Hero photograph
Original design for a waterfront Polynesian function centre
Photo by Desmond 'Emila Makasini Marculy Ola

Navigating culture

Lesley Brook —

A meeting house design brings people together in community moving through time and place.

Polynesian peoples see the ocean as a place that connects, and used the stars to navigate on great voyages between island groups. Their vessels were lightweight and durable, propelled by a three point sail. Boat-building technologies were also used in architecture; the Polynesian fale/whare is responsive to the elements and flexible. Desmond Émila Makasini Marculy Ola (Mila) has designed a large modern community centre that integrates Polynesian culture with modern architectural practice.

A large roof form has a timber rain screen that extends beyond the edge of the building envelope like a flax basket. From each side it resembles a woven sail, and from the front and back the prow of a boat. A curtain of glass provides a minimal barrier, giving the sense of openness to sea and sky. A cruciform building plan references the Southern Cross constellation, and the movement of the stars is referenced in the lighting. A large lobby area allows for appropriate reception and welcoming of distinguished guests. The multi-purpose space would comfortably seat 300 guests and could be used for meetings, workshops and ceremonies. A central core houses services and amenities including a large commercial kitchen, and a mezzanine provides smaller meeting places.

Mila has received the inaugural Te Kāhui Whaihanga - NZIA Southern Branch Student Design Award. His work was very much praised by our external academic and industry reviewers and he is truly deserving of the award.