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Photo by Lesley Brook

A learning environment

Nicolas Sharp —

Architecture student Nicolas Sharp casts a vision for a replacement outdoor education facility for his high school.

Located 35km northwest of Wanaka, Mātakitaki is an outdoor education facility for Otago Boys High School. Since 1977, the lodge has been a place of many great experiences and memories for students. Due to its age and location, however, it is no longer suitable for use during winter months. 

Mātakitaki project approaches sustainable design by using a vernacular and cultural response to place, while using building science to work alongside the natural environment and climate conditions. The aim has been to create a building that responds to place, time, climate, culture and landscape.

As the students arrive at the site after a long day of venturing into the landscape, they first drop off their gear at one of the five shelters. They then continue up the terrain where the two main communal structures, Hauāuru (West) and Rāwhiti (East) Mātakitaki are aligned down the two branches of the valley. Behind Rāwhiti Mātakitaki is an elevated stone Pātaka (food storage), as well as a Toutou Whare (woodshed). 

The structure of the shelters has been kept as straightforward as possible to allow students to be a part of the construction process, learning skills that they don't necessarily learn in the everyday classroom. The floor structure will go up first to allow the students to have a platform to pitch a tent on or even sleep under the starts while they build the walls around them. Replanting of native trees that once populated the site allows this to become a living project where education never ceases.