Concentrating on a Māori world view of architecture wasn’t so much a choice for Unitec Architecture Lecturer Rau Hoskins: it was a calling. “I’ve always had this focus on Māori architecture, because I saw the need,” he says. “I saw the gap, and I saw that Māori clients were not being well served by design professionals, because they in turn hadn’t been well served by their design courses.”
Hoskins helped set up Te Hononga, the Māori Architecture and Appropriate Technologies Centre, which focuses on research and design projects with a Māori focus. “In 1999 I came on board as a part-time staff member at Unitec and we took over a physical space in building two, and that space remains today as the site where Māori support, pastoral care, and a cultural space and design studio is located. I collaborate with my colleague Carin Wilson to deliver courses and run Te Hononga.”
Hoskins defines Māori architecture as anything that involves a Māori client with a Māori focus. “I think traditionally Māori architecture has been confined to marae architecture and sometimes churches, and now Māori architecture manifests across all environments, so we have Māori immersion schools, Māori medical centres and health clinics, Māori tourism ventures, and papa kāinga or domestic Māori villages. So the opportunities that exist now are very diverse. The kaupapa (purpose or reason) for the building and client’s aspirations are the key to how the architecture manifests.”
According to Hoskins, traditional Māori learning and technologies is always applied to a real solution. “If you’re learning to be a carver, you start by carving something simple, but it has an outcome. You’re not playing around making nothing and then discarding it, you start by carving something simple that can be used, and then progress to something more elaborate. So a Māori approach to research is always located within the real world, and relative to solving real issues.”
Hoskins has been involved in many projects with this strong focus on Māori architecture, both through his own practice DesignTribe, and Unitec’s studio. Last year he was invited to be part of the inaugural New Zealand project team for the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, the biggest and most prestigious architecture exhibition in the world. “They asked me to join the team to provide specialist Māori advice. It’s something that David Mitchell has been talking about for quite some time: the way Māori architecture has borrowed from European architecture, and the way that New Zealand architecture has borrowed from Māori and Pacific architecture to give us an emerging architecture style that is distinct from its Eurocentric origins.”
Hoskins says that he feels privileged to have been part of the Venice Architecture Biennale team, but also to be able to work with such a strong Māori focus. “I think obviously I’ve got the best job in the world, because I get to be part of making Māori aspirations into physical reality in a changing and dynamic society. We’re not just about reproducing what’s been done before, because the culture and the technologies have moved on and the aspirations have moved on as well. But if you understand Māori architecture you can be better equipped to design for Aotearoa. You can be part of a movement that is seeking to make our architecture more distinctive and more of this place. You will be a better designer for this country, for our cultural dynamics, creating architecture which is uniquely grounded in Aotearoa.”
Read the full article at the Advance blog here.