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June 1, 2014 | by  | in Features |
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Māori and Pacific Architecture feature in the New Zealand Exhibition @ the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale 2014

The Venice Architecture Biennale is the world’s architectural event, a leading forum for the exploration of architectural ideas and showcasing building design. The event is being held in Venice between 7 June and 23 November 2014, and will be the first time that New Zealand has entered an international showcase exhibition.

Associate Professor Tony van Raat, head of the Department of Architecture from Unitec, is the Commissioner of the New Zealand Exhibition. Together with David Mitchell, director of Auckland-based Mitchell & Stout Architects and one of New Zealand’s most experienced and respected architects, chosen to head up a strong creative team for the New Zealand Exhibition.

Exhibition Creative Team. Photo by Jane Ussher.

The team includes architects Julie Stout, Mike Austin, Ginny Pedlow, Rick Pearson, Julian Mitchell, and Rau Hoskins (Ngāti Hau, Ngāpuhi), the director of designTRIBE architects, lecturer in the Department of Architecture, Unitec, Auckland, and co-author of the TV series Whare Māori; it also includes Architecture graduates Claire Natusch, Chia-Lin Sara Lee and Frances Cooper.

David Mitchell says the New Zealand Exhibition, which he has titled Last, Loneliest, Loveliest, will respond to the theme set by the Biennale’s Director, the celebrated Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. The title refers to Rudyard Kipling’s The Song of the Cities poem.

Under Rem Koolhaas’s direction, the Biennale is departing from the usual celebration of architects and large design projects, to focus on the fundamentals of architecture using a historical approach, as a “vehicle for research than an exhibition”.

“The Biennale will examine the relationship between modernisation and national styles of architecture,” Mitchell says. “In particular, it will consider whether national differences are still possible in an age when architecture is increasingly homogeneous”. He questions if architecture has “reached the stage where everything looks the same, everywhere? Where there is little relationship between and design and the place in which it is realised”.

“In particular, it’s the Pacific tradition we are concerned with, and the interaction between that tradition and international styles in the modern period.”

“In contrast to European architecture, which is architecture of mass and solidity, Pacific architecture is a lightweight architecture of posts and beams and panels and big roofs. This architecture has been persistently present in our history, it survived a century of colonisation, and it is increasingly distinctive”.


New Zealand’s feature exhibition is going to show the most “unsung architecture” in the world. A 100-year history of New Zealand’s architecture will go on display, which includes Māori meeting houses and Pasifika buildings.



Julie Stout, concept sketch for the New Zealand Exhibition at the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale, 2014. ©Mitchell & Stout Architects

The display will feature a purpose-built whatarangi and pūwharawhara

– a one-poled pataka (storehouse) carved by Tristan Maurer – with an illuminated model of the Auckland War Memorial Museum inside it.

It will also include a model tower using the post-tensioned timber-construction technique devised at the University of Canterbury and used to build the College of Creative Arts at Massey University’s Wellington campus.

The exhibition will also feature Auckland’s new art gallery, and Christchurch’s cardboard cathedral which Mitchell described as a very Pacific building – lightweight and flexible.

The entire city of Venice is the venue for architecture, with New Zealand’s exhibition located in a historic villa, Palazzo Pisani Santa Marina, a few minutes’ walk from the Rialto Bridge, St Mark’s Square and the Basilica of Saints Giovanni and Paolo.

There are 65 countries participating in this event, along with New Zealand and ten other first-time participants.

Tauira Māori: irrespective of your study major, share your amazing experiences of Venice, international architectural designs and concepts with the rest of us through Te Ao Marama or Ngāi Tauira.

See report in te reo Māori from reporter Peata Melbourne at Te Karere.

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