Culture, Space and Place

Erica van der Zanden 



The history of the site lies deep within the multi-layered, interwoven fabric of the landscape; ancestors use this narrative to inform cultural life and identify with place. The project explores considerations for designing a papakāinga for Ngāti Huri, a rural Marae in South Waikato. Ngāti Huri’s ancestral land is integral to their physical, spiritual, emotional, social and economic well-being. The design strategy is consistent with Ngāti Huri’s values and contemporary environmental principles. The intention is to design a low impact development, protecting, restoring and enhancing the connection to the land, rivers and streams.

The design will contribute to a vibrant future for a thriving rural community, whilst addressing the issues around cultural landscapes and ecological performance of development. Through extensive analysis of the site, local and regional context in terms of cultural, economic and ecological values, lead to the designs rational; that the tangible features are just as important as the intangible features .

The design itself reveals major viewpoints through to significant sites as you meander down a steep slope paved to the local stream that runs past the back of Pikitu Marae. The pathway gives way to platforms for wānanga, places to meet and share knowledge, discuss, deliberate and consider. The sites are shaped by the lands former inhabitants and include urupā (grave sites), pā sites, hāngī stones, rock art and previous house sites. All intangible sites are referenced through the design with obscured, subtle orientation; all with the Marae as the center point because they are considered to be wāhi tapu (scared) to the Ngati Huri people.

The development of Pikitū Marae provides the opportunity for Ngati Huri to return home to their ancestral lands and develop alongside it. The sustainable design integrates vegetable gardens, a nursery, ātea (open space), stream restoration and community buildings to create a self-sufficient, resilient and sustainable community that caters to the wide demographics of the Ngāti Huri people.