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A Wahi Tapu Composition

This project was based at Lake Waiorongomai just north of Otaki in the Kapiti/Horowhenua region. I was looking into the relationship the tangata whenua have with the site and designing to engage, restore and create ritual for the whanau by improving the overall water quality of the lake.


Ngati Tukorehe, Ngati Raukawa

Nga Aho practitioner:
Elvina Quartermain

A Wahi Tapu Composition

The concept development of Lake Waiorongomai speaks directly to the whanau’s physical relationship to the site and their land with particular emphasis on engaging kaitiakitanga through design intervention. The current state of site is the result of ignorant land management and now faces water quality issues due to run off and soil erosion from corresponding agriculture land. The lake is of particular high value to the iwi and holds great cultural significance within the site as resource and ritual. While addressing the issues of sustainable ecology the ultimate aim is to transform the site in its current state into a thriving and exciting new enterprise for the tangata whenua and extended whanau across the region. Drawing from the kaupapa surrounding the narrative of Tainui, the design aims to be embedded in as much cultural understanding as possible and employ the methods and protocols relevant to convey such significance. The Tainui waka was carved from a tree planted over an infant named Tainui who did not make it through childbirth. The proposed marae atea design introduces a formal entrance into the sacred site. Due to the nature of a marae as a gathering ground, it is important to include accessibility for all ages to and from vehicle bays and therefore universal standards have been applied. How one may approach and exit the space is also designed to symbolise the challenge the manuhiri face on approach while in comparison to the aftermath which is more a leisurely progression down toward the lake. The entrance also frames Lake Waiorongomai (symbolic to this design of a Whare nui or Whare kai) representing unity and peace. The Eastern side of the intervention is bordered by the mature trees of tane mahuta whose trunks are to illustrate the same principle of heke within the Whare nui. There are also planting boxes within the gathering space that align with the visual toward the lake and emphasis the earth’s presence through the hard structure. The paving is derived from, and is to incorporate, particular kawa among the Raukawa iwi when entering marae. This is a progression off to the right depending on which side you enter from integrated with 3 stages of speech; firstly by the tangata whenua, secondly by the manuhiri, and thirdly by the tangata whenua again. This is shown through the paving system. Structures include; a paving system, seating for both tangata whenua and manuhiri, shelters, koruru, planting heke. The proposed living cemetery concept communicates an extremely cultural tradition by Maori. This is where the visitor should feel a deep network of connections at play through the earth and a sense of belonging to the earth. The boardwalk which wraps around the entire site is designed with no particular points of exit leaving the occupier the freedom to roam off course as they approach the area to make decision on which point they wish to nest. Being the place of gifting (koha) given to Papatuanuku done through the planting of placenta (whenua) and umbilical cord (pito), it was important to understand the immediate zones which enable the stream to coexist. The planning is done via riparian planting down the stream stabilsing the banks and giving a guidance buffer to the ritual planting. It is very important to Maori to establish a connection with the land that you reside from. Initiating a new born child to the site I hope to connect the then and future occupier at birth to their extended land and their ancestral whanau. Through the experience of placing whenua back into Papatuanuku’s mother whenua this would also educate the kaupapa of gifting resource into mother earth helping her grow so that she can may sustain resources for the whanau through into the many generations still to come. The proposed bathing intervention should communicate another extremely spiritual and tapu space but one that is individual. The design itself is constructed to be occupied by as little people possible with an extended platform out onto the lake where you may enter and exit one at a time at the furthest point. The nature of this intended design is to be an intimate and delicate space. The plating is in order to stabilise the bank structure while natural materials are used again to orchestrate whanau relationship to the natural environment. The stabilisation of the bank is also to counteract the run off and eroded soils from the surrounding cleared land which currently have direct impact to the nutrient levels within the lake. If these increase they tip the balance of nutrient and oxygen levels allowing toxic plants to form and a decrease in the natural ecosystem stability. Still feeling the network and connections at play, this space is to speak directly to the individual occupying the space. After being through the process of moving through each intervention, this is the conclusion of the journey. Here you are able to be alone with the mothering power and by submersion into the lake experience a connection on a physical and spiritual level. By interacting with the lake you are at optimum ability to retrieve the earth’s energy therefore an exchange between you and Papatuanuku is complete. Best experienced in winter where the oxygen and nutrient levels are mixing due to the harmony of water temperatures, you are left feeling cleansed and energised. This also brings our story back to the narrative of Te Rauparaha bathing after battle within the lake giving the name "water of peace".
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