Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Whenua Ora: Land Healing. Designing Architecture that Incorporates Nature and Mātauranga Māori

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posted on 2021-12-06, 23:49 authored by Phillips, Katy

In 2006, 86% of New Zealanders lived in urban centres, a number that is expected to have risen (“Urban and rural migration”). Urban lifestyles have been linked to increased risk of obesity, stress, cardiovascular diseases and cancers among other things (Murray). As this percentage continues to rise, New Zealand faces the challenge of creating urban environ- ments that do not adversely affect mental and physical wellbeing. It can be argued that one factor leading to this loss of wellbeing in urban centres is the disconnection to nature and the healing effects that nature provides. In New Zealand, Māori have developed a strong relationship with the land. The under- standing that nature benefits health is deeply embedded within their culture. This research attempts to address the role of architecture in facilitating urban health and wellbeing is- sues through the incorporation of Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) of healing and nature. The integration of Mātauranga Māori into this thesis comes from the recognition that our wellbeing can be greatly affected by our relationship with nature and that Māori culture best embodies this in a New Zealand context. Currently, Māori knowledge is under- represented in New Zealand’s predominantly western mainstream culture. This research is significant as it explores the role of architecture in facilitating a connection with nature in a bicultural urban environment, an area that is currently underexplored. Incorporating these values into design generates the potential to increase Māori representation in the designed environment as well as expand the architectural knowledge of designing for wellbeing. The chosen site, Birdwood Reserve is an underutilised bush reserve in the suburb of Karori, Wellington. Birdwood Reserve is situated in the nation’s capital, adjacent to Zealandia, an eco-sanctuary that is frequented by tourists. It is a steep valley with access to dense bush and the disturbed Kaiwharawhara stream. Flanked on two sides by environmentally active communities, it offers the potential for community involvement in the healing of the land- scape, helping restore the reserve while healing itself. The intentions of this thesis are addressed through the design of a bicultural wellbeing cen- tre. Through the process of this design, the role of Māori culture in New Zealand architec- ture will be analysed, as well as the potential to reconnect people to nature through design. The final design will explore how to embody the developed framework of bicultural values relevant to architectural design for wellbeing.


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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


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


McIntosh, Jacqueline