Following a re-branding, the facilities of The Māori Arts and Crafts Institute needed upgrading, to better reflect their distinct offerings and to take advantage of the growth in the tourism market.
In Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, in Rotorua, the new facilities provide a welcoming space where manuhiri (visitors) and ākonga (students) can learn about Māori culture, arts, and crafts, and enjoy Rotorua’s unique geothermal landscape.
At the entrance, an exciting contemporary artwork, ‘Heketanga-ā-Rangi’ (‘Heavenly Origins’), references local iwi (tribe) Te Awara’s cosmology.
The existing marae ātea (courtyard) and associated buildings are preserved as focal points for the cultural experience, delivered through stories by local guides. New buildings house carving and weaving schools, and the geothermal experience is enhanced with upgraded tracks, viewing platforms, and signage.
Reinterpreting traditional elements of Māori architecture, the soaring roof sheltering the interpretive centre is supported by eight pou (carved posts), which represent the “eight beating hearts” of Te Arawa. Arriving manuhiri enter the interpretive centre, emerging to a view of the marae ātea and wharenui (meeting house), before continuing their journey around the rest of the site.
Building materials and architectural forms enhance Te Puia’s central themes. Decorated and carved timber creates warmth, typical of traditional Māori structures, and forms help create a sense of a place with great cultural and spiritual significance.