Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Remembering Miramar, Forgetting Whātaitai

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posted on 2021-11-22, 15:25 authored by Martin, Paul

Te Whanganui a Tara Wellington City has a long history dating back to legendary individuals, including Maui and Kupe. The harbour is dotted with sites associated with a history that has accumulated over several centuries. Colonial settlement concealed many of these pre-European sites with what is now Wellington City. Today many of these buildings that constitute Te Whanganui a Tara Wellington are considered heritage fabric or relics of the past.  This thesis aims to examine and define such a context of a site’s past that is both concealed and concealing. The research breaks the past of the harbour down into two periods; Te Ao Tawhito (the old world) and Te Ao Hou (the new world), allowing for a segregated study of pre-European and post-European history. Many of these relics evoke, express or give insight into the past of Te Ao Hou. At times this history seems privileged due to the existence of relics. While methods such as preservation or restoration are valuable tools for a relic based design project, they do not address the matter of concealment. Two issues arise: Firstly, how could an intervention such as a mnemonic device express, evoke or give insight into the past that for numerous reasons are not presently interpretable at a site? Secondly, how could such an intervention interact with a relic that now remains on a site, as a valued vestige of the past?  Part one of the thesis consists of project one, which is a design for a Japanese bath-house on Seatoun Ridge in Motu-Kairangi Miramar. This design attempts to evoke, express and give insight into an era of the past from Te Ao Tawhito. This period is not presently apparent or evoked at the site although the era of concern is well known and important. The purpose of this project is to explore analogy as a design method, which through referencing the past, allows a new building to act as a mnemonic device expressing, evoking or giving insight into Te Ao Tawhito.  Part two follows with a second project consisting of three designs for an aquarium that explore how a mnemonic intervention could exist on a site that hosts a relic. Point Gordon on the northern tip of the peninsula was once a pa during Te Ao Tawhito and a military base during Te Ao Hou. This site is well suited for the second project because a relic of the latter period remains, subsequently concealing the ancient site of the former period. This project explores a metamorphic design method that allows a site to be developed while considering the following values of a relic: its original intent, its age value or its historic meaning. The metamorphic approach used in the second project juxtaposes, weaves or wraps a mnemonic intervention into the site, allowing the relic to be valued for either of the above qualities, which it may possess. The two projects have resulted in two design methods that could guide further design projects acknowledging a site’s layered histories whether interpretable or not.  The thesis discusses three issues that are important to this research. Firstly, the past is considered as an important aspect of a communities culture, identity and well-being. Secondly, relics and mnemonic interventions are discussed as having equal value and special attention should not lay with relics. Lastly, the research reflects on how questions can be more valuable than terminology.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970112 Expanding Knowledge in Built Environment and Design

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Skinner, Robin; Thomas, Geoff