Creating and preserving authentic culture in architecture

Creating and preserving authentic culture in architecture add

Preserving culture in artforms - including architecture - in a way that is meaningful, and enduring is more than just a box ticking exercise. It depends on collaboration and a creative dialogue to be exchanged between diverse contributors. These contributors come together to form a democratic, non-hierarchal and innovative community that is greater than the sum of its parts.

This theory is well evidenced through the theory and practice of Eugene Kara; artist, sculptor and head caster at Te Ahi Komau Foundry based at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute in Te Puia. “I lean more towards the position that the maker must collaborate with others. The maker is the pivot between the collaborators who may come from design, engineering, marketing, industrial or community backgrounds.

“With this approach, I’ve found it builds a much stronger community because it is built from the ground up rather the top down. Networks are much more vast, and the conversations are more enriched with diversity.”

An area within design and architecture where Eugene is particularly eager to see improvement is in collaboration with Māori. “In architecture, everything still remains a façade when it comes to representing Māori culture and integrating this into the design. I don’t think the conversations are happening enough, or the conversations are being misinterpreted as everything remains an attachment or stamp.

“Perhaps the confines of standardised construction methods limit the scope of potential? I am interested in representing our cultural values in innovative ways that are meaningful and enduring for the generations to come. There’s some homework for us to do in this area. We need to look at ways of creating spaces that intergrade our cultural ideas as integral structural elements, opposed to temporary fixtures that require ongoing maintenance.”

Eugene advocates for greater egalitarianism to exist between collaborators so that together they can cultivate authentic ideas and resolve challenges along the way. “There is an exciting challenge here – the challenge for us, Māori artists, is to broaden the scope of the industry and improve the cultural perspective and narrative.”

Recent work by Eugene is true testament to meaningful collaboration in action and how when people are passionate, united by a common cause, the dynamic lends itself to a way of working together that benefits everyone.

As the head-caster for Māori Tu, a project that involved casting in bronze a full scale Whatarangi (Māori food-store house), Eugene was able to work with various groups such as carvers, designers, foundries, engineers and community groups. It was a project that had many challenges but presented so many more opportunities. One opportunity led to establishing the Foundry at the New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts at Te Puia, which opens the door for further innovation for Māori art.

Eugene says there are some great examples here in New Zealand such as Rewi Thompson’s home in Kohimarama, Auckland and Rau Hoskins Te Kura Māori o Nga Tapuwae in Mangere, East Auckland, where cultural values underpin the architectural structures and collaboration has taken place between makers, industry groups, and even communities.

“If we were to cast our eyes off-shore, to where examples of digital technology are being used to create of new ways living, such as Zaha Hadid’s Wangjing Soho building and Frank Gerhy’s Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain, I think we can take a leaf out of their book to help unlock our cultural pandora’s box.”

To learn more about Eugene Kara and his views on ‘Art in architecture from a local artist’s perspective’, register now for the ADNZ National Conference in Rotorua, running from 25-27 October. The conference is also open to non-ADNZ members.