Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington

sorry, we can't preview this file

thesis_access.pdf (384.64 MB)

Latent in the Flax: A paradigm for Indigenous Computation and Fabrication

Download (384.64 MB)
posted on 2023-11-17, 00:53 authored by Trewavas, Dominic

Computational methods and digital tools provide an opportunity to engage with Indigenous/ Māori design processes to a depth not previously imagined. It can be argued that default western architectural design methods in New Zealand focus on surface imprinting on panel materials privileging pictorial pattern representation and narrative over potential mathematical, geometrical and technological methods specific to Māori pattern. The author argues that computational tools and digital formats allow greater understandings of Māori pattern than a visual depiction put forward by mainstream architectural practice.

This research thesis looks at the potential to use computational tools and methods in association with mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge). It explores traditional weaving techniques and patterns as a means of understanding how weaving and woven structures (Hinaki etc.) can influence architectural topological forms, by incorporating systems such as structure, aperture, fenestration, and construction directly into the geometry of the design. So through a better understanding of complex traditional Māori organizational patterns, How can computational tools and fabrication techniques be used to create culturally significant, non-linear, self-supporting structures?

This thesis initiates an investigation into a pavilion for the people of Te Arawa at the Māori Institute of Arts and Crafts. The design is amalgamated into a rich cultural territory connected to the narratives of the past, present and questions the future of indigenous design.

A series of design iterations and materials studies both in analogue and digital formats will contribute to the large-scale prototyping and fabrication of non-linear self-supporting structures. The work will be supported by optimisation software (Rhinoceros & Grasshopper/ Galapagos and Silvereye) for finite element analysis (FEA) and formal optimisation. Both subtractive (CNC Milling) and additive (3d printing) manufacturing methods will be used to explore material effects and performance.

In summary, this research explores the potential for indigenous development, cultural empowerment and innovation. As part of SITUA it combines the potential of academia and indigenous groups to foster new knowledge through the exploration of emergent materials and building systems located within a specific tribal domain.


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

870299 Construction Design not elsewhere classified

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Kawiti, Derek