Navigating culture

A meeting house design brings people together in community moving through time and place.

Polynesian peoples see the ocean as a place that connects, and used the stars to navigate on great voyages between island groups. Their vessels were lightweight and durable, propelled by a three point sail. Boat-building technologies were also used in architecture; the Polynesian fale/whare is responsive to the elements and flexible. Desmond Émila Makasini Marculy Ola (Mila) has designed a large modern community centre that integrates Polynesian culture with modern architectural practice.

A large roof form has a timber rain screen that extends beyond the edge of the building envelope like a flax basket. From each side it resembles a woven sail, and from the front and back the prow of a boat. A curtain of glass provides a minimal barrier, giving the sense of openness to sea and sky. A cruciform building plan references the Southern Cross constellation, and the movement of the stars is referenced in the lighting. A large lobby area allows for appropriate reception and welcoming of distinguished guests. The multi-purpose space would comfortably seat 300 guests and could be used for meetings, workshops and ceremonies. A central core houses services and amenities including a large commercial kitchen, and a mezzanine provides smaller meeting places.

Mila has received the inaugural Te Kāhui Whaihanga - NZIA Southern Branch Student Design Award. His work was very much praised by our external academic and industry reviewers and he is truly deserving of the award.


July 2021

Image credit: Desmond Émila (Mila) Makasini Marculy Ola, all rights reserved