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Weaving together matauranga Maori and urban design

Weaving together matauranga Maori and urban design

A seminal book full of “prototypes for a Maori sustainable future” has been launched this week in Wellington.

Tāone Tupu Ora, meaning an urban environment where nature and culture are not separated, is the third joint publication venture between the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities and publisher Steele Roberts.

Through its seven chapters by multiple contributors the book brings together themes of indigenous knowledge, Maori urban design principles, micro-urbanism, the development of Maori land, papakainga and what amounts to a forward looking map of unfolding directions for the interlacing of matauranga Maori (traditional knowledge) and urban design.

Editors Keriata Stuart and Michelle Thompson-Fawcett have put together a compelling casebook of muka, or examples, of why and how matauranga Maori can be part of better urban development and “should not be seen as theoretical, or of only academic interest”.

Speaking at the book blessing and launch on Thursday (28 October) Michelle made the point that the importance of matauranga Maori has been systematically underplayed. Now, while its application to our urban environments and society is still in its infancy, there is a growing confidence that such knowledge is “firmly on the agenda”.

Architect Henare Walmsley, who contributed the book’s foreword, drew attention to the unique and longstanding history of Maori development, and the antecedents provided by such “architects of time and necessity” as Sir Apirana Ngata, Sir James Carroll and Sir Maui Pomare, in transporting traditional values into the present and future.

In her introduction Keriata Stuart noted that the impetus for Tāone Tupu Ora began with symposia on Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainable Urban Design organized by the NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities and chaired by Professor Chris Cunningham.

This resulting collection of papers and transcripts from the seminars, in addition to specially commissioned pieces, consists of two driving themes. Firstly there is a wide appeal to “rethink our expectations for a more sustainable built environment” by working with indigenous knowledge and to enable Maori to determine their own urban aspirations. Secondly the book addresses, over a range of scales, “the detail of practical application of that wisdom, using specific tasks and tools”.

This then leads on to suggestions for reclaiming and integrating Maori spatial narratives into urban environments as well as re-establishing the cultural imperative and presence of tangata whenua in our cities—åexpressed as keeping a Maori footprint in the city.

The full cast of contributing authors include: Shaun Awatere, Shadrach Rolleston, Craig Pauling, Amanda Yates, Biddy Livesey, Ngarimu Blair, Wiki Walker, Morrie Love and John Gray with Charlotte Hoare.

Book Blessing

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