Māori architect applies te ao Māori concepts to landscape architecture

By Michael Cugley
Photo / Supplied
By Michael Cugley, Te Rito journalism cadet

Whakapapa is central to Māori architect William Hatton's approach to landscape architecture.

"There are layers within whakapapa that we are all connected. Similarly, in my mahi there are layers within the design and I want to make it known that we are one with the whenua. There is no separation."

Hatton, who is Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Rongomaiwahine, Muaūpoko, Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga and Rangitāne, is a cultural design adviser with Auckland firm Boffa Miskell. 

Credit / Boffa Miskell

The Hawke's Bay native says he is determined to challenge traditional approaches to landscaping, applying te ao Māori principles to design and processing. 

"Instead of designing for what we need, I like to design for what the whenua needs."

He takes his lead from tīpuna and their design of pā and māra kai around working with the whenua and natural systems to sustain the people.

"Our people were architects in their own right," he says.

As a Māori researcher at Victoria University, he was able to explore the inclusion of mātauranga Māori in landscape architecture.

That was the catalyst for him to focus specifically on landscape architecture.

"I'm taking kōrero of iwi and hapū to express design within our environments."

Hatton says he is excited about the growing interest in the field by other young Māori and the opportunity to "reclaim our identity in an urban environment."

"We whakapapa to the whenua. We belong to the whenua. And we should reconnect to the whenua for our health, identity and wellbeing."