Te Hono - New Plymouth Airport Terminal
Architect - Beca Architects
‘Tuhonono’ means ‘to connect’ or ‘to join’ which is why it was an inspired decision by local hapū Puketapu (subtribe of the Māori - New Zealand’s Indigenous/First Nations People) to gift the name Te Hono to the new terminal at the New Plymouth Airport. The project was a significant undertaking and an exciting opportunity to collaborate with Puketapu (Te Atiawa), to create a site-specific response that was distinctly Taranaki.
As mana whenua, Puketapu have a deep bond to the site which was unjustly taken away from them in the 1960’s under the Public Works Act to build the original airport and terminal.
This new development presented an opportunity to reset their relationship with the Crown. For Beca, the opportunity was to step well beyond the bounds of a normal consultancy role to establish an inclusive design process that would both acknowledge and transcend the conflicts of the past. Preliminary workshops set a series of aspirational objectives for the project which in turn, solidified the desire to embed the unique values and narratives of Puketapu into all aspects of the terminal’s design. Establishing Puketapu’s involvement from the outset was important as it laid the foundations for a sincere partnership to develop.
Te Hono is the product of this collaboration and the outcomes achieved are a direct reflection of its success. Six design principles were created and woven into both the form and fabric of the building; they tell the origin story of Puketapu through two intersecting and steeping volumes, in constant dialogue with the iconic Taranaki Mountain beyond and welcoming visitors to the terminal in a warm embrace.
As mana whenua, Puketapu have a responsibility to manifest and execute its role of manaakitanga which can be demonstrated through acts such as hospitality. In that respect, the new terminal needed to incorporate a sense of being taken care of, being made to feel at home and being welcomed to the region in a way that would once again allow Puketapu to fulfil their obligations – ensuring visitors proceed under their mana.
The origin story of Puketapu encapsulates several important connections between; the spiritual and mortal realm, the strength of identity and genealogical connections and the retention of knowledge. The narrative speaks of Tamarau, a celestial being, who descended from the heavens after being captivated by the beauty of the earthly being, Rongo-ue-roa. Their union gave birth to a son named Awa-nui-a-rangi, the eponymous ancestor of Te Atiawa.
Tamarau and Rongo-ue-roa are each represented in the two roof forms of the terminal and throughout the design by distinctive colours. Tamarau, the celestial being, is symbolised in bright yellow, like the rays of the sun. Rongo-ue-roa, the terresetrial being, is a scarlet pink taken from the local Napuka flower that is endemic to the site growing along the Taranaki coastline and originally enticing the ancestors of Puketapu to settle on this land.
Because this scarlett pink carries so much meaning, it was important for it to be woven into the terminal’s design to reinforce the connection of Puketapu to the land and its surrounding narratives. This colour has been used amongst the Maori artwork; the 70m long ‘Te Hiringa’ mural, the entrance pare carvings above the wind lobbies and in the glazing manifestations, wayfinding, furniture, and carpet.
A custom ‘Disperse’ carpet was made for the Departure’s lounge and the Airport offices on the mezzanine. The scarlet pink was subtly integrated into the pattern of a bespoke and flexible 9 x 36 tile. This tile was placed in a kaokao pattern in the Departure lounge to reflect the ceiling baffles. The pattern emulates the angles of the arm movements used to formally welcome visitors.
These narratives are subtly reinforced in the form and finishes of the terminal at varying scales and levels. As a place with people continuously departing and arriving, this layering encourages the discovery of new elements with each successive visit. It allows us to participate in the conversation and make connections themselves between these subtle integrations of the stories being told. For Puketapu, this project provides both an acknowledgement of the past and a bold vision of the future. It is a gateway to the Taranaki region and a statement to all that Puketapu are present once again on whenua tuku iho.
The new terminal is a significant achievement for Puketapu that has resonated far and wide. The opening ceremony, held at dawn, was attended by over 400 people including many who had travelled from other parts of the country specifically for the event.
“As a Sovereign Native Peoples, Māori have had large tracts of land and property expropriated as part of the colonial project, an unfortunate consequence of this process is that Māori have become 2nd class citizens in their own land and are largely invisible on the built and natural landscape.
This Airport terminal was built on the confiscated tribal coastal estate of the Puketapu Hapū. Our Hapū takes their collective tribal identity from this piece of land that was taken for the purposes of the Airport and so it has been a source of grief for Puketapu for well over five decades.
Therefore, our involvement throughout all aspects of the project is seen as an act of restorative justice to be visible and present on this sacred site by integrating our creation narrative throughout the whole build. This included (but was not limited to) the wider Airport precinct, landscaping, architectural and internal design.
Having our narrative drive the design process means that the building exhibits a design coherency to our social and cultural reality both past and present and a sense of fidelity to the land upon which it sits. The integrity of the process was sealed with the negotiation of commercial space that we operate and the securement of a permanent seat at governance level.”
Rangi Kipa of Puketapu Hapū
Te Hono is an airport like no other and indeed, it could not exist anywhere else. The terminal building is a unique expression of the land and its people. It is distinctly Taranaki, rich in meaning and cultural significance, and it offers a window to the potential inherent in projects that truly embrace partnership with mana whenua.