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Embracing tradition

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A Maori whakairo stands tall at the entry to the Westpac building.

Embracing tradition


The relationship between Westpac New Zealand and the local iwi Nga-ti Wha-tua o Orakei is celebrated with a large commissioned whakairo (carving) in the entrance foyer. Toitu Design was engaged by Westpac to design an art work that would also be specific to the site.

Arekatera (Katz) Maihi of Toitu Design says the company worked with the thematic Westpac had introduced to the building, where each floor references the different geological strata. "A vertical poupou (upright carving) was assessed as the most suitable work for the space," Maihi says. "This 6.3m form draws the eye upwards, creating a visual link between the ground floor and the mezzanine above."

The whakairo, which is carved from a 4000-year-old kauri log, is based on Maui Tikitiki a- Ta-ranga, and the relationship between Takutai – the land on which the building stands – and Nga-ti Wha-tua o Orakei. "Maui is an eponymous ancestor of many iwi," says Maihi. "He performed many great feats and is characterised as being persistent, strong and innovative. These characteristics fit with Westpac's brief and reflect the bank's corporate and community activities. The whakairo is a representation of Maui, carved in traditional form, fishing or connecting himself to the whenua Takutai."

Other whakairo designed and carved by Toitu Design include the four tekoteko (human figures) at the newly refurbished Eden Park.

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First published date: 09 June 2011