PAUA’s Richard Mauriohooho was the project architect involved in the reconfiguration and transformation of what was the Māori and Pacific Island Facility for Student Support, now known as Te Āhurutanga, at the University of Waikato campus.
The university’s brief required a contemporary renovation that reflected the Māori values and philosophy of the faculty and staff. Te Āhurutanga, is the office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor-Maori, and accommodates offices and meeting rooms.
The working group at the Pro Vice-Chancellor Māori Office was strongly supportive of the contemporary interpretations of Māori architectural concepts in the renovation. The considered use of the patterning at the exterior proved to be welcoming, given the very simple understated existing building.
A defined formal entry was added to the North, and an informal South entry and meeting space was provided at the South end of the building. The main challenge was to provide an architectural aesthetic sensitive to Māori values, but that was not overtly traditional.
A contemporary interpretation of patterns and colour was introduced with exterior Tukukutuku wall panels, that reflected the traditional interior panels. These panels were decorative and yet functional parts of the buildings’ solar control mechanism. They were also used deliberately and purposefully to signify this building, Te Āhurutanga, as an architecture that is vastly different to the other concrete buildings at the campus. The Tukukutuku panels were designed to be based on traditional woven “Whariki” patterns, yet they remained non-Iwi specific in their individual patterning, owing to the facility accommodating Pacific Island and all Māori students.
The interior of the existing building was completely gutted and many of the existing walls were removed along with the ceiling linings. The walls at the main offices are staggered in plan to provide a sense of movement and progression. The exposed trusses are painted black and additional facing panels added to the bottom chords to create a woven texture, mimicking the binding patterns of the traditional Māori “Whare” connections. The new ceiling lining is raised up allowing the exposed trusses to be visible to provide an airy and lofty volume.
The existing board and batten construction and wooden beams throughout reflect the bones of the building but then the architecture reveals a contemporary twist. The use of colourful perspex in the style of Tukutuku panels is a striking and functional feature, providing protection from the elements.
The result is an airy, modern workspace based on traditional Māori themes of water and sky reflected in the palette of blues and teals.