Toro Whakaara: Responses to our built environment

At CoCA: ĀKAU, Edith Amituanai, Kirsty Lillico, Sione Faletau and Wayne Youle. At Objectspace: HOOPLA, Isobel Thom, Lindsay Yee, Ngahuia Harrison and Raphaela Rose

New work by ten practitioners spanning the fields of architecture, design, craft and art explores our experiences of the built environment. Toro Whakaara considers the power and politics of place through the social interaction, occupation and movement it allows. 

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In developing work for the exhibition, participants were invited to consider the term ‘hostile architecture’ as a catalyst. Also known as defensive architecture or unpleasant design, hostile architecture uses the design of the built environment as a strategy to maintain order or control behaviour. Its deployment in public spaces is a useful lens for considering how our cities and spaces are shaped, and whose access and use are prioritised through its design.

Practitioners took a geographical location from anywhere in Aotearoa as a starting point – from a basketball court in Kaikohe to the rebuilding of Kaikoura’s coastal highway. At once critical and celebratory, works in the exhibition examine the effects of urban development on the land and its peoples.

A proposition emerges within the exhibition: that affirming the success of a building, street or suburb is both tumultuous and unstable. The planning and design of the built environment cannot adequately be measured by its perceived beautification or the consumption it produces. Instead its greatest potency is where it offers a breadth of possibilities to its participants that brings joy and opportunity to daily life. When it cares for and upholds the mana of the citizens it exists to serve. 

The title Toro Whakaara references tensions that exist between human experience and the built environment. The kupu "toro" means to explore and also to "reach", while "whakaara" can mean “hostile” or "awaken". The title was gifted to the exhibition by collaborators ĀKAU, a design and architecture studio based in Kaikohe. It is an expression of the process of wānanga and exchange that has guided the exhibition. 

The exhibition runs concurrently at CoCA Toi Moroki, Ōtautahi, and Objectspace, Tāmaki Makaurau as part of the ongoing programme partnership. Ten projects span both galleries simultaneously, with exhibition design by Micheal McCabe.

This exhibition is presented by Architectus and made possible with support from The Rae Family Trust, The Warren Trust, Christchurch City Council, and Creative New Zealand.