Leith Place

Tokoroa is a small provincial town located centrally in the North Island of New Zealand. Tokoroa was once a thriving industry town with over 20,000 residents during the 70’s – driven by forestry and farming. Like many towns worldwide, industry consolidated, and people moved to bigger centres, resulting in a steady decline.

An economic report stated that stopping 1% of motorists on State Highway 1, would have an economic benefit to the small town of $1.3M NZD per annum. The overarching requirement of the brief became, “How do we entice motorists to make Leith Place a preference to stop and take a break?”

As the site was long and narrow, DCA Architects created activation points north and south. These would be the beacons to catch interest and allow time to turn off from the State Highway into either the northern or southern entry points to the site.

Tokoroa council started an initiative in 1997 to create a series of artworks called ‘Talking Poles’ located in and around the streets and CBD, which has since resulted in many local and visiting artists contributing to the poles, representing many nations and indigenous groups.

The current talking poles were initially difficult to appreciate due to their spread over a range of locations. By relocating and grouping the artworks to a prominent position on Leith Place, we created one of the activation points. This talking pole forest, lit at night, is a visually stunning public artwork that represents the many cultures of Tokoroa.

The placement of the public toilets in the formation of Mahutonga (Southern Cross star constellation) acknowledges it as a tool of navigation used for centuries by many culture’s ancestors, including the original settlers to New Zealand.

The public toilets are connected by a unifying roof and exaggerated in height with timber shrouds. By night, lights reflect off polished steel discs on top of the shrouds, casting their light to the ground to draw the pattern of the Southern Cross constellation.