A line most regular

April 11, 2016

The research process for our design for the 1769 Garden at Longbush Ecosanctuary involved looking critically into the places that Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander encountered as part of Cook’s 1769 voyage to New Zealand. One of the comments that resonated with me was Banks’ observation that Māori cultivations were laid out meticulously – ‘by a line most regularly’ in Banks’ words. In parts, mounds were formed in a quincunx pattern, like the dots that signify the number 5 on a die.

We have had an interest in the patterns that evolved from Maori occupation for a long time, and have looked into them in various ways within our work. This includes the use of stone to form structures associated with cultivations, pā sites, walls for demarcation, especially as employed at Otuataua Stonefields in Auckland, Te Koru Pā near Oakura, and at Palliser Bay (where ancient walls remain as shadows within the pasture).

In the case of the 1769 Garden design, we pursued the idea of abstract arrangements of stone for 2 reasons. Firstly, this was an inhabited land when Banks and Solander arrived; particularly in certain areas such as Anaura Bay. Reflecting the actual impressions that they saw upon their arrival must include some echo of the marks that Māori laid upon the land. Secondly, the abstract nature of these artificial intrusions provides a strong, interesting aesthetic that serves to organise the spaces within the garden and focus one’s view towards the surrounding landscape.

On the trip down to Gisborne, I stopped at Waioeka Gorge to look more closely at some recent stone structures that undoubtedly play a role in keeping the land in place on the main highway that passes through there. A group of 3 bastion-like structures made from steel and local rock (possibly the same Matahina stone that we used at Longbush) stand in the path of the river, at a point where onrushing floodwaters could potentially affect the road’s stability.