Toi-Ohomai Institute of Technology Maori Studies Ihenga


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We were the architects, interior designers and project managers for the all new $4.6m Te Wananga a Ihenga Building at Toi-Ohomai Institute of Technology (WIT). 25 architect’s practices competed for this project in an open design and capability competition.The project brief required a building that reflected its use for Maori Studies and its consequence importance of place on the campus and its adjacency to the campus Marae. In addition we were required to maximise the use of timber in the design which was to include innovative LVL timber post and beam structural system rather than steel or concrete, as well as incorporate sustainable design features to the maximum extent practical and affordable.

When developing the concept for the building we felt that it was necessary for the concept of Te Wananga a Ihenga to illustrate the awareness and understanding of the wairua (spirit) of the people that will come together in this building. The building illustrates this by creating sensitivity and spirituality through the physical environment. It also addresses the issue of multicultural identity and an understanding in the community of the spiritual world that Toi-Ohomai Institute of Technology aims to achieve.

The shape of the building concept is based on the shape of the ancestral shark, named Te Arawa. The shark was a protector of the Te Arawa people on their journey, which descended from Hawaiki to Maketu, Bay of Plenty. The building draws on this concept and demonstrates the building as being a protector of Maori Taonga and Te Wananga and all of the races who will create the New Zealand of the future.

There is a curving tahuhu (spine) which visually and physically runs through the building, linking the faculty to the Tangatarua Marae. Teaching spaces on either side of this spine bond together Maori and non-Maori users of the building. The spine and its ribs are the genealogical thread which create the cultural space coupled to high level windows and exposed rafters along the spine to symbolise the entry of knowledge into the building, as well as demonstrating the story of the ‘three baskets of knowledge’. This can be seen on the plan where the rooms are positioned in an offset to illustrate this concept of entry and wananga (learning) further.

  • Date : February, 2010
  • Client : Waiariki Institute of Technology
  • Status : Completed
  • Location : Rotorua
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