01 Te Rau Karamu Marae Jeff Mc Ewan

Te Rau Karamu Marae


Te Kāhui Toi and Athfield Architects

7. New Zealand specialty timber award

Photographed by: 
Jeff McEwan, Andy Spain, Russell Kleyn

To befit its mana, Te Rau Karamu required an integrated design response, clear and strong in siting and form, of high quality materials, rich in detail and meaning.

A highly successful collective and collaborative approach working with mana whenua places kaupapa, tikanga and matauranga Maori at the heart of the Pukeahu Campus. Within Te Rau Karamu students can be immersed in knowledge and values of Te Ao Maori as an integral aspect of their learning. An inclusive connector to identity, the natural environment enableing coming together to engage and rejuvenate. The configuration and integration of interiors with landscape facilitates multiple modes of learning and engagement.

This entry relates to the use of podocarpus totara species timber for the wharenui including in the following locations:

Tomokanga - gateway to atea - 5m wide constructed of glue laminated totara lamellas fabricated by Techlam and CNC carved by Te Kahui Toi.

Maihi - barge 20m wide board 1.2m deep also constructed of glue laminated totara lamellas fabricated by Techlam, CNC and hand carved by Te Kahui Toi with ceramic inserts representing constellations across the seasons.

Amo- vertical boards (visually supporting each maihi) solid totara CNC-carved, the visual-right amo in a ‘totara’ pattern representation.

Front doors, window- Solid totara, configured in the ‘kaokao’ pattern

Rainscreen – band sawn totara rainscreen on front of the wharenui which also forms a resonance chamber to enhance vocals on the atea.

Rau - glue laminated whakairo panels with highly detailed CNC carved designs, each representing a native tree species and associated matauranga.

Pakiaka – ‘base-root’ whakairo on the prominent interior rear wall of the house ‘pouhine-poutama’ pattern, laser cut totara, etched and finished with kokawai, ochres sourced from a specific location on the slopes of Taranaki.

Rua pit – under-floor cavity lined with laser-etched, kokowai totara slats.

Totara was selected for the exterior elements for its remarkable characteristics including durability, stability, appearance and its long tradition of use in structures and forms of great value and importance. Its straight grain, softness, short fibres make totara highly prized for carving and in more recent times woodwork and joinery. This was an important consideration in its selection for both the interior and the exterior totara and Te Kahui Toi have found that these same characteristics make totara an exceptional material for modern cutting and shaping techniques including all types of laser cutting and CNC router work, possibly better than any other.

These totara characteristics continue to align to Maori values and understandings of the purpose of this marae as understood as a space within Tane-wao-nui and Hine-wao-nui, the wider forests- celestial and tangible, and the connections of all things. The forest giant, the totara, is a visualisation and physical entity within a constellation of relationships. As a signifier of longevity and strength likened to resilience, flexibility, focus and inner-strength, the totara maintains its guidance in this enduring whakatauki; 
Ruia taitea, kia tu ko taikaka anake 
The sapwood falls away, the heartwood remains.