Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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He Waka Tūmanako

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posted on 2022-07-18, 21:20 authored by Elkington, J'Adoube

Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora was recently tasked by the Ministry of Justice to investigate ways to transform New Zealand’s Criminal Justice System. Throughout the investigation interviews, the most overwhelming emotion encountered was grief, prompting Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora to title their final report: “He Waka Roimata” (The Vessel of Tears). They concluded that “the effects of colonisation undermine, disenfranchise and conspire to trap Māori in the criminal justice system and that racism is embedded in every part of it.”The colonisation of Aotearoa has had a devastating impact upon Māoritanga. The phrase Māoritanga encompasses all elements of te ao Māori including culture, practices and beliefs, and the Māori way of life. Colonisation attempted to sever the connection between Māori people and their culture. Statistics relating to incarceration, education, employment, physical health and numerous other societal indicators continue to highlight a direct correlation between the damage colonisation has inflicted upon Māoritanga and the wellbeing of Māori people.

This project aims to explore the role architecture can play in the restoration and celebration of Māori culture. It will analyse how integrating elements of Māoritanga into architecture can serve to empower Māori people by strengthening their connection with their culture and identity. The design intention is to revitalise elements of te ao Māori through the creation of architectural interventions which embody key elements of te ao Māori that are relevant to their sites and context. The overall intention is to explore how reimagining architecture can in promote the wellbeing of a community and their taiao.

The design process will revolve around research into the site, site context and the mana whenua. The research should discover new architectural outcomes which celebrate the mana whenua of the site. The architectural intervention will be challenged to explore new design outcomes and elements that revoke colonial dominance in Aotearoa. The project will investigate how utilising Māoritanga can create architecture which enables mana whenua to connect with their whakapapa and taiao.

Key bodies of indigenous knowledge were selected as design drivers along with site, people and contextual research. This project will aim to include facilities that promote physical activity and interaction with the natural environment, whilst pairing these actions with indigenous Māori activities, practices and knowledge related to the selected design drivers.

Porirua is located half an hour’s drive north of Wellington. Porirua translates to ‘two flowings of the tides’, referring to the two arms of the Porirua Harbour which form the centrepiece around which the city lies. It is a culturally diverse city with one of the youngest populations in New Zealand, yet the city lacks the expression of this diversity and youth. The diverse people and history of Porirua create the opportunity to produce architectural interventions which respond to the process of colonisation, which has scarred both the land and people of Porirua.

To conclude, this project revolves around exploring the ways in which te ao Māori can be utilised to rethink architecture and produce new architectural elements and outcomes. The intended result of this exploration is to create spaces which empower Māori people and culture as a method of healing and reverting the impacts colonisation has had.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License


Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

University Library

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

280104 Expanding knowledge in built environment and design

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

4 Experimental research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Title

A Vessel of Hope

Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Skinner, Robin; Thomas, Geoff