In Glen Innes, Auckland, Archimedia’s new community and arts centre Te Oro is not intended simply as a venue for events. It is also a space where the ancient Pacific culture is validated and where the heritage, concerns and values of the predominantly Maori and Polynesian population are paramount. The term “Oro”, reverberations in a chamber or a low droning tone, is historically associated with the local Maori culture and makes up part of the centre’s full name, Te Oro. The name aptly describes the flattened tube form of the building, resembling a giant instrument, and the activities taking place within. The design team envisioned a building reminiscent of a grove of trees where communities used to meet to share knowledge, culture and creativity. Te Oro’s distinctive roof, a geometric “canopy of leaves” suspended above a number of “tree trunks” is derived from this architectural concept.
The outer columns, in the form of trees, are each carved to symbolize a specific cultural group and, in the interior of the building, the layout is homogenous instead of being hierarchical. Te Oro resembles a pavilion building with internal spaces opening out on all sides at ground level. Te Oro’s three “adzed” roof sections enclose two transitional spaces where natural light is able to flood into the core of the building. The upper level has been constructed using laminated veneered lumber components, and combined with the façade’s faceted cantilevered design made of ALUCOBOND®. “I was wondering how Te Oro could possibly be clad in ply. It’s not, of course; the triangular facets are ALUCOBOND® with a timber look” says Architect Lindsay Mackie. “Like anyone of our generation who was reared towards the end of modernism I was initially a bit conflicted about the cladding’s honesty but we do have a fancy term for this sort of thing; the building’s skin is skeuomorphic. A skeuomorph is a new thing that retains a semblance of the old. Skeuomorphism makes new things seem to have some of the qualities of the old that afford us comfort. Te Oro also has a good dose of cross-cultural hybridity. The carvings around its base were crafted mostly by Maori but cut on a CNC router – this doesn’t make them any less honest or authentic.” There are many aspects of Te Oro worthy of admiration: the faceted façade, carved pillars, tukutuku panel and interior architecture.