Whare Waka

The Whare waka (shelter for traditional maori canoe) was the last step in the larger Rotorua Lakefront redevelopment masterplan. The shelter houses the Te Arawa taua (war canoe), created in 1989 by master carver Lyonel Grant for the Waitangi centenary celebrations. Lyonel Grant was a key collaborator and cultural advisor with DCA on the design. The masterplan required the orientation and siting very specifically to be north south on an axis of Tutanekai street and Lake Rotorua. This aligned with key ley lines connecting Maketu and Tongariro as the north and southern boundaries of the Te Arawa Iwi tribal lands. The dimensions were a direct result of the functional requirements to fit the waka, which resulted in a long, narrow, and tall structure. To reduce the visual weight of the roof, we created a wide custom aluminium gutter, resulting in the impression of a paper-thin plane. A deliberate design move was an intent to create a slow reveal. We did this by creating a screen to the carpark. This required walking from the carpark to view the waka. The screen also addressed concerns for direct sun on the waka. Lyonel designed a traditional Te Arawa taniko pattern into the TMT timber screen. The ceiling is engraved with a Te Reo reference to Maketu and Tongariro and pays homage to the traditional hull stitching pattern. Six carved Tutu representing Te Arawa ancestors are positioned around the perimeter as guardians over the waka.



Project Details

Status: Complete 2024.

Client: Rotorua Lakes Council

Artist/Collaborator: Lyonel Grant

Size: 103 sq.m

Cost: $1.1M