Te Wharehou o Waikaremoana is a project created by Ngai Tūhoe and supported by the Department of Conservation. Its dual function is to cater to visitors of Lake Waikaremoana and the Great Walk, and serve as an administration space for local tribal authority. The centre includes ticketing, interpretation, café, kitchen, administration, retail and wānanga space.
The late Ivan Mercep initiated Space planning for the project, with Tennent Brown reconceiving the building form and developing on the arrangement of spaces in a revised concept design. The new concept draws from the geomorphology of sandstone slabs at nearby Onepoto Bay, which originated from a slip that formed the lake a millennia ago. The roof drapes between precast elements, expressing the basin of the lake, with exposed rainwater cables from which rain falls to lake stone swale below. Ngai Tūhoe elected to over-clad the precast with burnt timber, giving expression to ‘ahi kā’ – the home fires of occupation. The building represents for them a remarkable return to inhabiting Te Urewera after many decades of exclusion. The broad overhanging draped roof provides generous veranda spaces for trampers and visitors. The main space provides manaakitanga (hospitality) and wānanga (learning) with supporting admin, retail, kitchen and café spaces.
The building was designed to be constructed with minimal site time, implementing prefabrication to mitigate the risks and costs of building remotely. Using locally sourced materials and labour was a high priority.
Designed in accordance with the Living Building Challenge (LBC), this project achieved a ground breaking approach to sustainability. Ngai Tūhoe have also used LBC at Te Whare Kura in Taneatua. LBC aims to transform how we think about our built environment, providing a framework to achieve a toxic chemical-free building industry, championing energy, water and waste neutral buildings and communities.