Maori Architecture – A Myth (?)

By Rewi Thompson, taken from NZ Architect (No.2,1987, p.39)…..

“Anthropology, in the Century has focused attention upon ethnic Cultures and Societies. The authenticity of expression of these cultures within multi-cultural societies – of which everyone is also a part – has become a most important subject.

It is no coincidence then, that with the travelling of the Te Maori Exhibition, and the new influx of adopted ‘Architectural Styles’ – the re-use of Art Deco, Gothic and Classical Languages – that speculation should arise concerning the possible emergence of more definite Maori influences in N.Z. Architecture.

If it ever eventuates, then great!

But I think the days of labelling architectural styles after ethnic groups or minorities are all gone.

For instance, the notion of developing a pakeha or Maori Architecture sounds absurd. (That happened two hundred years ago). It would be fair to say however, that regardless of our individual backgrounds, ties with out pasts and continuity, is still very strong.

In a rapid changing society it seems an insult to our “forebears” that we still maintain their only previous cultural style.

Further to this, it is no secret that most architectural critics require a “reference point” to make statements or critical comments. Categorizing or labelling architects work provides these “limits” or reference points. There are architects who deliberately label themselves or advocate a particular style. They are quite rightly criticised for their own actions.

There are some architects, however, who have no intention of belonging to any architectural style, but rather believe that an open ended approach, and developing work on its own merits, is a far better way of doing things. As individuals we have the freedome to choose our own approach, to our work. For instance, because I’m Maori, that doesn’t necessarily mean that my work is Maori Architecture. “Sure, these [sic] are times Maori influence is appropriate, but not all the bloody time mate.

Architecture can be a lot more interesting than categorizing people and their work. Deep down “cuzzies,” were [sic] all the same whether physically or spiritually, its only a matter of degree.

To talk about the development and influences by Maori people in Architecture is a worthwhile and important task.

The above comments are made because they are immediately relevant to our readers.

But it is the coming decade which will be of crucial importance to this discussion.”

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