Creating a building with meaning

How we put architectural theory into practice.

Architecture is not a purely practical discipline. Every design decision has to be made taking into account factors and values that come from many sources.

Often, this deeper understanding is what gives a building its poetry, and its uniqueness.

Currently we are designing a new boat storage shed for the Kohimarama Yacht Club. A ‘boat storage shed’ may sound rather mundane, a straightforward utilitarian building that meets the practical need for storing boats when they are not being used.

This was not our only view of the project. Particularly after we had done a little research into the history of Kohimarama and learnt of the pre and post-European history that informs this well-known part of Auckland.

When we looked into the site's pre-european history, we found plenty to inspire us.

The word kohimarama comprises two significant elements, each referencing a significant Maori legend.

Kohi means to collect or gather together,

Marama means moon, and concepts associated with the moon such as celestial light, clarity, transparency and showing the way.

In pre-European times the foreshore saw many gatherings of iwi from around the North Island. The ease of berthing waka on the beach made it a popular venue for these gatherings, a tradition which continued into European times.

Kohimarama became a place where Maori and Pakeha met often to engage in frank and open discussion.

Perhaps the most important gathering was the Kohimarama Conference in 1860. More than 200 chiefs, along with their entourages, came to Kohimarama to discuss the Treaty of Waitangi and issues of the day. The conference was the most important gathering of chiefs since the signing of the Treaty and lasted for four weeks.

The influence on our design

Digging into the history of the area is often the source of design inspiration. Kohimarama was no exception.

It has been an exciting challenge, to bring together two cultures in a building that is rich in meaning while serving a practical purpose.

The distinctive triangular sails of the Polynesian navigators served as the inspiration for articulating the building with modern materials such as strips of coloured, translucent fibreglass, woven together to create soft portions of the building that glow from within at night.

These same panels act as tukutuku on the exterior, and also bring together an abstraction of the ribs or heke rafters in a wharenui.

This is architecture. Art enters in.

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