“My hope is that this mahi [work] gets easier, and that we get to a point where design partnership with Mana Whenua is just a given,” says Warren and Mahoney Architectural Graduate, Jahmayne Robin-Middleton. “Working in a Māori space can be drastically different to working in a non-Māori space. We should be giving thought to and allowing space for practices like mihimihi and karakia [introductory greetings and blessings] during our wānanga [meetings]. Exercising such practices ensures that we are establishing design partnerships that are tika [authentic and true]. If that makes you uncomfortable, then so be it. For us as architects and designers, growth in this space will often mean being vulnerable.”
Since joining Warren and Mahoney in his final year of studies 4 years ago, Jahmayne has been working in their Wellington studio as both an Architectural Graduate and a champion for kaupapa Māori [a Māori approach or practice] design. He reflects that the role of the architect has evolved a lot in the last couple of decades, and he’s embracing the opportunity to wear several hats. “What would have been considered successful architectural design 15 or 20 years ago might not be now. We’re much more aware of elements like sustainability, equity and how our projects embody and reflect our Aotearoatanga [the shared national identity of New Zealand].
Heke Rua Archives, Wellington
“Yes, I am an Architectural Grad, but some days I might also be leading or coordinating some sort of kaupapa-specific wānanga [meeting to discuss foundational ideas] with Mana Whenua. I’ve taken on a Māori design leadership role in a lot of the larger civic and community projects that we’re currently delivering. It’s really exciting to have opportunities to work on projects of that scale and also to work with other Māori creative practitioners with whom I consider it a real privilege to share space.”
In particular, Jahmayne has been instrumental in the Manawatū Library Building Project, the development of Tauranga’s civic precinct, Te Manawataki o Te Papa, and the Heke Rua Archives New Zealand project in Wellington. “The Archives project, which is now on site, was a huge learning curve for me when I first joined Warren and Mahoney.” The practice was just beginning a long process of establishing a working partnership with Mana Whenua at that time, he says. “We spent months having full-day, face-to-face workshops twice a week with representatives of Te Āti Awa Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika [the local iwi, or tribe] to discuss and shape design outcomes for Heke Rua.”
Having the opportunity to work with collaborators like Māori sculptural artist Rangi Kipa at this early point in his career was formative, Jahmayne says. He notes that the work they did together on Heke Rua also marked a journey for Warren and Mahoney to develop its own internal capability. “The collaborative work we did with Rangi as part of that project was something that I’m really proud of, both as a creative and as a Māori practitioner learning to navigate the spaces that we navigate. It was design partnership exercised to its full potential.”
Te Manawataki o Te Papa, Tauranga Moana
Te Manawataki o Te Papa, Tauranga Moana
Heke Rua Archives, Wellington
Jahmayne grew up in Hawkes Bay and says he spent a lot of his childhood drawing, inspired in part by his love of anime. As he got older, he transitioned into digital design, a path which eventually led him to Victoria University. “I had a really great career advisor in high school who encouraged me to pursue my love of art and graphic design, and I ended up being the first in my immediate whānau [family] to go to university. When I arrived in Wellington, I expected to pursue a degree in building science but as I was exposed to a number of disciplines and specialities in my first year, I found architecture and just went for it.”
In his final year of study, Jahmayne met former Warren and Mahoney Principal Tim Melville while he was acting as a judge for NZIA Student Design Awards. “He’s the one that really connected me with Warren and Mahoney. I was attracted to the scale and nature of the projects in W&M’s portfolio as they meant that, from time to time, I would have these opportunities to work with Māori in ways I might not with a smaller, residential practice.
“What’s really exciting me at the moment is the opportunity to design narrative on the fly and allow it to evolve out of our design wānanga with Mana Whenua. I think it’s much richer that way, when you can use design as a means to flesh out what matters most in a project.”
Many of Jahmayne’s projects fundamentally come back to the notion of reinstating ahikā [using whakapapa, or lineage, to trace back to the ancestry of the land], he says. “There are many different meanings assigned to ahikā, but in this context it speaks to a significant architectural project that can be used as a device to reinstate the presence of, in many instances, displaced indigenous communities. That is certainly the case with the Archives project which is situated on what was formerly known as Pipitea Pā. This area was previously occupied by various hapū [subtribes or groups] who are established as Mana Whenua in the area and who were displaced from the community post European contact. The physical Heke Rua space houses our nation’s past and memories, but it’s also a political statement that doesn’t shy away from the fact that it will be, loudly and proudly, a Māori building.”
How to Prep a Hāngī, Masters Research
Kohupātiki Marae, Hawkes Bay
Looking ahead, Jahmayne is eager to see Te Manawataki o Te Papa reach the end of its preliminary design phase so that he can jump back in when it reaches developed design, during which he will be working with a collective of Māori artists. “I’m also currently working on the Public Service House directly opposite Parliament on which I’m excited to be collaborating with an old mentor, and I’m just starting work on a new community hub in Hāwera which is on-site at the moment. Over the years ahead, it’ll be amazing to see the Archives building begin to take shape. We’ve made some really bold design decisions for that space, so I can’t wait to see how they manifest.”
Jahmayne says he is proud of how the Warren and Mahoney whānau has grown over the last few years. “Of course we still have work to do, but we’ve come a long way in terms of indigenous leadership – not just Māori but also Pasifika and First Nations Australian people. There are some really talented emerging professionals coming through the ranks and I feel fortunate to be somewhere between a recent grad and an experienced architect because that gives me the opportunity to learn from and work with some of my idols, while also connecting with the new and interesting perspectives that our next generation of architects and designers are bringing to the table.”
To learn more and connect with Jahmayne, visit https://warrenandmahoney.com/, explore his work on Heke Rua Archives New Zealand and check out his recent profile in Architecture Now.
Massey University Library, Palmerston North