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Digital Indigenous Craft: Expressing Māori Culture through Computational tools in Architecture

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posted on 2021-11-22, 11:14 authored by Durcan, James

Within present architectural discourse, there is universal concern that contemporary architectural processes efface the culture of indigenous communities, resulting in the homogenisation of architecture globally.  The imminent question therefore is; how can the assimilation of digital tools and indigenous culture be a catalyst to empower culturally embodied architecture that responds to our indigenous Māori identity and spirit, without falling into architectural homogeneity?  Working in direct conjunction with Ngai Tāmanuhi-ri Iwi (tribal group), on the poignant site, Te Kurī-a-Pāoa (Young Nicks Head), this thesis initiates dialogue to investigate the amalgamation of progressive digital fabrication techniques and the rich cultural identity and Mātauranga Māori (cultural knowledge) of Ngai Tāmanuhiri. Subsequently, a pavilion, incorporatinga locally inspired ‘whai’ (stingray) motif has been designed providing an architectural framework to facilitate design-led research. One-uku (clay), has been identified early as an indigenous material with enormous potential and led to the development of custom-built additive fabrication tools that can elevate this abundant local material for use within the architectural sphere. A secondary focus of this research is the development of computational (parametric) and analogue workflows to enable the production of architectural scale ceramic modules.  Ultimately, this thesis argues that when computational design skills are ulilised alongside indigenous knowledge, digitally produced artefacts are capable of becoming meaningful for all.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



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Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Kawiti, Derek