Application of te ao Māori concepts to landscape architecture

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Kahu

Ahuriri Lagoon at Hawke’s Bay, which is a Boffa Miskel project that applied mātauranga Māori monitoring.

Public interest journalism funded by NZ On Air.

The concept of whakapapa is central to William Hatton’s approach to landscape architecture.

Hatton, of Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Rongomaiwahine, Muaūpoko, Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga and Rangitāne descent, says this influences the way he perceives, understands and recognizes whenua (earth).

“There are layers in the whakapapa that we are all connected. Likewise in my mahi there are layers in the design and I want to let it be known that we are one with the whenua. has no separation.”

The Hawke’s Bay native is a cultural design advisor to Auckland firm Boffa Miskell, working on a range of projects focusing on private to public space.

Hatton says he is determined to challenge traditional approaches to landscaping, applying te ao Māori principles to design and transformation. He watches how the whenua moves, adapts and changes.

“Instead of designing for what we need, I like to design for what the whenua needs.”

He draws inspiration from his ancestors who designed their pā (fortresses) and māra kai (vegetable garden) based on working with the whenua and natural systems to support people.

“Our people were architects in their own right,” he says.

William Hatton: "Instead of designing for what we need, I like to design for what the whenua needs."
William Hatton: “Instead of designing for what we need, I like to design for what the whenua needs.”

Hatton attributes his drive to his seniors at Victoria University. As a Maori scholar, he was able to explore the inclusion of mātauranga Māori (Maori knowledge) in landscape architecture.

This was the catalyst for him to focus specifically on landscape architecture.

“I take kōrero from iwi and hapū [sub-tribes] to express design in our environments.”

He is also excited about the growing interest in the estate by other young Maori and the opportunity to “reclaim our identity in an urban environment”.

“We whakapapa at the whenua. We belong to the whenua. And we should reconnect to the whenua for our health, identity and well-being.”

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