New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Te Ahi Tupua

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Director
    Stacy Gordine
  • Ringatoi Matua / Design Director
    Stacy Gordine
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    Nick Dallimore, Derek Kawiti
  • Kaitautoko / Contributors
    Clive Fugill, Eraia Kiel, Taparoto Nicholson
  • Client
    Rotorua Lakes Council
Judge's comments:

A true example of inter-disciplinary and cross cultural methods and partnerships coming together to innovate and tell Māori stories in new exciting ways.


Te Ahi Tupua means The Eternal Fire – representing the divine that burns within all of us.

Te Ahi Tupua portrays the Te Arawa legend of how Rotorua’s geothermal area came to be. It also incorporates elements of navigation, education and the people of the area.

Inspired in part by camera footage captured from deep within the world famous Pōhutu Geyser, the design pays homage to its rich natural features – the vortex reflecting different forms of geothermal energy – steam vents, heat, flames and eruption. Inspiration also came from the Māori concept of kaitiakitanga o te whenua - guardianship of natural resources.

This concept signifies the importance of caring for our environment.

Derived from traditional wood carving customs, the contemporary interpretation has also embraced new technologies and materials.
The natural features of flames and heat have a metaphorical link to te ahi kā, keeping the home fires burning, reflecting the importance of tangata whenua, iwi kāinga, mana whenua.

Soaring 12m into the air, the sculpture’s skyward reach acknowledges the pursuit of education, learning and knowledge.
The sculpture also embodies navigation and travelling, both ancient and modern, through the tohunga Ngātoro-i-rangi’s explorations of the Central North Island, connections with other areas and tribal groups, and the warmth of hospitality, or manaakitanga, shown to visitors.

• 17,300 3D printing hours
• 262kms of PLA filament
• 1730 pieces printed (including reprints and test pieces)
• Labour hours in excess of 20,000

The internal structure is built from more than 1200 interlocking 3D printed cylinder blocks. The blocks are made from Polyactic Acid (PLA), a thermoplastic often derived from renewable sources such as corn starch or sugar cane. More than 262kms of PLA material was used during printing. Each block is unique like a fingerprint, and when connected, fit together to create the long curved sections that gives Te Ahi Tupua its shape.
The unique shape of each block was essential to maintaining the curved design.

Assembly :
Once printed, the 3D printed sections blocks were glued together to create short three metre sections. Those sections were then fitted with a carbon fibre sleeve and cured with a layer of epoxy resin to seal the 3D printed surface. . Several of these sections were then joined together to form the full 12 metre lengths. Each length was then hand-wrapped in layers of carbon fibre and fibreglass material.
After every five layers were applied by hand, the sections were vacuum infused with epoxy resin (to draw the resin through the composite layers).
To achieve the desired structural strength certification, this process was repeated until each piece of the sculpture had between 12 and 20 layers of material and resin surrounding the inner 3D printed core.

The use of carbon fibre meant that the sculpture would be incredibly strong while remaining relatively lightweight for its size.

There is no other sculpture of this size and shape that has been constructed from 3D printed material and hand-wrapped in layers of carbon fibre.