“Te Hono”: The moving story of the Maori behind the New Zealand airport

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A tender love story of their tribe Maori inspired the design of the new peripheral airport in New Zealand. The “Te Hono, Which means “to connect”, is in the final stages of the design award among “heavy” names of international airports such as Terminal B in La Guardia, New York, Brandenburg Airport, Berlin, “Hazrat Sultan” of Turkey, the Philippines, and Athens, according to a Guardian report.

Te Hono Airport is located in New Plymouth, a city with a population of 85,000. Completed in 2020. Located on ancestral land seized by the Maori tribe in the 1960s.

The goal, according to the Athens News Agency, was to represent important ancestral stories on the mast of the building. After six design choices, Rani Kipa (cultural design manager) came up with one. The “Ascension from Earth, Descending from Heaven”. It is the story of Tamarau, a celestial creature who was so fascinated by the earthly beauty of Rongwe-roa that he came down to meet her in the form of a man.

The roof of the airport is inspired by this story as a figure appears to ascend from a shaped mound (Rongo-ue-roa) to meet the second form, a silver and blue roof sloping down (Tamarau). Their symbolic union is also represented in the interior by bright colors in traditional Tukutuku motifs, 70 meters, (woven wall panel depicting the stories of an iwi).

Campbell Craig, architect said that the most exciting aspect of the project was the intensive collaboration between the Maori, the airport and the architects, which allowed for a sense of collective ownership.

So the vision for “Te Hono” airport, to hide a symbolism for all the people of the area and to be an opportunity to overcome the conflicts of the past, succeeded.

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