Design in Co-Development

For Woods Bagot community consultation is not a stage of the design process but the very mode of creation. In the next instalment of Design in Co-Development we explore Woods Bagot and Warren and Mahoney’s work with the Matapapore Charitable Trust and Puamiria Parata-Goodall to weave Ngāi Tūāhuriri narratives into Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Early sketch of Te Pae by Woods Bagot Principal Bruno Mendes.

Completed in 2022, Te Pae is one of 17 ‘anchor’ projects singled out by the Christchurch Recovery Plan as key to the rebuilding of the city after the devastation of the 2011 earthquake. Woods Bagot was brought onto the project in 2014, and the ideology of crafting a building that speaks to and of its location endured as the main driver across the seven-year journey.

Along with fostering regional and international visitation, the project also offered a powerful opportunity to convey the essence of Christchurch and its people. The project exemplifies the importance of Ngāi Tahu / Ngāi Tūāhuriri’s place in the region as well as the more recent partnership between the local Iwi and European cultures. The design provided an opportunity to embed craft, design and cultural meaning within the project in a deep and recognisable way.

This outcome, unprecedented within the bounds of convention centres and their traditional ‘big box’ appearance, could only be achieved through close collaboration with the Matapapore Charitable Trust.

The Trust was established by Te Ngāi Tūāhuriri Rūnanga for the provision of cultural advice on Ngāi Tūāhuriri/ Ngāi Tahu values, narratives and aspirations for the projects associated with the regeneration of Christchurch.

Ngāi Tūāhuriri is the local Ngāi Tahu hapū (subtribe) that holds mana whenua (traditional rights and responsibilities) over their takiwā which extends from the Hurunui to Hakatere and inland to the Main Divide. Their mandated representative is Te Ngāi Tūāhuriri Rūnanga, one of 18 papatipu rūnanga (assembly, council) across the Ngāi Tahu takiwā (territory).

For Te Pae, Ngāi Tūāhuriri/ Ngāi Tahu had clear views on the matter of identity and sought a building that culturally resonated with Māori and Pākehā (white) New Zealanders. In breaking away from the conventional, typology of a rectangular box, Woods Bagot worked with Matapapore to find an organic and fluid response which navigated the transition of the city’s orthogonal grid to the fluid Ōtākaro Avon River.

Puamiria Parata-Goodall, a proud descendant of Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Māmoe, Waitaha and Ngāti Kahungunu people, was working as a cultural advisor for Matapapore at the time and was the key consultant to Woods Bagot principal Bruno Mendes and his team on the cultural values and narratives of the Ngāi Tūāhuriri / Ngāi Tahu throughout the design process.

Puamiria Parata-Goodall, a proud descendant of Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Māmoe, Waitaha and Ngāti Kahungunu people, was a key consultant in the development of Te Pae.

“The ancestral bones of the Ngāi Tahu people are in this land. Across the rebuilt city, the new Ōtautahi (Christchurch) needed to reflect both its Ngāi Tahu and European history,” said Parata-Goodall.

Woods Bagot’s preliminary design phase focused heavily on engaging with Matapopore to ensure that Te Pae reflected the cultural values while promoting a meaningful and sustainable development for Ngāi Tahu / Ngāi Tūāhuriri.

“We were spinning our wheels before Puamiria arrived and helped us locate our narratives,” says principal Bruno Mendes of Parata-Goodall’s impact.

Parata-Goodall recalls a memorable 24-hour trip to Melbourne from her home in Christchurch to join Mendes in a concept presentation to key stakeholders.

“This was a big unveiling of ideas to the client, a key moment, and it was vital that Puamiria was there to be able to give dialogue to the concepts and narratives we had developed with her,” says Mendes.

“I remember this meeting as a shift, from designing a building, a box, to developing a building with a strong story,” adds Parata-Goodall.

Through these intensive sessions with Puamiria and Matapopore, Woods Bagot found two key narratives to drive the design across the project and the project site: Four Brothers and Three Grandchildren.

Exterior Design Response: Four Brothers

Connections are made to New Zealand’s Southern Alps across the plains and to the distinctive braided rivers of the landscape. The story of Aoraki and the journey of the Four Brothers becoming Ngā Tiritiri o te Moana (the ‘whitecaps of the ocean’), more commonly known as the Southern Alps – Aoraki (Mount Cook), Rakirua (Mount Teichelmann), Rakiroa (Mount Dampier) and Rarakiroa (Mount Tasman) – is drawn on throughout the architecture and façade.

The unique palette of the Southern Alps and the Aoraki tradition is characterised through its varied grey tones and layered textures. These principles have been captured in the façade through a choice of a similar colour palette in which five varied tones of grey are coupled with different surface textures.

This palette has been randomly distributed across the 42,058 tiles that make up the braided façade, affording the appearance of a monolithic form, which in turn reveals a secondary layer of texture and colouration upon closer consideration.

The distinctive braided rivers of New Zealand that informed Te Pae’s facade.

The Aoraki panel. Designed to acknowledge Ngāi Tahu as Tangata Whenua. Chevrons of the niho taniwha pattern create the form of the mountain Aoraki.

In construction. The 42,058 tiles that make up the varied grey tones of Te Pae’s facade, reflecting the Southern Alps in hue and braided rivers in pattern.

Interior Design Response: Three Grandchildren

The story of the Three Grandchildren, Tūterakiwhanoa Kahukura and Marokura, who each contributed to the distinct formation of the Canterbury region, have been conceptualized in the centre’s three major interior spaces: the auditorium, exhibition hall and pre-function respectively.

“Tūterakiwhanoa’s job was to rake up the broken pieces creating the Banks Peninsula”. This is represented in the auditorium. Banks Peninsula can be characterised by its eroded (racked) appearance. Borrowing from this landscape, Woods Bagot applied this same-racked language to the exterior linings of the exhibition hall through the recessive articulation of timber cladding. This effect in turn provides occupiable alcoves and a sense of spatial variation.

“To stabilize himself Tūterakiwhanoa dug his heel into the land. That indentation was to form the base for what was later to become Te Waihora.” Moving into the interior of the auditorium, Woods Bagot drew from Te Waihora Lake Ellesmere using the fluid blue ribbon which wraps the space in the round. The ribbon borrowing and amplifying the distinct coloration enforcing the idea of vibrancy and life.

Kahukura is embodied by the exhibition hall, he “was responsible for foresting the bare landscape”. The strong vertical language of the forest can be seen in the exhibition hall’s round vertical cladding from Sculptform. This vertical cladding in turn helps emphasise the height of the pre-function space and offers spatial variation afforded by the sloping ceiling to south.

The pre-function space, which wraps itself around the two volumes, is informed by Marokura who “carved out the bays and populated the waters with fish and sea life”. Given the impact of the fluid façade on the pre-function space, the link to Marokura was apparent.

This fluid language conditions the floor and ceiling patterning and articulation. These surface treatments help with natural orientation and movement through the various internal spaces and present a comprehensive integration of interior and exterior languages.

Parata-Goodall says that, because of Te Pae’s contribution, Christchurch is becoming a city of conversations that didn’t happen before the 2011 disaster.

Standing in front of Te Pae, Parata-Goodall asks a passer-by: “Can you see the braided rivers? Would you like to hear about the tradition of Aoraki and the formation of the South Island, the story of the formation of our waterways and our lakes?”

“Māori language, art, and stories are recognized and celebrated like they haven’t been before. My ancestors have their voice back again in our landscape.”

From left: Woods Bagot former associate James Pearse, Puamiria Purata-Goodall, and Woods Bagot Senior Associate Eric Buhrs at the official opening of Te Pae.