New scholarship recognises need for more Māori and Pacific architects

We need more Māori and Pacific students to study architecture, and a scholarship has been set up to encourage them to do so.

Māori carving

“Auckland is the largest Polynesian city in the world,” says Professor Deidre Brown (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kāhu), the world’s first Māori Professor of Architecture and Head of the School of Architecture and Planning, University of Auckland.

“Māori are the tangata whenua and have an important role to play in the maintenance of the cultural landscape, including its architecture,” she says.

The scholarship is funded by Jasmax, one of New Zealand’s leading architecture and design firms. The scholarship is worth $5,000 per annum for up to five years for incoming Māori and Pacific students studying architecture at the University.

Jasmax, a multi-disciplinary design practice, has long recognised the need to have a stronger Māori voice in architecture and design. In 2015 it set up an in-house incubation unit, Waka Māia, to champion authentic cultural input into its projects.

The name Waka Māia was gifted by kaumātua Haare Williams. Jasmax Senior Associate, Elisapeta Heta, who graduated with a Masters of Architecture (Hons) in 2010 (and one of 2017's 40under40 alumni) was one of the founding members of the unit.

Māori are the tangata whenua and have an important role to play in the maintenance of the cultural landscape, including its architecture. 

Professor Deidre Brown School of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Auckland

Says Jasmax CEO, Sjoerd Post: “At Jasmax we believe that the Tiriti o Waitangi between māna whenua and tangata tiriti offers a powerful opportunity to create architecture and design that is unique to Aotearoa. Waka Māia are our kaihautū in that quest.”

“Offering this scholarship is a small contribution to get māna whenua and the Pacifica voice in that conversation.”

Professor Brown says the School needs more Māori and Pacific students, to inform both the practice of architecture as well as research questions.

A number of research projects completed or underway through the School include Māori construction technologies, Māori architectural history, the spatialisation of racism, spatial planning for Pacific Health, Māori and local governance.

“It is vital that practitioners in professions such as architecture are representative of the society in which they work and whose environments – personal and public – they shape,” says Professor Brown.

“New Zealanders are increasingly looking towards Indigenous and Pacific cultures as a means to express a local identity, and as Māori and Pacific people are uniquely placed to fulfil these roles their advice is sought after.”

Moreover, Auckland has become an expensive city, increasingly pushing the less well off to the margins or out of the city completely, she says.

“There is greater and greater need for financial assistance to help students from less economically privileged backgrounds to be able to attend the University of Auckland School of Architecture and Planning and achieve their dream of qualifying as an architect.”

The scholarship will support and encourage students to widen their horizons and embrace innovative thinking and design, building a springboard to help them shape their future and all of ours.

“Students of today will be designing buildings that will be standing in the 22nd century,” she says.

Applications for the Jasmax Scholarship are open now, and close 15 January 2020.

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