A waka sculpture in three parts recalls the importance of the portage and its role in shaping the community. The physical work comprises a carved timber tauihu (canoe prow) in the area adjacent to the café and carved timber taurapa (canoe stern) on the lawn on the other side of the basketball court. These two carvings frame an empty space in between that is metaphor-ically occupied by the body of the canoe. The third part, repre-senting the human element, is 16 hoe waka (canoe paddles), one each for the iwi which maintain ancestral connection to Ōtāhuhu.
Kaitiaki – located in the front entrance to the gym and café foyer, a kāhu (hawk) stares at viewers as the centre’s kaitiaki (guardian). Poutama (traditional patterning) highlights the importance of ongoing growth and development behind the manu.
Rangatira - located in the foyer at the bottom of the ramp, a tui symbolises the voice of leadership, highlights the importance of providing good direction and insight, and honours the voices of the tūpuna and rangatira past.
He Tangata – located at the entrance the pool complex, a flock of tōrea (pied oyster catchers) represents the voyaging and the arrival of peoples and manu as part of the community.
Maunga – located outside the library entrance on Mason Avenue and part of the play equipment, two three dimensional ‘land’ forms symbolise Ōtāhuhu and Te Tapuwae o Mataaoho maunga.
Library Wall Dividers
Meeting rooms within the library are glazed and are etched with abstracted large flowers of importance and relevance to the area and community – pohutukawa, kowhai and hibiscus are included among others.
The glass above the main entrance off Mason Avenue is etched with designs derived from moko wahine to create a pare for the entry.
Pare are traditionally used to emphasise the important process of arrival and transition from one dimension, a state of being or a space to another. The side-pieces represent Ira-Tangata and Ira Atua, life forces present in all people.
A Living Presence
The design and development of Tōia has given both a Pasifika and Māori face to the facility’s form and character. Tōia draws attention to local portage traditions, bringing to light (and life) the relationship and associations that Mana Whenua maintain with this area. Alongside these benefits, another aspect perhaps less tangible is the degree to which Tōia allows the Whakawai community to celebrate and live their cultures at the facility and in this it has been very successful.
As a community recreation facility, Tōia meets community (including Māori) needs. The pools (including a bombing pool) are there because the community wanted them. The café, meeting rooms, homework spaces and computer suites are there because the community needed them. All are requirements of a brief which was attuned to community needs and sought to reflect Ōtāhuhu’s contemporary South Auckland context.
Acknowledging the dynamics of local families and social groups the facility is roomier, less ‘precious’ and aims to fit the community, not have the community fit it. There are no anti-grind strips on concrete elements within the exterior landscape – all elements are designed to be skated on. Furniture is more generously proportioned to fit a Pasifika physique. The playground space is intergenerational, leading seamlessly from the toddlers at one end to the basketball court at the other, with lots of seating and shade - recognition that this is a space for the whole whānau and not solely for tamariki (children) and rangatahi (youths).
These design features actively encourage kotahitanga (togetherness), manaakitanga (hospitality), whanaungatanga (family and relationships), and oranga (wellness) – key aspects of Māori and Pasifika culture, made possible on site.
Tōia is managed to support a living community presence, including Mana Whenua. Reo Māori, Samoan and Tongan language swim classes are offered at the pool and family memberships are promoted for the fitness centre. Tōia has an outreach programme going to 12 pre-schools and a reading collection that has a clear focus on Māori and Pacific material.
Tōia is trying to move forward in a way that is meaningful, relevant and engaging for the Whakawai community, on their terms.
Tōia maintains a 50 kw array of 192 photovoltaic panels on the roof which is sufficient to meet the energy needs of the library (as of 2016).
While the artwork and narrative content of Tōia are contributory to a Māori identity, Māori design thinking has not been instrumental in determining the form of the facility. Despite this, Tōia is clearly very successful with significant use and little redundancy of space. This is product of a brief which determined key opportunities and activities for the design to make possible, the brief itself is a product of comprehensive engagement with the broader community.
Mana Whenua Engagement Processes
Regrettably Tōia's Mana Whenua engagement occurred too late in the process for it to meaningfully influence structural form. The artwork that has been incorporated imparts a Māori design and cultural flavour, however it could be critiqued as cultural veneer to an overwhelmingly mainstream structure.
Tōia begs the question of what the design would be like if Mana Whenua engagement had been integrated from the outset.
Engagement with Mana Whenua could be considered equal part art and science, founded on goodwill, respect and understanding.