Derived from the Sea

Derived from the Sea add

Sacred to Māori culture, marae all around New Zealand, are being upgraded and rebuilt to accommodate the requirements of traditional and contemporary life.

Architect Aladina Harunani, who last year won the supreme ADNZ | Resene Architectural Design Award for Tanatana marae at Waimana, feels privileged to have carved out a niche in this specialised area.

Another marae building Aladina has had a hand in designing overlooks the eastern Bay of Plenty coast.

Otamarakau Marae is situated near Maketu, in a tranquil beachside location overlooking the ocean.

The resident hapū (subtribe) is Ngāti Makino whose wharekai, as well as being beautifully functional, is designed to reflect the main activities of its people - kaimoana (seafood) gathering and forestry.

'The form of the building tells a story both inside and out,' says Aladina, who worked for Opus Architecture at the time and led the design team responsible for the unique wharekai.

'The history of the people that settled there comes from the sea. They are a fishing people. So this was our primary source of response and inspiration in terms of design. So there are elements of a crab, of a shell fish shape and of hīnaki (fish trap). Inside, the placing of the acoustic panels on the ceiling look similar to fish scales.

'Some people have said to me, “it almost looks like it’s crawled out of the sea but I’m not quite sure what animal it is”. Others say “it’s like being inside a big fish belly".
What I am saying – is the beauty of its form is really in the eye of the beholder and in one’s own interpretation.'

According to Aladina, the most difficult challenge of the project was matching form with budget.

'The wharekai function and budget was clearly identified. Once we presented the concept, the building quickly won the hearts of all. Curved forms however, are costly compared to square and cubical… and ones that have changing radii are even more costly than those with simple curves.'

The solution was to use engineered, laminated timber.

'Once the post-beam portal was resolved the roofing was simple - plywood on timber supports in between and then layered with membrane roofing.'

Born in Kenya, Aladina has Indian ancestry and studied at Auckland University School of Architecture. He has lived in New Zealand for nearly 30 years and says he feels a close connection to Māori culture.

'The Māori concepts of tikanga (customary values and practices) and whakapapa (genealogy) are very similar to mine. My forefathers underwent British colonial rule and built marae like space as a mechanism to instil community strength with vision to build a future for the tamariki (children) to come.'