“Having Māori designs, graphics and narratives integrated into this historical building acknowledges our past and signals our future as we continue to uphold and champion culture and heritage in Aotearoa-New Zealand”

Mike Nathan, Pou Mataaho, Te Pae Huarewa, Manatū Taonga, Ministry for Culture and Heritage

The iconic Public Trust Building on Lambton Quay has been home to Manatū Taonga, Ministry for Culture and Heritage for the past 10 years. They asked for our help to improve this challenging space to allow for future growth and better zoning of spaces, particularly areas for collaboration. Prior to our involvement the staff and stakeholders worked through a process to reimagine the Ministry and its component pasts as a wharenui (meeting house) and to the develop a Māori narrative that layers cultural values and principles into all elements of the working environment. The whare concept recognises that every individual has a key role as a pou (pillar) which helps their wharenui to stand and function. Even when working remotely the staff are still a pou, an integral part of the whare.

We worked with ngā pou Māori (cultural advisors) to examine what it means to be part of the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, and  explored room planning, furniture concepts and the redevelopment of meeting spaces to support new ways of working. We reconfigured the desking to increase capacity, improved circulation and split noisy functions, such as the kitchen and breakout area, from quiet ones. Alongside ngā pou Māori we collaborated with ngā pou Pūkenga (Māori experts) to develop an aesthetic for the revitalised office space.

The new fitout represents a strong Māori narrative intended to be genuine and authentic. Like other “whare” located on marae throughout Aotearoa the designs, graphics and narratives are grounded in Māori mythology including the kōrero pertaining to Ranginui and Papatūānuku (sky father-earth mother). At the entrance is Tāne, Māori god of the forest and birds. He stands at the doorway, welcoming visitors as kaitiaki or guardian of Te Whare o Te Manatū Taonga.

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