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We Are Nō. One

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posted on 05.09.2021, 20:20 by Aislabie, Connor

New Zealand’s national identity is derived from multiple perspectives including its Māori heritage, colonial heritage, and local community heritage. Heritage preservation within New Zealand, however, has typically privileged Eurocentric concepts of heritage. Many important heritage stories based on oral tradition and other customs relevant to local communities have faced marginalisation, constraining our ability to preserve them in our evolving society. This thesis explores how architectural interventions can help preserve essential historical foundations that are connected to our local communities and their forgotten tales, to help preserve these heritage stories for future generations.

The title of this thesis and the design-led research investigation takes inspiration from New Zealand contemporary Māori artist Hemi MacGregor’s work I Am Nō. One, You Are Nō. One. This statement is a play on words using both English and te reo Māori languages to create a message of the positive and negative impacts of our country's cultural identity. The English interpretation gives insight into one part of New Zealand's disconnection of self-identity and self-confidence. However, the same statement in te reo Māori gives a starkly different perspective:“Nō” means “from, of, belonging to” and “One”means “clay, sand, rock.” Simply stated, you may be ‘no one’, but you are a part of this land, Aotearoa, and that is what makes us New Zealanders.

The investigation integrates arguments by Carol J. Burns, architect, author and former Associate Professor at Harvard Graduate School of Design,and her research into Spatial Memory theory.

Burns argues that contextual landscapes should not be thought of simply as an external fabric that is built upon, but rather they should be conceived as a dialogue of contextual association representing open-ended negotiation with a project and site. This allows the site to become then a generator of form rather than a place to situate an object without contextual associations.

This thesis also critically reflects upon the writings of Laura Hourston Hanks, author and Associate Professor at the Department of Architecture and Built Environments,University of Nottingham.

She argues how curating objects, allows narrative sequencing to play a role as an important design method that enables narratives to unfold, thereby enhancing meaning and experiential understanding of an object, by establishing it as a component of overall meta-narrative composed of related objects larger surrounding context.

A third key theorist for this design-led research investigation is Stan Allen, architect,author and former Dean of the School of Architecture at Princeton University. He argues that the interpretation of traditional architectural methods of drawing and modelling should be extracted from their origins in a mode of working to collaboratively collage their attributes, which leads to an outcome he refers to as 'Drodels’, which is a neologism – coined by Thom Mayne of Morphosis – derived from the words,‘drawings’ and ‘models’. This reintegration of architectural methods allows a user to develop a unique style that can be molded into an effective research tool, allowing for more adaptability towards abstract ideas or multi-layered elements of information.

This speculative design-led research investigation engages methods of drawing and model making, in conjunction with theories of spatial context and museum curation, in order to ask: How can integrated speculative architectural drawings and models be designed to help provide a conceptual framework forpreserving heritage stories and oral traditions connected to local communities, while enhancing our awareness of the relationships these narratives inherently hold with features of our natural environment?


Advisor 1

Brown, Daniel

Copyright Date


Date of Award



Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Rights License

CC BY-SA 4.0

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

University Library

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture