Once the Dust Settles: Weaving a Cloak of Resilience for Hinemoa Point

Danielle Ngapaki Koni

Creation Space Entry Danielle Koni

This thesis is primarily motivated by contemporary frictions between iwi and the Crown over designated Ngāti Whakaue land intended for the construction of an eastern arterial route along the edge of Lake Rotorua, which has effectively prevented Māori from developing their own land for over 50 years.

In response, this thesis argues for an architecture of resilience, speculating on an intervention which engages Ngāti Whakaue myth and narrative to propose a contemporary architectural ‘lakescape’ that is unique to Hinemoa Point and reflective of its inherent socio-cultural and historical context.

In resisting an infrastructure that fails to acknowledge landscape as taonga or treasure — denying local iwi as its kaitiaki (guardians) — this thesis contemplates a hybrid landscape architecture to mediate threshold conditions between the peninsula, lake and Mokoia Island, and to reconcile a relationship between the community and landscape.

Contending with a complex site of cultural conflict, the design intervenes with the crafting of a conceptual cloak, taking on the form of an architectural lakescape negotiating this historical friction, and furthermore presenting an opportunity for reconciliation and progress.

The project evolves from the crucial connection between the woven cloak whenu (vertical strands) as the derivative of ‘whenua’, the Māori translation for land. The knowledge of taonga as Māori understand it, can often become fragmented as it is transferred to others; knowledge becomes scattered as it is passed down through generations, forgotten or re-invented. Anne Salmond describes the ability of taonga to ‘capture’ history and show it to the living as, “they echoed patterns of the past from first creation to the present.”  This thesis proceeds on the understanding that Māori cloak taonga are carriers of ancestral knowledge, and are fundamental in the role of storytelling and projecting narrative.



The Māori cloak motif, commonly translated through architecture as ornament or façade, often misses opportunities to reflect qualities inherent within its specific context. This thesis argues for an alternative interpretation of the cloak by interrogating its ‘re-translation’ through processes of iterative making, craft and conceptual drawing. Translating between the drawn and the made is less an act of problem solving than it is a ‘generative’ process. Significant attention has been allocated to tectonic investigations surrounding the cloaking device. This was articulated through the progressively iterative creation of proto-architectural models to mine the concept of translating between the drawn and the made.


Finished Product

Developing a proposition with its characteristics derived from the Ngāti Whakaue legend of Hinemoa, the project is presented through a narrative that reflects on the romantic history of the peninsula, revealing connections between people, land and water to influence contemporary design that is specific to a Ngāti Whakaue landscape context.

The design research project resulted in the development of five built proposals embedded within the site at Owhata Peninsula, travelling out across Lake Rotorua: a Grand Waharoa, Creation Space, Papakāinga Housing Development, Recreational Wetland, and a conceptual proposal for conservational huts on Mokoia Island. The design becomes a speculative future proposal for an urban cultural lakescape proposing new conditions for social and cultural re-engagement with the land and lake at Hinemoa Point.


Critic's Text

For more than 50 years Ngāti Whakaue have resisted the New Zealand Land Transport Authority’s intention to develop a section of the SH30 trunk road. Along the eastern shore of Lake Rotorua, the plans cut through iwi-designated land directly associated with a prominent Maori legend of love between Hinemoa and Tūtāneka. 

Koni’s thesis proposes an architecture of anti-colonial resistance, one which opens to and connects the extensive lake-scape of the myth: the shore and the stretch of water Hinemoa swam to reach Tūtānekai on Mokoia Island in the middle of the lake. Here, a larger area of the iwi’s historic shoreline landscape around Waiohewa marae is to be repossessed in entirety and coherently reconnected with the lake and island. The traditional Māori korowai (cloak) in its fuller spiritual and metaphysical dimensions is the point of reference here, and it is through a tectonic investigation of korowai and the making korowai that weaving becomes the project’s leitmotiv.  

Fundamentally ahu (horizontal wefts) are, with whenu (vertical strands), woven into a physical and spatial form and an into architectural language which privileges whenua

Koni's proposition is an intensely socio-political critique of contemporary architecture’s superficial appropriation of indigenous concepts and forms. Her monumental set of atmospheric graphite drawings evoke a series of structures which veil the natural landscape setting engaging specific moments in Ngāti Whakaue myth and narrative. 

All Koni’s series' of large scale models imagine a monumental waharoa (gateway) to the culturally important landscape which she layers both figuratively and literally, providing an interlacing of undulating land and architectural forms.

— Jeremy Treadwell, supervisor