Early in the design process for Te Wānanga and the wider Downtown Infrastructure Development Programme, Mana Whenua developed a set of principles specific to the programme. These principles set a design process and outcome challenge to the design team. Manaakitanga—hosting with generosity, respect and care, Mīharo—Extraordinary, and Auckland to Tāmaki Makaurau. Te Wānanga is recognised by mana whenua and through industry awards as delivering on the challenge set by these principles, through design in partnership, the integration of mahi toi (arts) and taiao (environment) initiatives. The resulting built outcome offers a constructed tidal shelf for human and coastal ecologies informed by Matauranga Māori, at the meeting point of city and harbour, whenua and moana.
Te Wānanga advocates for the health and wellbeing of the harbour and ocean. By being consciously ‘of the sea’ and drawing attention to the water space through design, and through water quality initiatives of directing stormwater for filtration prior to exiting to the harbour and through the creation of habitats for mussels and kelps to filter the water of contaminants. A small project in the scale of the harbour, one that builds on a whakapapa of projects by mana whenua and ocean advocacy groups. Delivering a living connection between land and sea.
Design + Execution
Located within Auckland’s Ferry Basin, and funded by the sale of QEII square, Te Wānanga was delivered as part of the wider Downtown Infrastructure Development Programme. The brief asked for a memorable public space of equivalent size to QEII Square that reconnected people to the harbour edge and environment.
Isthmus were part of a collective of Tāmaki-based design studios (the City Centre Design Collective) selected by Auckland Council’s Auckland Design Office (ADO) as client lead to enter a competition to develop concept designs. Isthmus were chosen to design the space, subsequently gifted the name Te Wānanga by mana whenua.
Early in the process was a programme of growing the collectives cultural competency, guided by Māori Design Leads at the ADO. Guiding principles Manaakitanga, Mīharo, Auckland to Tāmaki Makaurau were set by Mana Whenua representatives. The design process was carried out kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face), pokohiwi ki te pokohiwi (shoulder to shoulder) with mana whenua representatives around a shared table within a dedicated project space. During the design process the Kāhui Kaiarataki was established, a specialist group of Māori artists and environmental specialists, each endorsed to deliver component parts of the project through co-design process. Including the raranga (weaving) Korimurimu (Tessa Harris, Ngāi Tai Ki Tāmaki) suspended within one of the open apertures; the whakairo (carving) Te Wairere (Reuben Kirkwood, Ngāi Tai Ki Tāmaki) and the traditional bindings (Tessa Harris) located along the outer balustrade; the coastal plantings (Richelle Kahui-McConnell, Mealofa Ltd), Charmaine Bailie (Te Uri o Hau—Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara); and the waka kūtai (Jarrod Walker, Tātaki Ltd) suspended below the shelf surface providing habitat for kelps and kūtai (mussels).
Te Wānanga was constructed using wharf construction techniques, during the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic period. It was opened to the public in (date) with a moving dawn ceremony led by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.
Isthmus Group in partnership with Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau Kaitiaki Working Group representatives and endorsed Kahui Kaiarataki members.
Nga Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei
Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara
Ngāti Whātua Runanga
Ngāti Te Ata Waiohua
Te Ākitai Waiohua
Eric van Essen, Auckland Transport (client)
Oliver Smith, Auckland Council (client)
Downer HEB (main contractor)
JFC (sub contractor, streetscape)
Bridon Cookes (korimurimu, contractor)
Jarrod Walker, Tātaki Ltd (marine ecology consultant)
Richelle Kahui-McConnell, Mealofa Ltd, (ecology consultant)
Charmaine Bailie (Te Uri o Hau—Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara)
Uru Whakaarom, Tessa Harris (Ngāi Tai Ki Tāmaki), Mana Whenua (selected artist/weaver)
Reuben Kirkwood (Ngāi Tai Ki Tāmaki)
Mana Whenua (selected artist/carver)
Tonkin + Taylor (structural engineering, marine ecology consultants)
Flow (traffic engineering consultants)
Aireys (Korimurimu, specialist structural engineering consultants)
David St George, Isthmus Group (photography), Petra Leary (videography)