Kate Jowsey Symbiosis

  • Tauira / Student
    Kate Jowsey
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Georgina Stokes – Ngāi Tahu, Jen Archer-Martin – Ngāpuhi, Stuart Foster

Symbiosis responds to a brief to design a small timber-framed pavilion for the learning of waiata, to be fitted out with various iterations of a selected waste material. Being challenged to explore the whakapapa and qualities of a material, the ways in which it might be manipulated, design strategies for disassembly and reuse, and how the voices of the material might sing of the stories of the land.

This proposal centres around the pātere Waewae Taku Haere (‘my journeying feet’) by Te Ati Awa kaumatua Kura Moeaha, with the rangi gifted by Ngataiharuru Taepa. The chant takes us on a journey through the land, histories and place names of the landscapes of Te Whanganui-a-Tara, beginning and ending at Pukeahu, where the pavilion will be located. The design responds in particular to the sixth verse, which speaks of the underground waterways in the Basin Reserve area. Connections are made between the unseen subterranean movements of water in this ecology, and that of the chosen material: cork.

The presence and cycles of water are at the heart of both ecologies, their capacity for supporting biodiversity, and impact on this of natural and human forces, including colonisation. Dual ecocides of freshwater systems and biodiversity are implicated in the single-use material culture of the capitalist built environment. Investigating the sustainable and renewable potential of cork, with its history of cultivation and hand-harvesting in Portugal, offers new ways of thinking about building in the local environment of what was once a thriving wetland, food gathering and cultivation area, and the heart of a community.

Cork is thus employed in a way that celebrates its regenerative and atmospheric capacities, supporting reconnection to place through contemplative experience. The materiality invites silence and bodily presence in order to both journey inward and connect outward with the elements of material, light, and water. Curved walls of scorched cork drape down from a linear opening at the ridgeline of the structure. Light and rain play down the crumbling black surface, defying gravity to follow the gentle curve as it recedes back toward a second slot in the base of the wall. Water returns to earth, carrying nutrients from the charred surface – echoing the role of the cork oak’s root systems in maintaining ecological equilibrium.

A seat, for two people to contemplate individually or together, holds each body in intimate relation with the wall, rain and sky. Time seems to stretch as the journey of the rain from sky to earth is elongated by the curved wall. When compelled to stretch the body, the moulded floor planks offer a sensuous experience of walking. Taking their form from the sound waves of the waiata and their spacing from the number of beats per minute, the floor strips press the songs of land and material into the body from the feet up. It is through our journeying feet that we re-learn how to live in symbiosis with this place.