Te Pūtahi Auaha – the community-based graffiti pavilion developed by Unitec staff and students – is to be relocated to a permanent base in Henderson this month.
Translated to mean The Meeting Place for Creativity, The Pavilion has been a collaborative, cross-disciplinary project between Unitec’s Schools of Architecture and Creative Studies, artists from the Avondale art collective, urban designers and placemaking specialists from Eke Panuku, Auckland Council’s urban regeneration agency.
In 2019, Eke Panuku gave Unitec the brief to design a structure that reinvigorated an unused space, created a rotating showcase for local graffiti and street artists, and provided a public amenity for the Avondale community. Covered in white reskinnable canvas, the three-dimensional structure was designed to embrace street culture and ensure other graffiti artists wouldn’t vandalise it.
Originally designed to occupy a vacant space in the Avondale shopping precinct, the structure was first estimated to take four to six months to complete, but eventually turned into a two-year exercise with successive COVID lockdowns forcing students to put the project on hold.
“The project required students to design an architectural product that considered community, place, material and function,” said Dr Yusef Patel, a senior lecturer at Unitec’s School of Architecture.
“It was a collaborative effort between artists and architects which helped define what is sculpture and what is structure.”
To create the structure, Unitec Masters’ students – Myles Durrant, Neil McCulloch, Victor Corrales, Ben Oge and Alyssa Haley – prefabricated canopy and column components from plywood and Nuralite foam panels in the School of Architecture’s workshop in Mt Albert.
The materials were selected as the students wanted to create an affordable but rigid structure without the need for framing elements. The structure was then wrapped in a white canvas.
It was finally opened in January 2021 and Dr Bobby Hung of Unitec’s School of Creative Industries then curated an 18-month exhibition of The Pavilion painted by different local graffiti and street artists.
“The point was to show how every time you build something and paint it white, it gets tagged or graffitied,” said Dr Patel. “And that’s exactly what we got. It’s been a hugely successful community project that has reflected the street-art culture and provided an outlet for local artists.”
The Avondale space is now due to be developed by its new owners and The Pavilion will be relocated to the Falls Hotel area in Henderson, next to the pump track.
“It’ll be part of a bigger and more vibrant scene there, and we hope will attract even more community interest,” said Dr Patel.
“We hope it’ll also showcase the design expertise and construction facilities we have at Unitec, and how they can be utilised for a wide range of projects, both in Tāmaki Makaurau and throughout the country.”
Read more about Te Pūtahi Auaha and participating artists here