The pursuit of knowledge: A look at David Trubridge’s stunning new library sculpture

David Trubridge is well known for his intricate lighting sculptures, but his latest project is something a little different. The designer has created a sculptural tree and hanging artwork that depicts the story of Tāwhaki climbing up to the heavens to get knowledge from the gods for Te Aka Mauri, Rotorua’s revamped library and children's health hub development. 

The building in which it's housed was gifted the name Te Aka Mauri by local iwi. It combines the Rotorua library with the Lakes District Health Board outpatient child services, with $12.8 million invested into the refurbishment.  

The two concepts behind Trubridge's design came out entirely of his imagination, with a little nudge from local Iwi. Trubridge’s Trubridge says the inspiration for the ceiling panels came from the story of Tāwhaki, which was included in the brief from the project. In the tale, Tāwhaki climbed up the vines to the heavens to receive knowledge from the gods.

“The panels depict his figure entwined in the swirling vines. The other piece is simply a tree which I was asked to design. In both cases I referred to traditional Māori pattern-making,” he says.

Trubridge was given full details of the interior design by the architects involved, as well as a set of guidelines to abide by from the local iwi. He says he worked closely with both parties through the design process.

“I tried to fit in with the architects' visual language for this job and also the stories and ethos of the Iwi.”

The artwork came together relatively quickly, he says, due to his clear idea of what he wanted it to look like. Installation took longer because of the complex building site, but overall it went smoothly.

The building officially opened its doors on 2 February to the public.

Trubridge says feedback has been positive about his installation, with even some unlikely fans voicing their appreciarion.

“As my guys were installing the works they received very positive feedback from the ‘tradies’ on site, who are not always so receptive to art works,” Trubridge says.

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