Design DNA: The Emergence of Pattern

Luke Veldhuizen



Can technology be used to help capture and implement the ephemeral and intangible qualities unique to an indigenous people? Can it be dynamic and flexible enough to work with the shifting moods, thoughts, and feelings of a variety of stakeholders? Discussion with Ngati Huri of Pikitu Marae revealed affinities and reverence for key local landmarks, features and memories of their past. This became the starting point to utilise the shapes and patterns of the land; modified by the ephemeral influences in order to produce a concept.

Through the combination of fixed and variable influences, multiple relationships between points cause, patterns to be generated, varied, and tested. Alowing the design to meet Ngati Huri’s criteria such as, being appropriate for slope and elevation, optimised for dealing with water-accumulation, East-facing buildings and to preserve view shafts to important cultural landmarks.

Designed with the Marae as the central focal point, all housing in the design was situated within 200 metres either side of it. Symbolically and literally, the Marae is at the centre of all life; therefore for the Ngati Huri People this was the first and primary driver to all design moves.

All paths and patterns designed for this site were influenced and drawn from the shapes, forms and waterways of the land. With the concept of the river as the original ‘highway’ mode of transportation, the natural curves of the river were taken and simplified to create a smoother curve, interpolated through four nodes to achieve a land network pattern inspired by the ancient means of travel.

For the people of Pikitu, the influence and importance of Wharepuhunga (their mountain) was an obvious choice to draw influence from. Further, the remnant bush and the cave art were chosen to represent, respectively earth (native bush standing strong amongst volcanic destruction) and the cosmos (cave star paintings). The cave paintings chosen as a reference not only because of the teaching and learning that occurred there, but to the master waka navigation (by star position), the cosmological history and birthplace of the people and their voyage to Aotearoa.

Beginning with a grid, squares were programmed to become larger at the central Marae point (1), followed by adding rotational influences (2) as a base to investigate layout possibilities in the resultant negative-space resonance or gestalt-image (3). By adding further points of influence (the Marae,  the Mountain, and Cave Art) and manipulating the relative ‘weight’ of each attraction-point, and or including other points of interest dynamically, new gestalt patterns were produced (4), influencing how planting and paving was located within the developed area. 

By tying the patterns of the land and the water, together with the influences of spiritual and sacred places, the overall design made for the people of Ngati Huri emerged.