The Elms 2

The Elms


Justin Matthews / Matthews & Matthews Architects

6. Exterior structure design award

The Pavilion is situated at The Elms, Te Papa Tauranga, one of New Zealand's oldest heritage missionary sites.

In collaboration with landscape historian John Adam, Matthews and Matthews Architects were engaged in 2017 to design a pavilion as part of a new heritage garden on the site. The garden is an interpretive project of the first formal gardens established on the site by missionary agriculturist John Flatt, whose ideas are believed to have been influenced by prominent 19th century Scottish landscape designer John Claudius Loudon.

The design of the pavilion is inspired by the story of the first mission house on the site. This was a simple ‘whare’ constructed of raupo reeds. The pavilion’s structure and open timber slats are an interpretation of ‘draped’ raupo construction, often used in the building of whare. The structure is designed to transition from a gable form at one end, into a mono-pitch at the other. This complex transformation is designed to convey the sense of transition and dual relationship which exists at the site; the pavilion marks the significance of the site as a place of early contact and relationship between Maori and Pakeha.

The Totara carvings that adorn the structure are the work of master carver Whare Thompson. At one end of the pavilion, Whare has carved representations of local Maori ancestors; Kinonui appears between his sons, Kinotaraia and Kinomoerua. At the other end of the pavilion, Whare has carved representations of Alfred and Charlotte Brown, the first missionaries to the site.

Whare explains; “They represent the history of The Elms, both pre-European to the introduction of the missionaries coming and settling at Te Papa here.” “On one side of the pavilion, we’ve got representation of the Maori side, and on the other side we’ve got representation of the missionaries.”

The pavilion also features granite paving designed in the pattern of a whariki

The design objective was to represent and acknowledge the long tradition of timber construction and craft at the site, as such the use of timber was a given. An engineered glue laminated timber system was selected for structural and fabrication reasons, and a treatment system was specified for the external environment. Each frame is a different shape and size with bespoke structural connections. The complex geometry required a high level of precision during fabrication. The system meant that the structure could be manufactured in a controlled factory environment by experienced fabricators. Computer modelling between the designer and fabricator was necessary for this process. A glue laminated system also enabled the design to fit with the project budget and time frames.

A natural stain was selected and provides a great-looking finish and reflects the colour of raupo when dried. Totara, a durable native timber used in carving was sourced by local Iwi, and comes from piles used in the old town wharf of Tauranga.