01 Te Rau Karamu Marae Andy Spain

Te Rau Karamu Marae


Te Kāhui Toi and Athfield Architects

5. Interior design award

Photographed by: 
Jeff McEwan, Andy Spain, Russell Kleyn

Te Rau Karamu Marae builds on the historic legacy of Te Kuratini Marae, established in 1977 as part of the previous Wellington Polytechnic.

The brief was to create a new marae central to the campus to welcome students and guests, host wananga, uphold the mana of tangata whenua, and further Massey’s aspiration to be a Tiriti led university.

To befit its mana, Te Rau Karamu required an integrated design response, clear and strong in siting and form, of high quality materials, and 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. It is an inclusive connector to identity, the natural environment and enables coming together to engage and rejuvenate. The configuration and integration of interior space with landscape facilitates multiple modes of learning and engagement.

This entry is for the interior of the wharenui – Te Whaioranga o te Whaio. 
Within the interior, LVL timber elements are clearly articulated to support and form an integral part of the spatial narrative, embodying Te Rakau Tipua- The Cosmic Tree. The ridge pole and rafters, representing the trunk and branches, are supported by the central poutokomanawa (central post) and totara rau (pou) wall panels. Along the wall of the eastern side, the eight rau become doorways opening out to Kuratinitini atea (interior courtyard). Skylights and glass louvre apertures refract the changing light through pairs of timber columns to create calm but lively dappled light effects upon the timber surfaces and the spaces in-between that enhances the feeling of being within a forest glade, and within the warm embrace of Te Rakau Tipua.

The main structural elements clearly and purposefully represent and reference customary wharenui building elements and construction techniques while utilising the latest in materials and methods. The main structure, including elements such as the poutokomanawa, tiwai (ridge-pole), and peka (rafters), was prefabricated by Nelson Pine. The LVL pinus radiata was selected due to its appearance, straightness, stability, and its availability as a pre-machined, CNC-cut material. Another important reason for this material was to establish a sense of whanau between the wharenui and its much loved multistorey neighbour Te Ara Hihiko; the first pretensioned timber structure in the world and constructed of LVL in 2012. The LVL structural members were pre-cut to enable fast and accurate assembly of relatively bespoke connection details and CNC cut slots and pathways for concealed lighting and cabling.

The interior wharenui toi-whakairo (artwork) speak to the forest’s relationships to all things found there; sun, moon, stars, the cosmos, that are genealogically linked to wahine/tane atua, that bring us back to our sense of belonging here in Te Ao Marama - the world of light The central visual knowledge focuses to the different native tree species with associated flowers, birds, insects, inhabitants and tangible signifiers. Kiaora.