Rewi Thompson (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Raukawa) is remembered as a visionary thinker. Image/screenshot
Originally published by Te Ao Māori News
Roy Thompson (Ngāti Puru, Ngāti Raukawa) is remembered as a visionary thinker who believed that careful consideration of people and place was an essential feature of great architecture.
new book, Roy: Go slow, be there, Written by rising star in modern architecture, Jade Keck (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hau, Te Whakatōhea, Te Arawa), and urbanism and architecture commentator Jeremy Hansen, it takes a look at Thompson’s career, including his designs, concepts and visions that came from his belief. This architecture can heal people who have been broken “by their circumstances.”
Kaki says she and Hansen met Thompson at different times in his life, but they recognized the importance of his involvement in architecture.
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“I met Roy when I was a student, and I think we both realize that his contribution was very large and very important, but outside of our architectural circles, very few people seem to understand the breadth and depth of that contribution. It wasn’t that great, but we thought someone should write “Something about him, and maybe that person is us.”
Thompson died in 2016, but not before contributing to some of the most stunning designs across Aotearoa, including the City-to-Sea Bridge in Wellington, the series of fish-shaped canopies over Otara city centre, the Pukenga-Māori Studies Building at Unitech, and a number of From marae in Auckland such as Ngāti Ōtara, Ruapōtaka, and the Pā-themed Māori mental health unit at the Mason Clinic. This was one of the many projects he was involved in in the health sector. Others include Kaitaia and Tiahumai Hospital in Middlemore.
Ngāwha – Using the environment to heal
He was a consultant to the Department of Corrections on the Northland Regional Corrections Facility project at the Ngawa and Spring Hill facility near Mermer. This provided an opportunity for Thompson to demonstrate his belief that the building’s design, which incorporated the natural environment and surroundings, could help heal people suffering from the effects of colonialism. In Nagaha, Thompson pushed for the creation of balconies overlooking important natural landmarks as a way to reconnect guests with the traditional landmarks of their ancestors.
Much of this aspect of Thompson’s work remains unknown and uncelebrated, Kaki says.
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“Even though we think of it as commonplace now, the idea of incorporating tikanga and mātauranga Māori into our wellness spaces, I think, was really groundbreaking. It was really new at the time, and no one else had done it this way before.”
Decades later, there are still lessons from Thompson’s approach to architecture and design that can be applied to housing projects that make people’s lives easier, Kiki says.
“Rewi was also interested in how architecture could enrich people’s lives and improve the way they lived. There are two projects in the book. One, Rata Fine (near Manukau), and also Northcote Day Homes. These two examples are really interesting because one of them was very early in his career, the other was very shortly before his death.
“Now, this wasn’t just Māori housing, but I think he tried to think carefully about how people live in the community and how the spaces can support that to happen.”