By Rebecca Smith
The Kiwi attributes that make us unique can be seen all around New Zealand. They’re especially obvious in the Auckland suburb of Glen Innes, where the new Music and Arts Centre is a vigorous testament to our values: kaitiaki, integrity, resourcefulness.
Te Oro Music and Arts Centre is the result of careful collaboration, consultation and research between many different groups: the local community, the iwi, Auckland Council, the architectural firm Archimedia and a host of artists and musicians. Out of this collaboration came a truly unique blend of respect for tradition and ground-breaking innovation.
Fire, Earth, Wind ... and People
While it only opened in 2015, Te Oro has a whakapapa stretching back 10 millennia. Fire threw up the volcanoes that distinguish the Auckland landscape, and rising up among them was Maungarei or Mt Wellington. Early Māori noticed that the wind blowing across its crater made a distinctive sound, or oro – a name that was gifted to the Centre by the iwi of this region, Ngāti Pāoa with the endorsement of Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.
You’ll notice this acknowledgement of nature throughout Te Oro. Its organic form, echoing a noted grove of karaka trees on nearby Taurere, or Mt Taylor, brings new life to the suburban streetscape and inspires everyone who visits and uses this exciting facility. And Te Oro is designed to nurture and celebrate the greatest natural resource we have – our own young people. It gives them an opportunity to channel their exuberance, creativity and multicultural heritage into artistic self-expression.
Tradition and Innovation
While you may no longer hear the oro of the wind over Maungarei, you’ll notice the eerie blend of sound and music that breathes through and around Te Oro. Unique ‘audio artworks’ play continuously from six carefully chosen sound sites. Three of these works – by Matthew Salapu (aka Anonymouz) – relate the legend of Parehuia and the karaka grove. The others are the work of composers from each of the iwi with mana whenua – George Kahi of Ngāti Pāoa, Mahu Rāwiri of Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki and Jerome Cowley of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.
These audio artworks complement the visually stunning architecture, primarily the work of Archimedia’s Lindsay Mackie and local artists Bernard Makoare, Martin Leung-Wai and Petelo Esekielu. They have re-created Parehuia’s karaka grove, with a leaf canopy held aloft by a series of tree trunks and adorned with machine-carved Maori figures and Polynesian fibre-binding motifs. The material used to clad the building is not traditional timber, but more durable aluminium.
The Kaitiaki Spirit
Te Oro is a uniquely New Zealand creation. Developed with integrity and creativity, it proudly reflects care and respect – for its natural environment, its multicultural heritage and the history of the region. Yet it achieves all this through the use of modern materials, a core understanding of how people create and a practical eye on the future.