Poster Showcase SessionsJuly 28, 2023
RfP Research Stories: Tom RobinsonAugust 3, 2023
Next Generation Māori Buildings
Ki te kotahi te kākaho, ka whati; ki te kāpuia, e kore e whati.
If a reed stands alone, it can be broken; if it is in a group, it cannot.
A team of academics, professionals, and community members have come together to breathe new life into a significant element of Aotearoa New Zealand's built heritage. Their collaborative mahi will see a building that hasn't stood for over 90 years re-stand again, not by replicating the original structure but by propelling traditional Māori construction practices into a contemporary building project.
Erected in the 1870s by Hira Te Popo, chief of Ngāti Ira, Tānewhirinaki was one of the largest and most elaborately carved wharenui of the time. Standing at the entrance to Waioweka Gorge, it looked over the plains of Ōpōtiki, where 144,000 hectares had been confiscated from Te Whakatōhea iwi by the Crown. The building, with its back figuratively against the wall of Waioweka hills, was a way of rebuilding the mana of Ngāti Ira after land confiscations had devastated a previously prosperous and peaceful hapū.
Just like its people, the whare Tānewhirinaki has had a turbulent history. From the heights of being a symbol of Ngāti Ira culture and being designated by Te Kooti a whare karakia (church) of the Ringatū faith to the depths of being dismantled after the 1931 Napier earthquake and having its whakairo (carvings) removed to Auckland.
In 2009 the whakairo, which embody the hapū's ancestors, were returned from Auckland Museum. In 2015, a one-third scale model of Tānewhirinaki was made by Dr Jeremy Treadwell, an architect at the University of Auckland, as part of his PhD research into indigenous post-tensioning of timber structures. With mīmiro, the tāhuhu (ridge beam), heke (rafters), and poupou (wall posts) were post-tensioned such that this compressive arch became structurally resilient to lateral and vertical loads. This sophisticated Māori construction technique has been all but lost with the arrival of European fixings (nails).
The research team of Ngāti Ira, which include descendants of Hira Te Popo, architects, and engineers, are collaborating to revive this endangered material knowledge, mīmiro. Anthony Hoete, Professor of Architecture at the University of Auckland, partnering with Te Hiranga Rū QuakeCoRE, Toka Tū Ake EQC, and Oxford Brookes University, is aiming to replicate the ancient construction principles but with modern materials.
Plans are well-advanced for building full-scale, proof-of-concept portals on location at Opeke Marae. As the Marae is located within a zone of high seismicity, the portals will be tested by applying forces equivalent to those experienced in an earthquake. In a homage to the boat-building origins of whare, materials will include winches, cleats, and rope from the sailing world. With digitally cut laminated timber used instead of hand-adzed solid timber, the portals will predict the behaviour of the future state-of-the-art structure being proposed to house the precious whakairo in the next stage of the project.
One hundred and fifty years after Tanēwhirinaki first stood, Te Whakatōhea has agreed to accept a $100m Treaty settlement from the Crown. The timing of this is poignant. It feels like Tānewhirinaki will rise again soon.
Anthony's research envisages that mīmiro technology can be applied beyond wharenui to inform the design and construction of medium density Māori housing in general. This would ensure the mātauranga's survival and provide an alternative recovery method for earthquake-proofing timber buildings. The new Tānewhirinaki will be an example of what Hoete calls high-tech Māori architecture. The structure protects and houses internal treasures. Yet, like the Centre Pompidou in Paris or Lloyd's Building in London, the structural technology and services will be expressed on the building's exterior.
Our annual Request for Proposals (RfP) supports eighteen-month, Associate Investigator led research projects that complement the Coordinated Research Projects within the Disciplinary Themes (DT) and Inter-disciplinary Projects (IP) of QuakeCoRE's Research Programme.
The RfP includes Proposal Development Grants which enable early career researchers to develop strong contestable external research proposals.
The annual call for RfP Projects and Proposal Development Grants is held in September / October and is announced on the QuakeCoRE website and in our newsletter.
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