Open main menu Close main menu


Unitec | Te Pūkenga 2023 Post-graduate Research Award winners announced

30 August 2023

Three Unitec | Te Pukenga Master’s graduates were recipients of this year’s 2023 post-graduate research awards; Master of Creative Practice graduate Jimmy Kevin Sofe Ma'ia'I, and Master of Architecture (Professional) graduates Alexandra Jucutan and Khamis Shiblaq all achieved A+ for their research projects.

Alexandra Jucutan from the Master of Architecture (Professional) spotlighted the plight of Philippines' women and children and proposed a village refuge for them, integrating local resources and sustainable education.

Khamis Shiblaq presented an innovative design for Aotearoa's first water museum along Te Awa Tupua, embracing Maori values and commemorating the river's rich history.

Jimmy Kevin Sofe Ma'ia'i, from the Master of Creative Practice, delved deep into culture and identity within New Zealand’s Pacific diaspora. His work, 'Uso 4 Life,' illuminates the multifaceted discussions surrounding mixed-heritage Sāmoan identity.

Congratulations to all the graduates.

Alexandra Jucutan - Master of Architecture (Professional)

Image: L to R: Pesata Sam Lotu-Iiga, Alexandra Jucutan, Dr Hugh Byrd, Dr Yusef Patel

Title of Thesis: Bayanihan in Mindanao 

Principal Supervisor: Dr Hugh Byrd, Associate Supervisor: Dr Yusef Patel Discipline Leader: Annabel Pretty

"Alex is an exemplary student and her project came from her heart. She saw the problems faced in her own country with the devastating impact of cyclones and decided to apply her skills to ways in which architecture can  support and give hope to those who have lost so much. The outcome of her research is a credit , not only to her, but all those at Unitec who have supported her over the years”. Dr Hugh Byrd.

The Philippines is highly vulnerable country to climate change and has also faced ongoing armed conflict in Surigao del Norte, Mindanao. This has destabilised communities with one of the most affected groups women and young children. Often forced to leave their homes to find work in the city, they are vulnerable to exploitation, sexual abuse, trafficking, prostitution, and hunger.

Furthermore, the effects of natural disasters and the migration of women to the cities have worsened agricultural production resulting in food insecurity and poverty. This project investigated a mitigation of these issues through through the provision of a village for women and young children that would not only act as a refuge, but also by providing women life skills training such as food production, self-build, marketing of produce, and other forms of education.

Due to a lack of local funding, it is hoped to seek external funding from agencies such as UNICEF, for the project to be largely self-built using low-cost, locally produced, and readily available materials. Self-build and local materials not only reduce the cost of construction but also assists with on-going maintenance. It must be assumed that the buildings will be damaged by typhoons and will need to be repaired quickly by the community.

To enable women to design and construct their community, an instructional booklet detailing bamboo construction techniques is part of the proposal, targeting the women rather than contractors and emphasising practicality over architectural aesthetics.

Khamis Shiblaq - Master of Architecture (Professional)

Image: L to R: Pesata Sam Lotu-Iiga, Khamis Shiblaq, Dr Cesar Wagner, Annabel Pretty

Title : Whare Taonga o Te Wai Museum of Water - How can a water museum articulate New Zealand's tangible and intangible connection to water?

Principal Supervisor: Dr Cesar Wagner Associate Supervisor & Discipline Leader Annabel Pretty :Cultural Advisor: Carin Wilson

"The in-depth and highly sophisticated research work carried out by Khamis draws attention to the problematic situation surrounding freshwater attitudes and use in Aotearoa. His investigation of Ruruku Whakatupua and the whakapapa of water, through the lens of Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River), results in a well-placed and well-considered architectural project that reflects on the need for a more refined design approach, able to interact in a respectful, creative and productive way with the Māori and Tangata Tiriti worlds." Dr Cesar Wagner

This project explores the design of Aotearoa's first water museum located along Te Awa Tupua (The Whanganui River), the first river in the world to be granted personhood status. The museum will help preserve and showcase the tangible and intangible aspects of Te Awa Tupua – while symbolically remembering its history of colonial transgressions.

A whakatauki among the people of Whanganui, ‘Ko au te awa. Ko te awa ko au – I am the river. The river is me’ reverberates the level of empathy and connection these people feel towards their river. The strength, spirit and identity of Whanganui Iwi all stem from the river.

The research uses New Zealand's ongoing freshwater crisis to call for more honest public education and engagement with mātauranga Māori – helping aid the struggle towards a broader cultural shift inspired by Wairuatanga. The research benefited tremendously from the richness of pūrākau and whakapapa. This research attempts to rationalise the whakapapa of freshwater and use it as an anchor to the intangible aspects of wai.

A pivotal part of this project relies on identifying a set of relevant principles that can instruct the design process—essentially giving a structure to the project's rationale. Principles from Te Awa Tupua, Te Aranga Māori, and Swiss architect Peter Zumthor are superimposed to guide the design process.

Whanganui Māori would use fishing structures called Pā tuna, Pā Piharu, and Tararua for fishing Tuna and Piharu – upon the arrival of the early European settler, these
structures were destroyed to make way for the steamboat travel. The project seeks to commemorate these destroyed fishing weirs; Matia (stakes in weir fences) inspire the
museum's structure as it sits on burnt wooden columns.

The museum orientates itself towards Matua Te Toa Tongariro (Mount Tongariro) and Te Tai-o-Rēhua (Tasman
Sea) – referencing the idea that Te Awa Tupua is an indivisible and living whole from the
mountain to the sea.

Jimmy Kevin Sofe Ma'ia'i - Master of Creative Practice

Image: L to R: Pesata Sam Lotu-Iiga, Jimmy Sofe Ma'ia'i, Emma Smith, Assoc Prof Leon Tan

Principal Supervisor: Emma Smith, Associate Supervisor: Assoc Prof Leon Tan, Discipline Leader: Dr Becca Wood

"Jimmy studied Certificate, UG and PG majoring in Contemporary Art at Unitec's Art and Design department. During this time Jimmy produced rigorous bodies of work that demonstrated evidence, conceptual prowess, pertinent contemporary dialogue, inventive material application, a wry and tenacious spirit, technical facility and originality. On graduation, Jimmy began an important position at the Auckland Museum Collection, Manager Pacific." Emma Smith.

Title: Uso 4 Life

Culture and identity among New Zealand’s Pacific diaspora are highly complex and multifaceted contemporary discussions. Through post-colonial theoretical standpoints and creative outputs, many Pacific artists have sought to explore and express these complex discussions in order to further understand themselves in a post-colonial setting. Having mixed-heritage ancestry can further this complexity, adding multiple contexts to an already multiplicitous discussion.

This exegesis contextualises the accompanying body of work, Uso 4 Life, an installation conceived from formative memories and experiences pertinent to the development of my identity as a mixed-heritage Sāmoan. Furthermore, I explore the ways in which installation practices can be used as a basis for such investigation.