Te Ao Maori and the Built Environment: Part 2

Aotearoa New Zealand - bound by water, blessed with extensive coastlines, lakes and rivers, mountains, as well as a myriad of native flora and fauna; this landscape is embedded in the identity of Māori. Our pepeha locates us within this landscape; our landscape is an extension of our notion of self. The westernised hierarchy of the individual on the land is inverted, and thus an interconnected understanding of whenua (land), whānau, hapū and iwi is given importance. As the architectural industry’s expanding understanding, inclusion and acknowledgement of the Māori perspective grows, we seek to build upon this momentum through increased discourse about what it can provide the built environment, that it might not already. Currently, architects in Aotearoa are engaging with Māori in the design process through various methods, this includes: utilising the Te Aranga Māori Design Principles; visually, through Māori creative expressions; through korero, hui, wānanga and through iwi, hapū and whānau collaboration.

Māori share a strong values-based system, which guides our approach to different situations, including our perspective on architecture and design. The Māori point of view is a world view; we take this role of kaitiaki (guardians) of our whenua and taonga seriously, as we move forward from past, to inform the present and future. These values are holistic and sustainable in their essence, and provide a strong framework to enrich the design process and outcomes.

A way of honouring Māori values and incorporating them into the design process is with the implementation of the Te Aranga Māori Design Principles which was developed by Māori design professionals as a response to the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol in 2005. Over time the principles have been developed and adopted by the Auckland Council with the support of Ngā Aho and are being promoted across all council built projects. This change has brought greater awareness and empowerment through enforcing this engagement with mana whenua on sites of cultural significance in Auckland. The Te Aranga principles are now being applied by Auckland Council, mana whenua authorities and private developers to support this process of engagement and revealing the potential for an incredibly rich and unique built environment that has cultural relevance. Essentially meaning, the earlier the engagement with the principles and key stakeholders, the more meaningful the architectural and design outcome can be.

Mana – rangatiratanga (authority) ensures that iwi and hapū are recognised and respected during the design process, which enables quality Treaty based relationships to evolve between key project stakeholders and mana whenua. This is fundamental to the successful implementation of the following Te Aranga principles.

Whakapapa - Names and Naming adds a further layer of meaning to our landscape and celebrates the significance of mana whenua ancestral names. Providing opportunities for both designers and mana whenua to appropriately honour and explore the richness of historical narratives and customary practices associated to specific sites within the built environment.

Taiao – The Natural Environment seeks to protect, restore, sustain and enhance Papatuanuku. With designers promoting local flora and fauna that are familiar and significant to iwi and hapū being incorporated into the key landscape elements of the built environment, providing mana whenua the ability to sustainably harvest within urban or modified landscapes.

Mauri Tu – Environmental Health recognises mauri and all elements within the specific and wider development are considered in the context of protecting, maintaining and enhancing mauri and contributing to the overall wellbeing of our communities. With the quality of wai, whenua, ngāhere and air being actively monitored. As well as water, energy and material resources is conserved.

Mahi toi – Creative Expression including landscape, architecture, urban design, interior design and public art has a powerful place within the built environment. It bridges between and connects multiple elements of significance to Māori communities (whanau, hapū, iwi). Embedding and displaying identity and values specific to place, space and concepts of cosmology, tradition, future aspirations, language and so on

Tohu – The Wider Cultural Landscape acknowledges significant mana whenua sites and cultural landscapes such as maunga, awa, and wāhi tapu which recognises the importance of these tohu to iwi and hapū. This gives designers the opportunity to celebrate local and wider unique cultural heritage that reinforces sense of place and identity.

Ahi Kā – The Living Presence is the ultimate reflection of the successful implementation of the Te Aranga principles whereby mana whenua are able to have a living and enduring presence within their rohe – tribal area. In the context of post Treaty of Waitangi Settlement this includes customary, cultural and commercial dimensions which contributes to the reestablishment of kaitiaki roles for iwi and hapū within urban areas.

Through an engagement of the Te Aranga Māori Design Principles, critical kōrero (discourse, conversation, narratives) centralises the knowledge held by mana whenua as key to the design process. This kōrero structures the values we, as designers of the built environment, uphold and destabilises the colonial frameworks that ignore the presence, power and purpose of Te Tiriti ō Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi). Fundamentally, this enables Aotearoa to be a global leader through its active support of our unique indigenous architecture and landscapes. We have the chance to create a new way of working in design; a culturally progressive way of working. The coming together of clients, mana whenua, designers and developers will result in outcomes for Māori and Aotearoa that are richer and more meaningful for our people and our nation’s unique built identity.

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