A Pleasurable Methodology: Cultivating with Waiatarua

Bhaveeka Madagammana

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Bhaveeka M Hero Bhaveeka Madagammana
This image imagines pleasure and ecology overflowing through Waiatarua's landscape, envisioning an architectural language that revitalises insects and climate.

By 1960 the construction of the Ellerslie Racecourse Grandstand filled Waiatarua with concrete foundations. Waiatarua/Two Songs are ancient subterranean caves that emanated songs between pools of collected rainwater and were once a place of ecological diversity and socio-cultural importance to Māori. This thesis conceptualises that destructive incident as just one of many instances of an extensive colonial architectural methodology that inscribed destructive practices upon the land. Colonial methods have systematically dispossessed Māori of their land, utterly transfiguring whenua and disproportionately producing inequity for Māori in areas such as health and housing. Consequently, this thesis identifies the racecourse as a place of colonial pleasure, defined as recreational activities that occur at the expense of whenua’s erasure.

The thesis proposes a new Pleasurable Methodology as an alternative architectural practice that seeks to enact equality between people and ecology. This methodology draws upon established methodologies from Decolonial, counter forensic and black studies. Pleasure within this methodology is reconstituted as a joyous activity and embodied feeling, a knowledge source that can rejuvenate contemporary geographies through an engaged intimacy with Tāmaki Makaurau’s whenua and whakapapa. By reconceptualising productions of knowledge to pleasure and whenua, this methodology generates alternative spatial conditions that engender equity through three methods: Listening, Cultivating and Re-programming. These pleasurable methods collaboratively generate living drawings through the assemblages of Waiatarua’s plant litter, with conventional architectural materials such as wire and paper. The resultant architecture is both of and for an alternative Waiatarua, dismantling colonial spatial hierarchies and revitalising the well-being of ecologies and communities that whakapapa to the caves. An enduring harmonious social and cultural bond is formed by the revitalisation, reconnecting Waiatarua to relational fields of maunga and moana that incentivise the collective labour of living with whenua.

The 1960 Ellerslie Racecourse Grandstand emerged out of colonial constructs and approaches to Waiatarua that destructively materialised its current built and natural environment, consequently upholding colonial pleasure over the concrete-filled caves. A Pleasurable Methodology is an alternative architectural practice that emotively engages with whenua and whakapapa to create equitable spaces for future generations. The methodology’s core theoretical concept is pleasure with whenua, which brings together the terms pleasure and whenua. It can be understood as the embodied joys and passions experienced and felt with the earth, Papatūānuku and her whakapapa.

Pleasure with whenua is a communal pleasure always shared between myself and Waiatarua, recalling the cave songs and the fertile ecology that provided sustenance for Māori. The embodiment of this concept is crucial because it is a bodily sensation that expresses itself through our actions and movements. It is deeply personal, requiring a body willing to feel. Moreover, it creates a mediating intimacy through which Mātauranga Māori and the whenua of Waiatarua are approached. Pleasure with whenua in this context is a knowledge production, a way of knowing and being in Waiatarua, that will reciprocally create pleasure with whenua spatially following Gender and Geographical Professor Katherine McKittrick’s production relationship. This central concept informs the creative practice as research methods and is organised into three main methods: Listening, Cultivating and Reprogramming. These methods are enacted between me and Waiatarua, developing an equitable architectural vision following mana tauritetanga.



Listening are the methods of exchange between our bodies and the earth through pleasure. It is made up of three methods: Listening Across Texts, Gathering and Soaking. These methods are inspired by Dame Anne Salmond, Jacinta Ruru (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Maniapoto) and Linda Tuhiwai Smith's (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou) call to listen to Papatūānuku, to the earth. In this methodology, Listening is to privilege and engage with the whenua present in my garden, which is along Peach Parade rd, across from the Ellerslie Racecourse in Waiatarua. These methods refuse to listen to the incessant noise of cars and the rumble of machinery on construction sites. Listening is instead to engage with the deep whakapapa beneath our feet and the cave’s songs. These methods are not enacted in the positivist sense as an extractive exercise that seeks to record the earth. Rather, these methods fully begin to understand and accept the ineffable aspects of whenua as part of its fundamental nature.

Cultivating is a collection of methods that nurture living drawings: Binding, Imagining and Maintaining with Aroha. These methods are the planting of architectural seeds that grow both emotionally with pleasure and physically with whenua. They purposefully evoke the architect as a gardener to move our discipline towards focusing on the ecology of spaces, fabricating the growth of architecture through the growing of whenua.


Finished Product

Re-programming is the programming of pleasure with whenua, the embodied joys and passions experienced and felt with the earth, Papatūānuku and her whakapapa into space. This final method culminates in a Pleasurable drawing set implicating architecture at every scale. This set acts as a collection of holistic spatial designs that envision fabrication and imagination for the future in Waiatarua. Each drawing is an imagining of paint over a living drawing photograph and is accompanied by a Pleasurable Title Block. Each contains four core elements: the base photograph, a Pleasure Diagram, a Pleasure Compass and a Pleasure Passage. Each of these elements works cohesively to ground the origins, the context and the emotions of every drawing and accordingly change across them. The Pleasurable title block aims to assist future designers and communities outside the architectural discipline in realising and fabricating the spatial pleasure with whenua in each drawing.


Critic's Text

Bhaveeka Madagammana contends that to seek and by extension create pleasure in architecture can be a methodological counter to the dominant modes of design and construction that erase other forms both present and historically of place making. In pinpointing the moment where concrete was poured into the subterranean caves known as Waiatarua – Two Songs beneath the site’s ground plane to create the foundation piles for the Ellerslie Racecourse Grandstand, Bhaveeka notes the consequential erasure of the cave’s ecological diversity, as well as its cultural significance. He observes that acts of colonial architecture, has not only served to dispossess Māori of ancestral land, but also to destroy the richness of biodiversity and eco-cultural life possible under the guardianship of tangata whenua. As a response Bhaveeka proposes that architecture may decolonise by way of seeking joy with place that listens, cultivates and re-programmes.

-Dr Karamia Müller, supervisor