Hero photograph
Visualisation of Māpoutahi Monument design
Photo by Denzell Christian

Representing identity

Lesley Brook —

The design of the spaces we occupy contributes to shaping our identity, individually and collectively.

A series of fortified pā could once be found along the coast of Otago. One of these sites is Māpoutahi, on a headland between Doctor's Point and Purakaunui north of Dunedin. Architecture learner Denzell Christian (Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei, Ngāti Kahu) designed a monument for Māpoutahi for the final year project.

"The Māpoutahi Monument sets out to depict the defining cultures of New Zealand's cultural landscape, Māori and European, through built form, while also providing a space of neutrality to facilitate new experiences and absorb learnings."

In an evolving social and cultural landscape, individuals are coming to terms with the past and developing their own sense of identity. A visitor would pass through European and Māori design features before reaching a space to sit, gazing out to the northeast. Denzell consulted with local iwi Ngāi Tahu and drew on the Māori stories about the seven stars of Matariki.

"Within this project Matariki represents opportunity for reflection of our national identity, opportunity to celebrate the rare social, cultural, environmental landscape we find ourselves in, and opportunity to apply knowledge of this landscape towards an inclusive, integrated future."