It is unfortunate that some people, without thinking or knowing, labelled this the plastic waka or the Tupperwaka when in fact the materials being used are all technologically sound. Rather than be disrespectful to Maori culture I would suggest the waka building is a pointer to the place Maori will take in our society in the coming decades.In which Sir Ron Carter, the Patron of something called The Committee for Auckland, misses the point. It is not the technological soundness that is at issue; it is the cultural naffness.
Without thinking or knowing, I would suggest the waka building is a pointer towards self-pastiche. New Zealand is littered with buildings that look like things that are not buildings. They are neither clever nor funny. The waka is worse still: it is neither clever nor intended to be funny. It is deadly serious, a rather sad attempt to represent Maori culture with what might be an oversized copy of a toy floating in Pita Sharples' bathtub.
The powers that be might have chosen an architect, perhaps a distinguished Maori architect (PDF), to design a building that would represent Maori culture as progressive, innovative, those sorts of things. Instead, they chose a big, dumb literal thing. It's like Britain representing itself with images of the Household Cavalry. You don't really find it anywhere else but here and in the Old Country: other cultures have enough wit, courage and trust in architecture to choose new ideas.
Here, we hand the opportunities to make public sculpture to movie model makers and engineers and we fill our landscape with giant vegetables, so what hope for architecture?
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