Design Precedents

Biophilic Designs in NZ

Samson Corporation Workplace

Geyser Parnell Parnell Road, Parnell, Auckland, New Zealand
Building Architect: Andrew Patterson
Interior designer: Amanda Hookam
Artist: Miranda Brown


I really love the atmosphere this sculptural piece translates in this ordinary office building. It provides the room with spatial qualities of lighting and shadow which can stimulate the creative mind. What interests me most is the way the shadows form on the ground and how they vary to the source of the pattern. The small blurry fragment translate on the ceiling which further iterates the beauty in this office divider. Further patterns speak through the rest of the space through vynal form which acts as traces of the main feature. Other elements of nature and what look like Maori inspired patterns transcend the space through the walls and carpet flooring. The green nd red furnishing contrast each other and add to the nature inspired influences of this design making it a space for people to converse, share and create.


Te Kura Whare

Tāneatua, New Zealand

Te Kura Whare belongs to the people of Tūhoe. It is a symbol of their story, a representation of their origin as an iwi; their past, their present and their future. The building provides a central point of connection for Tūhoe, located within their turangawaewae. Te Kura Whare was put together by members of the iwi. As such, a slogan used during the completion stage was “The house that we built”.

Te Kura Whare is strategically located at the entrance to the township of Tāneatua, emphasizing the message that you are now within the rohe of Tūhoe. As Te Kura Whare belongs to the people of Tūhoe, there is an automatic association and attraction for iwi members. It provides a source of pride for those whanau living outside of the iwi rohe, another source of motivation to help them move forward in their lives while living away from their turangawaewae.

Te Kura Whare has evoked a new spirit of place with the transformation of the space from agricultural pasture to its current use. It serves as a motivational basis for long-term stewardship and responsibility for the environment and land use practices. This structure gives rise to a new energy and will sustain a human culture and ecology over time; bringing people back to positively connect with their land and environment. The sustainability values and practices connected with the Te Kura Whare will provide a platform for imbedding into community aspirations and initiatives associated with cultural, social, health and economic prosperity. It can act as a mechanism of momentum for sustainability, working for the needs of the future generations.


BOTANICAL MOTIFS– Just as the building marks a new beginning for Tūhoe, the art reflects what it means to be Tūhoe today. Six mixed-media Tūhoe artists were asked to produce artworks that capture the hearts and minds of Tūhoe communities and generations. Guided by well-known Tūhoe proverbs each artist drew on themes of shared identity, Tūhoe symbolism, iconic features of Te Urewera, all merging with a desire to activate a new future wellbeing of Tūhoe people.

TREE AND COLUMNAR SUPPORTS– In Te Kura Whare, natural logs serve as posts, beams and trusses, emulating the forest and reflecting the vital role trees play in the wellbeing of Tūhoe people. The columnar supports throughout the building are made from pine harvested from Kaingaroa forest, enhancing the cultural connection between the Tūhoe and the forests of the Tūhoe Rohe.

ARCHES, VAULTS, DOMES– The distinctive wooden arch at the entrance to the Tribal Chamber simulates the flight path of Tama-nui-te-rā (sun) across the sky, from east to west. The rising of the sun represents potential; with each day comes the opportunity to fulfil dreams and make progress toward goals. In this way the arch encourages Tūhoe to look forward, rather than backward at the bitter legacy of colonialism. Similarly, the vaulted ceiling of the Tribal Chamber is uplifting, enhancing the celebrations held there.


LIGHT AND SHADOW– The building manipulated light in ways that mimic how the sun creates pockets of warmth and comfort in the forest. Tall, vertical bands of glazing allow light to penetrate the office wing atrium, creating an alternating pattern of light and dark suggestive of tree trunks in a forest. In the café, diagonal stripes of light migrate across the floor, warming the wood and creating bright spots on the stairs. The changing play of light attracts people to different parts of the building at different times of day.

SPATIAL VARIABILITY– Te Kura Whare houses a variety of spaces, from the tribal offices and conference rooms to the café and Tribal Chamber. Each space enjoys a unique scale, spatial quality, and orientation to the sun. The offices are illuminated with a controlled and steady light, reflective of their function, while the café and atrium are distinguished by tall ceilings and dynamic lighting, which changes as the sun moves through the sky. The spacious Tribal Chamber accommodates public ceremonies and celebrations, which are enhanced by the vaulted ceiling, dramatically angled timber posts, and strong and even illumination.

INSIDE-OUTSIDE SPACES– The Tribal Chamber is a dynamic space where people can enjoy shelter from the sun while fresh air sweeps through the open doors. The hall also opens up to a vast outdoor amphitheater. During events, the veranda transforms into a stage, encircled by people sitting or standing on the terraced grass benches. Protected by a large overhang, the generous porch serves as an indoor or outdoor stage, bridging the space between inside and outside.


CULTURAL CONNECTION TO PLACE– Tūhoe identity and culture is inseparable from place and from the land. When their land was taken away, it severed that vital connection and led to decades of disempowerment and despair. With the creation of Te Kura Whare, the Tūhoe sought to begin restoring the relationship between people, culture and land. Through its architecture and art, through its materials, shaped by Tūhoe hands, through the ceremonies and celebrations that the center hosts and in the archive of cultural artifacts that it houses, Te Kura Whare plays a key role in re-establishing the connection to the land and building pride in Maori culture and traditions.

INTEGRATION OF CULTURE AND ECOLOGY– Te Kura Whare coexists in harmony with the surrounding environment. The project harnesses all of its power from the sun, captures all of its water from the sky and treats all of its waste onsite. Tūhoe believe it is their responsibility to nurture, learn from and respect the land. Designing the building to the Living Building Challenge standard helped them create a building endowed with living systems—one that demonstrates the community’s values and beliefs.

SPIRIT OF PLACE– The simple materials palette creates a strong connection with the land and identifies the building uniquely within its place. Te Kura Whare is built from wood harvested from forests that are now managed by the Tūhoe people, and the internal walls are composed of five thousand clay bricks that were created on-site as part of a training program for the community. The clay, sourced from various areas of Te Urewera, imparts subtle variations in texture, color and character to the building. The opportunity to fashion earth and wood from their ancestral lands created memorable experiences which will forever tie the Tūhoe community to the project.

Redwood Visitor Centre public toilets

Architectural specifier: Darryl Church Architecture Ltd
Building contractor: Burton Construction
Client: Rotorua District Council
Painting contractor: Holmac
Photographer: Graeme Murray
Screen graphics artist: Kereama Taepa

After devastating natural events, such as the 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption and subsequent deforestation, the first Californian Redwoods were planted in 1915. In 2009 a Waitangi Treaty settlement returned the land to the local Maori indigenous tribe, Tokorangi, and management of park continues today with the Rotorua District Council. The Redwood forest park is internationally recognised with two prestigious Green Flag awards. Thousands of local, national and internationals visit the Redwood Park each year.

The brief was summarised as ‘six toilets’ and ‘sensitive design’. DCA’s study of a site survey revealed randomness, due to seedlings growing out of the original grove lines and used this to inform a meandering random layout of individual toilet cubicles.

The cubicles are colourful decorative panels within a structural aluminium frame and plate roof. DCA also conceived a cylinder of corten steel and opportunity to introduce elements of storytelling and indigenous art. A design competition was held to select the final laser cut art designs.

The Redwood Visitor Centre Toilets are an artistic and sensitive response to an area of high natural beauty. The toilets are randomly inserted among the giant redwood grove. While the function of the toilets remains uncompromising, the laser cut steel shrouds transform into landscape art. The laser cut patterns are Maori inspired and each shroud depicts a native bird to New Zealand, some now extinct. The cylindrical corten steel inherits a patina and form that acknowledges the redwoods. The toilets sit in harmony with the surrounds and don’t compete with the real attraction, but at the same time have become an attraction in their own right.


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