This design is an early childhood building for a Maori tribe (Ngāti Hine) in Kawakawa, New Zealand. The brief called for a building which would not only accommodate the clients tamariki (children) but teach them about their culture and customs on a daily basis whilst having a minimal impact on the environment.
Our concept for the building is based on the Maori tradition that all life is born from the womb of Papatūānuku (earth mother), under the sea: the word for land (whenua) in Maori also means placenta.
Maori architecture is historically rich in symbolism, and so the design is conceived by shaping the land into a womb-like form, with the building forming just like a baby within: the building literally grows out of the land.
The only opening to the building is along the north facade, and reads as a cut in the earth. This cut symbolically represents the caesarian birth through which all of the clients iwi (tribe) take their lineage: their ancestor Hine ā Maru was the first recorded Maori woman to deliver a child by caesarian section and survive the procedure about 600 years ago. It is from this opening that the children symbolically enter the ‘world of light’, where they play.
The building is located on marshy ground, with the ‘womb-like form’ appearing as an island, relating back to the tradition that all land is born from under the sea. A bridge is formed to give access to the island, which is symbolically shaped into the tribal waka (canoe) Ngātokimatawhaorua, representing the journey of the tribes forefathers from Hawaiki to Aotearoa (NZ).