Bicultural Design

Architectus has a 20-year history of partnering with mana whenua to deliver unique and culturally responsive built outcomes for our communities.  Our design practice is strongly grounded in a bicultural creative process.

Through participatory and sustained engagement we acknowledge the kaitiakitanga and rangatiratanga of mana whenua and weave tikanga Māori into the fabric of our designs.  Having mana whenua at the heart of the decision-making process ensures organisational concepts, provision for cultural protocol and the expression of cultural values, landscapes and identity are firmly embedded within projects across Architectus.

Viaduct Public Open Spaces

Completed in 2000, this open space project reclaimed a 500 metre length of Auckland’s waterfront for public use. Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and Ngāti Pāoa ahi kā iwi and kaitiaki of the Auckland CBD waterfront area, are recognised in the key design concepts and narratives. This enduring project helped lay the foundations for mana whenua design engagement in Tāmaki Makaurau and continues to be an important place for mana whenua to express their identity and demonstrate manaakitanga.

Architectus and Design Tribe collaborated with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and Ngāti Pāoa to integrate their cultural identity and narratives into this important waterfront site.

The Pātiki (flounder) weaving patterns were gifted to the project by kuia of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. The Pātiki is both a local delicacy and a symbol of abundant food and prosperity – a reference to the area’s history.

The sculptural glass pūpū tarakihi (paper nautilus shell) atop the Viaduct light standards are a direct reference to the prophecy ‘He Aha Te Hau E Wawa Ra’ of Ngāti Whātua leader Tītahi. Tītahi prophesised the arrival of Pākeha to Tāmaki and that strange vessels (represented by the uncommon pūpū tarakihi / paper nautilus) would appear on the Waitematā followed by a pou whakairo.

Pūpū tarakihi
(paper nautilus shell)
light standard

Waitākere Central Library

Developed in partnership with Te Kawerau ā Maki the conceptual framework for this community library draws upon the concept of a traditional wharenui – the domain of unity and peace.

The Waitākere Library is sited at a place of strategic importance for Te Kawerau ā Maki, Te Kōpua (Falls Park).  Te Kōpua is located at the head the tidal reaches of Te Wai o Pareira and was the beginning point for a number of inland tributaries and an important east-west walking track protected by Pukearuhe Pā.

Wharenui often symbolise an important tribal ancestor; the building elements of the whare representing the body parts of that ancestor. The koruru (gable figure) symbolises the head, the tāhuhu (ridgebeam) its backbone and the heke (rafters) the ribs. The Waitākere Library follows this structural framework, the tāhuhu being a continuous truss that spans the length of the library building. This symbolic backbone also alludes to the ridgeline of Ngā Rau Pou a Maki (the Waitākere Ranges) an important geographic feature and taonga of this rohe.

Important components of the wharenui present in the design are the tāhuhu (ridgebeam), carved poupou that support the trusses, the paepae (threshold) and the marae ātea.

Ko Puketōtara te maunga
Ko Waitākere te awa
Ko Te Au o Te Whenua te tangata
Ko Te Kawerau ā Maki te iwi

Puketōtara is the mountain
Waitākere is the river
Te Au o Te Whenua is the man
Te Kawerau ā Maki are the people

The urban square of the library provides an important ceremonial space and has been designed to function, when required, as a marae ātea.

Architectus in association with Athfield Architects and landscape architecture by Wraight + Associates


This project was a collaboration with the Matapopore Trust, the cultural design engagement organisation for Ngāi Tūāhuriri. The whakapapa of Ngāi Tūāhuriri and Ngāi Tahu is embedded in the form and fabric of Tūranga. Mātauranga mana whenua has been integrated to create a unique bicultural interpretation of a ‘storehouse of knowledge’.

Tūranga, the name gifted by Ngāi Tūāhuriri for the Christchurch central library, speaks of whakapapa across generations, connections to the north and out to Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa as recounted in the waiata ‘E Tuku Ana Koe’.

Important cultural landscape references to Ngā Tiritiri o te Moana, Horomaka / Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū, Maungatere and Hawaiiki  have driven the form of the building by informing the location and orientation of the roof terraces and large openings.

“Tūranga is the result of true collaboration and a true intent to work in the spirit of partnership. We would also like to acknowledge the Christchurch City Council Library team for being such great advocates and Architectus for walking the journey with us to explore our connection to place and to bring to life our stories through built form.”

Matapopore Trust, 26 June 2019

The golden, folded façade came about following discussions with mana whenua about important wider landscape connections to the north and south. Its materiality reflects the changing colour and interplay of shadow and light on the surrounding hills.  The folded form references the harakeke and raupō of the original swamp of this area.

Port Hills Image (bottom left): © Photograph by Kiwi at the Camera

Harakeke Image (bottom right): © Photograph by Amanda Keogh

The Ngāi Tahu Tāwhaki narrative of knowledge acquisition was given prominence in the opening of the void and stairs of the central atrium.  Inside, visitors are taken on a journey with the broad stairs leading up from the light-filled atrium to the main collections. The ascent is suggestive of Tāwhaki’s own journey to the heavens.

At the base of the stairs a sculpture by Fayne Robinson (with assistance from his nephew Caleb Robinson) depicts Tāwhaki and his journey in search of knowledge.

Architectus and Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects in association.

Tūhura by Morgan Mathews-Hale and Riki Manuel

Tūhura by Ngāi Tūāhuriri artists Morgan Mathews-Hale and Riki Manuel captures the significance of Ngāi Tahu whakapapa and celebrates migration and voyaging of generations from Hawaiki to Te Wai Pounamu. This marks the beginning of human migration and is a common metaphor for the experiences of all peoples who come to this land. The artwork is made of etched blue stone tiles and located on the west-facing facade on Colombo Street.

The Pā

The Pā Marae and Multipurpose Community Hub Project for The University of Waikato, Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato (a design collaboration between Architectus, Jasmax, Design Tribe and Wraight + Associates) is an innovative and versatile facility which will be transformative for its community and provides a significant new marae for the University. The Pā project is the first time in Aotearoa where the cultural, student and executive heart of a mainstream tertiary institution will be brought together under one roof.

The wharenui (meeting house) generates the form and provides inspiration for the project. It provides a new point of arrival and welcome to the campus. At the focal point of the marae, a large roof gathers under it a central student hub, a wing for the university executive leadership team, and Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao: Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies. In addition to these key areas conference facilities, workspaces, learning and support areas are all organised around the highly adaptable social hub which offers both indoor and outdoor spaces as part of a new campus heart.

In recognition of the significance of the new marae to the University community, tikanga advisors were engaged early in the design process to discuss and resolve design issues, guide processes and protocols, develop project narratives and to support engagements with King Tūheitia, extending to the leads, advisors, artists and carvers of Waikato and the Kīngitanga.

Located on the ridge at the top of Hillcrest Road, The Pā will provide a new point of arrival and welcome to the campus. A series of integrated cultural artworks, located throughout the project, will weave a rich narrative that speaks of the unique history, heritage and mana of Waikato and the Kīngitanga, and that extends to acknowledge the cultural and ethnic vibrancy and diversity of the wider community.