Build 153 - A communal solution [Research]

By Jade Kake - 1 April 2016, Build 153

The creation of papakainga, or communal villages, has potential for the social, cultural, economic and environmental regeneration of Maori communities.

ACCESS TO HEALTHY, affordable and culturally appropriate housing is an ongoing issue faced by many Māori whānau. Overall, Māori have much higher rates of severe housing deprivation than the general population and score poorly on the associated markers of wellbeing such as health, education and employment.

Culturally appropriate housing for Pehiāweri

Culturally appropriate housing that is sensitive to Māori whānau dynamics and responsive to the relationship Māori have with their whenua (land) is scarce.

As part of my final-year architectural studies, I sought to address aspects of the complex issues associated with housing on Māori land. This was done through the design of a papakāinga (communal village) on my marae, Pehiāweri, in Glenbervie near Whāngarei.

Empowering people to participate in design

The project has been undertaken as participatory action research. This takes the view that the community being researched must be meaningfully engaging in the process and that the work is transformative.

It provided an opportunity to critically interrogate ideas and assumptions regarding the role of the architect and to develop appropriate modes of practice for working with Māori communities. By taking a community-based approach, the role of architect is reframed to be one of a skilled facilitator and interpreter. By drawing on their technical, social and cultural expertise, the architect empowers people to participate in the process and take a pivotal role in the design of their own communities.

Combining Māori values and western approach

Theoretically, my thesis seeks to bridge kaupapa Māori research and architectural investigation. A kaupapa Māori approach gives validity to mātauranga (Māori knowledge) and to Māori ways of being and doing.

At the heart of the kaupapa is also the need for research to positively benefit the Māori research community of interest and Māori communities more broadly.

The guiding kaupapa is therefore grounded in Māori values, while the specific methods and techniques draw on western knowledge. An example of this is the use of western participatory design techniques, including the site planning kit, within wānanga. Wānanga is a uniquely Māori format for the transfer and co-creation of knowledge that is structured by custom and occurs in a marae-based environment.

Other research methods utilised include the formal analysis of precedents through diagramming and the use of interpretive historical research methods, such as archival research, narrative interviews and cultural mapping.

10-year masterplan developed

The design component of the project culminated in the development of a 10-year masterplan for Pehiāweri Marae and the design of an 8-unit papakāinga with communal facilities.
Several issues and opportunities emerged through the development of the masterplan. These included the potential reorientation of the whare hui (meeting house) and siting of future planned projects, including a kōhanga reo, playgrounds and a whare pora (weaving school).

The papakāinga development includes a mix of 1, 2 and 4-bedroom units arranged in clusters of 2–3 dwellings. These have been designed for flexibility and with the ability to be configured as intergenerational whānau homes or separate dwellings as needs change over time. The papakāinga also includes additional communal facilities that will support interdependence and community resilience whilst still retaining a balance between private, shared and communal spaces.

My project has been undertaken concurrently as both a theoretical research project and as a feasibility study and preliminary design concept for the people of Pehiāweri.

Sitework to start in 2016

Pressed earth brick is being investigated as a primary construction material for the external walls as part of the marae’s economic development activities.

Pehiāweri Marae has a ready supply of raw material and free labour through its relationships with the Department of Corrections and the trades training programmes run at the marae. This means that the marae can reliably build sweat equity into the financial model, which can be used to meet funder co-contribution requirements and leverage finance.

As tangata whenua, the ability to live in houses made of earth intensifies the link to Papatūānuku (the earth mother) as a provider of hauora (health and wellbeing).

A model for other iwi

I am immensely grateful for having been able to spend a year working with my own whānau, connecting with my tūrangawaewae (place where one belongs) and being able to give this project back as koha to my own community.

As a model, papakāinga has extraordinary yet largely unrealised potential for the social, cultural, economic and environmental regeneration of Māori communities.

I hope that this papakāinga will operate as an exemplar development and that the experiences, learning and successes will benefit not just my own whānau but also my broader hapū and iwi.


I gratefully acknowledge BRANZ, Te Runanga-A-Iwi O Ngapuhi and Whakatohea Maori Trust Board for their support during my studies.

Jade Kake has been profiled in this month’s industry profile.

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