Tomomai ki Ahipara


BJ Natanahira / Maori Concepts

6. Exterior structure design award

Photographed by:  

BJ Natanahira

As part of an invested provincial funding grant into the Kaitaia central regions, specific sites were designated to establish cultural gateways. Tomomai ki Ahiparapara, was one of those sites and was mandated by three Marae and supported by hapu leaders from the Ahipara region. I was selected by the Ahipara marae to be the sculptural artist to best showcase their narratives and provide a gateway that the local community would be proud of.

Ahipara is a small coastal town that sits at the base of the 90 mile beach. The design of the gateway had to consider environmental conditions, cultural sensitivities and be aesthetically appropriate to existing surrounding structures. Selection of materials were significantly influenced by the coastal marine conditions. Through the design process, it was identified that timber, stone and stainless steel would be best suited for the environmental conditions and be in context with the cultural narrative brief.

Native timber has an important status within a Maori world view and it was imperative that the timber used would maintain that status. The challenge faced was how to best present a non-native timber material selected for longevity within a coastal environment and amplify its status to be adopted as acceptable within a Maori world. The answer was through a contemporary application of timber to represent a narrative that is culturally significant and held in high regard - the waka form.

Red Stag Timber Lab provided the guidance needed for timber to address issues regarding marine conditions. They supplied 34 curved posts, 198x65 GL10, H3.2 MCA, sanded 7m lengths. With an additional 2 semicircle curved base plates, 198x90 GL10, H3.2 MCA, sanded 3m wide diameter. All timber work was sealed with a colour tone CD50 sealer chosen to sit subtly within the surrounding environment. These timber components would provide the design foundations that created a framed structure of all other sculptural elements.

All gateway components were individually constructed off site and installed within a 3 hour period ready for an unveiling held the next morning. Due to the size of the components, none of the pieces were seen in its completed state until the unveiling ceremonies. As the artist, I too would see the full revelation of the sculptural gateway at the same time as the community. Did it work and was it well received? Absolutely.

The elongated curved timber forms framed the gateway perfectly. Stationed on either side of the road, the 7m tall architectural styled waka create enough of a presence when entering Ahipara, but at the same time, sits quietly amongst the surrounding landscape of the local community of Ahipara.