam) makes up the mid section, which has excellent water holding capacity and high nutrient value.
In-situ Basaltic on the island interior, which results in the inability to grow arable crops.
The Te Arerenga project was constructed on a site composed essentially of sand, which limits the ability to grow crops well due to the low surface tension of sand. Since water is held within the pores of the soil, the water holding capacity depends on capillary action and the size of the pores that exist between soil particles. Sandy soils have large particles and large pores. As a result, sandy soils drain excessively. On the other hand, clay soils have small particles and small pores therefore clay soils tend to have high water holding capacity.

The proposal seeks to improve the structure of the soil, by raising the surface tension of the site,  mixing the basaltic alluvial soils of the interior coastal margin with the sandy exterior soils of Te Arerenga to a level that supports healthy nutrient uptake and water holding capacity. This experimental process would see channels dug extensively throughout the site. The sand removed would be re-distributed and the mixed sandy loam would be reinstated.

Further development of this project would see organic material created by the residency integrated into the process that will improve soil structure.
A Project in Two Parts, comprised of a functional, low lying hammock, and a shift in soils to promote growth and sustainability, is our response to the land and project Te Arerenga.  Our aim is to leave a lasting trace that will benefit artists and visitors in the future.  Building on ideas present in the construction of the project, we bring our own sensibilities, and hope to leave with a deeper connection to the land and culture.


rediscovering sense of self through placelessness

Emily Bowerman

3rd year BLA University of Guelph



As a 3rd year BLA student from Ontario, Canada I had the opportunity to participate in an exchange program where I spent a semester at Unitec. I left the comfort of my routine lifestyle and spent several months exploring New Zealand’s North and South Islands. Distinctive in character and in memory, particularly, my time spent camping in Fjordland National Park, and the calf-wrenching hikes I conquered in both Glenorchy and Tongariro National Park heightened my sensibilities for wildlife. Venturing out to experience a sense of placelessness afforded me unique opportunities to find a sense of self outside of the familiar, to initially see the landscapes’ visual and structural beauty, and furthermore to gain a major appreciation of the integration of people and landscape.
Edward Relph, a Canadian human geographer, contributes the ideas of ‘insideness’ vs. ‘outsideness’ to the understanding of sense of place and placelessness. He explores ‘insideness’ as the degrees of attachment and understanding of places whereas ‘outsideness’, when one is in a place but succumbs to alienation due to strangeness, for example: homesickness 1. Sense of place is something I defined out of habit rather than an attachment fueled by excitement, joy or fulfillment. I shifted my perspective, and rather than visiting places with preconceived notions, I embraced the chaos of unpredictability. Relph highlights that significant places in the world are being replaced with anonymous spaces and exchangeable environments, therefore resulting in what he calls ‘placelessness’ 2. For myself, placelessness is more the process of overcoming the cushioned pre-conceptions I had from travel blogs, embracing the unknown and opening myself to opportunities. Being placeless is less about a physical space and is much more phenomenological that goes beyond the levels of conscious awareness 3. There exists a transient sense of place for me in New Zealand, something that leaves me longing to return. I attribute much of this to cultural transparency and the openness shared in spaces like the Te Noho Kotahitanga Marae. I have heightened my understanding, appreciation and respect for Maori indigenous land values and recognize the importance of place making. The process has led to my new found ‘insideness’ within the New Zealand landscape; something I reflect upon in pursuit of new design challenges back home.

The familiar crunch of uneven stones under my feet as I step onto the driveway, the ease that comes as I walk to the house and see the dog with a look of disbelief from the front window; a returned sense of place embraces me but with an invigorating flare of unfamiliarity.

Now back in Canada, I wonder if Maori identity, so strongly rooted in sense of place and the landscape, is a tangible perspective for peoples in Canada. Most vividly observed was the way New Zealand provides a more transparent view of indigenous relationship to the land than in Canada. Canada hosts a melting pot of cultures, but unfortunately the rich variety of cultures has been lost in concrete jungles and cookie cutter planning approaches. We are blessed with some of the most unique scenery in the world. This has inspired my current research into sense of place and presence of indigenous cultures in urban Canadian landscapes. The Canadian landscape is a very strong identifier for Aboriginal peoples of Canada and I appreciate even more the need to celebrate this in urban settings. Sense of place should be defined by human experiences but not merely out of habit. Unifying Canada’s identity by strengthening people’s connection to landscape is a sustainable approach that stems from our Canadian Indigenous Aboriginal roots. Efforts to reconnect Maori people with their land and implement more inclusive design efforts, specifically the works of Ngā Aho, are significant models for Canadian landscape design. The New Zealand landscape has re-shaped my approach to travel, my personal relationship to the landscape and my perception of placelessness; the importance of travelling light both in pack and in mind.

ha noi - vietnam

Jacqueline Paul

3rd Year BLA



During November 2015 to February 2016 I travelled to Ha Noi Viet Nam where I stayed at the Vietnam National University of Forestry in Chuong My, Xuan Mai for research and development study. The aim of the research was to help to understand the impacts and effects of urban sprawl in Ha Noi City, societal influences that have shaped and formed the city and provide an insight from local people on their views about the rapid urbanization and their living situations. These include social, environmental, physical, political and economical views.  How has urban sprawl affected them? What they would like to see for future development?

This research project focusses on three types of urban development:

Historic Development: Old Quarter 36 Streets
Developing Areas: Giang Vo, Trung Tu, Thanh Xuan
New Urban Development: Yen So Urban, Van Phu
As Ha Noi continues to expand and urban development ischanging, lives are either improving or being negativelyimpacted. From the centre of Ha Noi much of the traditional settlement development remains in the CBD and consists of small narrow tubular homes, developing areas are changing drastically and gentrification is occurring. Conditions here are still poor. New urban development is the form of fabricated houses designed with a modern approach and influence.
I hope through this research, some ways might be found in order to benefit the local people by providing a voice and insight to their perceptions of place. This approach recognises the importance of the local people in decision making around development. Through better planning and policies in Ha Noi, Vietnam changes could be encouraged that enable a more localised approach to the design of cities. Implementing strict urban planning and building policies (e.g. Building Codes to restrict informal development, plans for urban sprawl and development controls) would suggestively be an appropriate approach that would benefit the locals and finding balance between the planners and local people.

Getting to know the locals

A series of questions were asked in order to gain understanding of local perspectives. We were invited into their homes to understand their living situation and discuss several issues they face. These discussions were about housing, infrastructure, urban development, environmental and social problems and the economic situation in relation to property value and culture.
This is an ancient quarter in Ha Noi, which is a popular tourist destination. I spent approximately 4 hours in the old quarter and managed to only survey one person. A lot of elderly people refused to be surveyed, many shop owners were busy, people who were trading in markets didn’t actually live in Old Quarter, they lived further in the outskirts of Ha Noi and many foreigners occupied this area. It was very difficult to differentiate and find someone with experience in Old Quarter to share their views. It is a very traditional and commercial trading area where much of it is used for business and residential uses. I managed to speak with local Mr Ng Quang Son who lives in a tubular dwelling which is long and narrow and roughly 20m2 with 10 people living with him in his home. There is such a high density rate within the area and he says intensification is normal. The development in the area is very compact and there is no green space available for each home. Traffic is hectic with more motorcycles than cars, the area is very overcrowded. This means there’s noise and air pollution. Many people wear face masks to reduce inhalation of pollutants. There are several environmental and infrastructure problems that old quarter suffers from as a result, including many of the related factors. This includes air and water pollution, zero green infrastructure, limited provision of open space or recreation zones, limited cycling and walking infrastructure, limited green space and vegetation, traffic congestion, intensification causing strain on limited resources and more.

The developing areas that I observed and surveyed were all built during the 1970’s and financed by the Soviet Union. Around 20 almost identical state-owned areas were built in Ha Noi during this time. The yellow plastered concrete buildings stand three to five stories high. Many of the residents who live here have previously worked for the government. I spoke with 3 locals and their families from all three areas identified – Thanh Xuan, Giang Vo and Trung Tu. Based on that information received, I understand that a lot of gentrification is taking place where state-owned residents are asked to move into other homes so that their current ones can be demolished for commercial development. This also means that construction is taking place which is causing a lot of noise and air pollution which affects locals directly. There is an imbalance in planning between state owned housing and new high rise developments. This means that current communities are being impacted by new housing structures which might be 20 storeys high compared to their existing apartment buildings of 3 storeys high causing displacement. Its means there is a new environment within existing communities making difficult for them to adapt to change Locals are comfortable and safe in their existing communities despite the conditions but find that culture and relationships are more important to them than transferring into new high-rise apartments.

I spoke with local Tueu Thu Huong, she believes that the construction of unregulated buildings is a result of historical political structure. For future development she would like to see several buildings demolished and redeveloped because the shape/structure of the current organization of development is spatially arranged inappropriately. This means that a lot of the architecture has been shaped overtime from societal influences. This shows the change in development which has formed with little or no planning or building restrictions. If we compare this to Auckland, we have the Auckland Unitary plan which controls each zone and what can be developed there along with building restrictions. Ha Noi is still in the development of a structured City Masterplan. The new peri-urban development has been built in the last decade. It is where urban and agricultural land meet. A more sustainable approach to new communities has been taken and there is a lot of open green space available with a lot of vegetation along streets, several local parks, great road infrastructure, blue and green infrastructure and better air quality however, locals must pay a premium to live here. The existing communities have benefited from the urban sprawl as their living conditions have improved, however the inhabitants still face social issues. The property value will increase, which might mean in the future they might be not be able to remain there if living costs increase.

Planning and architecture has changed in Ha Noi because a lot of the development is shaped and formed from western influences. From designers to materials. A business culture that supports local businesses, buy local materials and employ local tradesmen should be developed. The culture in this development has also changed. Some streets are named numbers compared to the centre of Ha Noi where traditional street names still remain. Preserving culture and values through design would benefit the local people and embed identity within the landscape rather than create further disconnection.
Based on this research project I wanted to show how families in Ha Noi are affected by planning decisions and rapid development changes. Locals don’t get a strong voice at governance level. Perhaps as an outcome of better communication and connection with locals there could be healthier and happier communities. New Zealand could provide the blueprint for this type of development wherethe relationship between professionals and mana whenua is growing and this methodology is a great way to demonstrate how developers and indigenous people of the land could work together.


1 Relph, Edward, 1976. Place and Placelessness. London: Pion.

2 Ibid

3 Seamon, David, 2000. A Way of Seeing People and Place: Phenomenology in
Environment- Behavior Research. In S. Wapner, J. Demick, T. Yamamoto, and H.
Minami, eds., Theoretical Perspectives in Environment-Behavior Research (pp. 157-
78). New York: Plenum.