Charles Darwin knew a thing or two about survival. He knew that it was not the strongest of the species that survived, nor the most intelligent, but the most sensitive to change. And the recent reconstruction of Te Ao Mārama, along with the earlier addition of the southern atrium, are two stories of adaptation: maybe also to survive. Large gestures such as the hanging tanoa and the floating glass roof above the neoclassical building speak of change and progress in a brave new world.
When Ignite teamed up with artist Carin Wilson of Studio Pasifika to design the design for the new store at the Hokohoko Museum, Wilson recounted how in the 1930s, when the museum was being built, Maori culture was at its lowest level. The combined effects of the land wars, the influenza pandemic and the First World War led to a decline in the population and, in turn, endangered the Maori language and culture. And so Sir Apirana Ngata began a journey to continue the revival of Maori arts and culture.
“This story of adaptation and evolution resonated with us,” explains Nathan Carey, Project Manager, Ignite. “Just as the Maori people have had to change, so has the museum. And we started to think of materials that communicate this idea of change: presenting layers of time, contrasting textures to convey progression, the juxtaposition of old and new, and storytelling through the adaptation of materials. .
Where its predecessor had a long, deep plan, with plenty of wall space, the new store’s crescent-shaped floor plan is wide and shallow, with heritage windows lining the length of the interior and exterior walls. “We had to be smart to use the spaces between the windows,” Carey explains of the exterior walls. “They are such a great feature, you have to think carefully about what will be marketed between them.”
The windows were framed in recycled rimu, made by Wilson: some in the form of sculpted panels, others featuring a tiered poutama pattern, which Wilson explains is a metaphor for cycles of human effort or ascending stages of the growth. “A vertical step represents the challenge and stretch to engage and master new skills, while the horizontal component suggests a plateau of assimilation and consolidation.” The deliberate, unresolved ending at the top indicates that learning is a never-ending journey that lasts a lifetime.
The locally sourced salvaged rimu surrounding the windows runs through counters, floors, and cabinets, with seemingly simple display cases belied difficult construction. “We worked closely with Dimension Shopfitters to develop a custom merchandising system with stacked drawers that can be opened for additional viewing based on stock levels,” explains Carey. It’s a nifty way to make the most of the space between the floor and the countertop as well as meeting the storage needs of the store.
The rough, imperfect carpentry is offset by white, highly polished square shapes that appear to float on mirrored plinths. Meanwhile, floating above is the Jasmax-designed “shield”, which effectively houses the services throughout Te Ao Mārama, albeit at a slightly lower level than what could perhaps be considered ideal. While Carey concedes “it’s a nice form that wraps up spaces,” he and the team were keen to leave it to his own devices. A thin line of striped brass dado forms a demarcation, above which everything is crisp white, reflecting the galleries at the front of the museum.
It is the treatment of the walls below this line and at each end of the store that is the masterpiece of the layout. A mineral plaster plaster developed in collaboration with Pilkington Interiors, it seems to refer to centuries of layers of earth and sediment, but it is in fact a unique and very sophisticated pegboard. “This is a bespoke display solution, designed to provide the flexibility to present Maori and Pacific artwork in the best possible way,” says Carey. The system, which has hundreds of holes with threaded inserts, adds minimal visual bulk but offers maximum adaptability.
Vicky Thomas, head of retail for Hokohoko, says the design team has succeeded in creating much more than a generic retail offering. “A museum boutique is a cultural retail space and an extension of the museum experience, so it must create a link between history and living culture,” she says. “The store’s design really enhances the vast collection of artwork that we promote and serves as its home, but also welcomes our visitors into a warm and welcoming space. So much the better for promoting the revival of Aotearoa’s cultural artworks – Sir Apirana would have approved.
Across the atrium to the east, in a space that mirrors that of the museum shop, is Tuitui, one of architect Jack McKinney’s latest hospitality projects. It’s undeniably a step up from the previous incarnation – plus a pole vault – with first impressions more akin to gastronomy than meals for the little excited people.
McKinney’s grand gesture is an incredibly long, crescent-shaped serving counter that runs almost the entire length of the bistro: “about 16 yards, give or take”. Topped with richly veined dark green marble and reminiscent of a beautifully sculpted piece of pounamu, the sculptural island fulfills several functions throughout its trajectory. Offering intimate double-sided seating at the tapered north end, it gradually expands to a central bar, then ends with a cafe and counter at the kitchen end. A large fanfare wraps around the top, “borrowed from the atrium bowl,” and scalloped and mosaic-covered sections form the base, making reference to the museum’s neoclassical Doric columns while providing enclosure pockets for them. guests.
The fluted profile continues on the two end walls of Tuitui, this time in paneled Canadian hemlock, baked to protect the softwood from mites, which could go crazy in the museum’s collection, but with the pleasant side effect. with a scent of smoke.
The materiality of the large service counter is repeated to the butler and the fanfare is also deployed on the 16 tables which dot the polished concrete floor. McKinney had hoped to hang reproductions of exhibits between the east-facing windows on the exterior wall, “to bring the collection into the dining room,” but, in their place, four striking, oversized photographs referencing both à kai and tuitui, the latter of which translates into weaving, binding and coming together.
Tuitui owner Brian Sewell said that where the table service offering is “slightly more adult” and designed for international visitors (he and McKinney modeled it on a New York diner theme) ), the more informal café space in the atrium is ideal for families, giving the kids room to play and, presumably, to make a bit more of a mess.
What McKinney has created here is perhaps more streamlined than you might expect from the previous form – he admits that it was the clear lobster bisque that came from the seafood chowder he was using with. started – but he also emphasizes that the heritage aspect of the building required the lightest touch possible so as not to obscure the beautiful historical elements. Walking slightly sideways, the colossus-shaped scaling of the counter inspired by the Doric column in the heart of Tuitui certainly leaves an impression.
In the first part of the Te Ao Mārama series, Albert Refiti discusses the vitality of the denomination, intercultural mythological stories and the Moana architecture of the renovation. Read more here…
The second part of the series stars Chris Barton who illustrates the new column fins of Te Ao Mārama’s design. Read more here…