Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainable Urban Design

Ko te tapu o te whenua ko te tapu o tetangata
It is the sacred land that’s the sacred person

constructed landscape with lightweight architecture

Constructed landscape with lightweight architecture from Micro-urbanism: the Maori pā and architecture as a generative landscape by Amanda Yates


Attended a fascinating exploration of sustainable and regenerative design referencing pre-contact Maori built environments sponsored by the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities. The goal is to develop architectural and urban design strategies that are not energy or resource neutral but rather generative producers (of energy, ecological habitat, food and water) linked into the energy and resource flows of the surrounding environment.

What resonated most is a series of Maori design principles shared by Amanda Yates and Shaun Awatere:

  1. Kotahitanga – Cohesion and collaboration. Collective cooperative and effective partnerships and collaboration with community.
  2. Wairuatanga – Embedded emotion and spirit.  
    Everything should support our spiritual well being and consciousness. Emotional connection with the environment that links people.
  3. Manaakitanga – Hospitality and security.
    Embracing and welcoming visitors, and protection and security of community.
  4. Whanaugatanga – Participation and membership in the community and social setting
  5. Kaitiakitanga – Sustainable resource management. Protection of significant landscape features and natural enviornment.
  6. Rangatiratanga – Leadership, identity, self-determination. Community can lead and take responsibility for creating and determining their own future.
  7. Matauranga – Knowledge and understanding. Understanding of community history, identities, character.
  8. Orangatanga – Maintain health and well being
  9. Mauritanga – Essence or life-force of a natural environment. To identify and promote the maintenance or restoration of a mauri (the life force which all objects contain). e.g. rain-tank collection systems, grey-water recycling systems, passive solar design.

In addition to enjoying the presentations, this was the first event I attended with the Livescribe, an amazing pen/paper system that records notes as you take them and allows you to play them back. Both the presentations and my full notes with audio are available online:

Further reading: Ngā hua papakāinga: Habitation design principles by Shadrach Rolleston and Shaun Awatere

One Response to “Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainable Urban Design”
  1. matt 23 November 2009 at 8:01 am #

    This is such a great post, thanks for the great info. and I am so excited to read more

Leave a Reply