Georgia Pope Kaituna

  • Tauira / Student
    Georgia Pope
  • Kaiako / Lecturer
    Tobias Danielmeier
  • School

Over 200 years ago, South Dunedin was a lush and thriving native wetland called ‘Kaituna’. Bound with dense native forest, Kaituna was a large water catchment that took water from surrounding hills and tidal sea water from the Otago Harbour. The bordering sand dunes along the Dunedin coast were vital in protecting the wetland from sea swells and flooding. The landscape provided an extensive habitat for plants and animal species and was a significant hunting ground for local Māori people. Kaituna was crucial for natural draining and flood protection.

When European settlers arrived in Dunedin, the landscape was not viewed as a resource, but rather the potential for flat land. Through draining and reclaiming the wetland they interrupted the natural function of the land, ultimately leading to an ecological collapse. The loss of the wetland removed the capacity for the area to drain naturally during flooding periods, which today makes South Dunedin of considerable risk to surface flooding and sea level rise.

Located on the Forbury Park Raceway and Kettle Park sports ground, the ’Kaituna Wetland Development’ seeks to erode the division between urban space and ecology. Through celebrating and reinstating the older ecological and landscape values of the Kaituna wetland, the design introduces much needed community facilities to the inner-city suburb of South Dunedin. It provides an alternative and intuitive solution to the flooding and climate change factors are affecting the suburb.

The design centres around a man-made wetland and sand dune environment, that imitates the function and aesthetic of the original Kaituna landscape. With various habitats, walkways and viewpoints, the new landscape reduces surface flooding, promotes wildlife, and uplifts the spirit on the visitor.

Immersed within the wetland, the visitor center focuses on adaptability, community, and a sustainable ecological response. The design creates focus for a marginalized suburb, with an information centre, research centre, business hub and educational facilities. Derived from the idea of a living eco system, the fluid form mimics the soft, organic landscape of Kaituna, while the green roof and use of natural materials seamlessly blend into the intricate patterns and textures of living things.

A raised board walk circles the building, migrating down into the wetland, encouraging visitors to move with the environment and observe as the landscape continuously changes. The water and vegetation from Kaituna are pulled into the core of the visitor center, with glass apertures displaying nature in its entirety. The design uses the landscape as an exhibition to invite visitors to experience the process of observation and interpretation of the natural environment.

The connotation of Kaituna as a Māori place can be seen in the use of textures and colours, with the timber louvre screens simulating ‘Pokeka Pingao’ (Māori rain cloak). The cloaks were made from long blades of the native gold colored Pingao leaf found in the sand dunes. The design uses the Pingao plant in the reconstruction of the sand dunes to pay homage to the Māori heritage of the site, and link back to the visitor centre.