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Marae design project wins award

By Gerald Ford

A landscape architecture student’s vision for a Wairarapa marae has taken out a national award.

Claudia Boyo, a student at the School of Architecture at Victoria University, was part of a recent collaboration between the school and Hurunui-o-Rangi marae, near Carterton, where the students were hosted.

Claudia’s design received an “award of excellence, student”, at the Resene Institute of Landscape Architects of New Zealand Pride of Place Awards.

In her fourth year of study, Claudia is preparing for her Masters degree in landscape architecture.

She and her fellow students were hosted at the marae as part of an annual field trip for the school, in which they were tasked with finding a landscape issue in the Carterton district and “see what we could do as designers to solve it”.

“We were looking at economic, social and environmental problems, and ways to solve them while making them contemporary.

The class toured “significant features of the district”, but returned each evening to the marae.

“Having lived on it, I felt the site was the closest to my heart. It’s culturally a really significant space,” Claudia said.

“I just knew it was going to be the marae. It was so open to design.”

Claudia said in her research she “discovered Carterton was more of a thoroughfare than a destination” and aimed to develop the marae into an extra attraction for tourists to come to Carterton as a destination in itself.

She wanted to create “a space that community members wanted to engage with, and that would overflow for more people to be interested outside the community”.

The problem and opportunity that struck Claudia was a lack of visual cultural material in the marae space, such as carvings and plantings.

While there are already plans at the marae for placement of several three-bedroom houses, Claudia chose to start with a blank canvas and created her own layout complete with a shared backyard.

Into this she designed a play space using carved pou and ropes for climbing.

She also designed plantings and for the marae atea or welcoming space, incorporating a large rock to symbolise the comet for which Hurunui-o-Rangi marae is named.

Claudia has also planned a communal orchard and garden, intending it to be large enough to have produce for sale.

When she discovered that fire risk precluded the use of marae space for a hangi, Claudia designed what she has termed Hangi Hill, a raised mound surrounded by a swale – a shallow ditch in this case filled with gravel and water.

Finally the potential a flax garden could be realised though a semidetached space with deck alongside the main meeting house.

This was termed Harakeke House – a sheltered outdoor learning space for weaving.

Claudia worked alongside marae member Ra Smith – who praised her work in a column in last week’s Midweek.

“Her weaving of the land and plants with the people of the marae and their activities with the mana of the marae was masterful.”

In addition to the ILANZ award, Claudia also received a Victoria University creativity award, which made her $2000.

She has chosen to put $1000 of this towards her course fees and donate the other $1000 to the marae to begin the community orchard project, hoping to partner with a Wairarapa nursery.

“It’s really exciting as it’s not often you get to see your vision become reality,” Claudia said.


  1. Claudia Boyo’s designs for the Kahungunu marae are on display at Aratoi Museum, to coincide with the major Kahungunu exhibition, open daily, 10am-4:30.

  2. Claudia Boyo’s designs for the Kahungunu design are on display at Aratoi Museum, to coincide with the major Kahungunu exhibition, open daily, 10am-4:30.

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