CASA builds a ‘womb-like' early learning center for a maori tribe in new zealand
 

CASA builds a ‘womb-like' early learning center for a maori tribe in new zealand

emerging from the landscape in kawakawa, new zealand, is an early childhood building realized by collingridge and smith architects (CASA). developed for a maori tribe (ngāti hine), the concept behind te mirumiru embraces rich symbolism in keeping with traditional maori architecture, and integrates passive environmental design features to achieve a minimal impact on the earth.

CASA builds a ‘womb-like' early learning center for a maori tribe in new zealand designboom

all images courtesy of collingridge and smith architects (CASA)

 

 

the scheme was developed by CASA to provide space for the children (tamariki) to learn about maori culture and customs. the brief also stipulated that the new intervention should be designed in harmony with nature. with this in mind, the main concept centers around the maori tradition that all life is born from the womb of papatūānuku (earth mother), under the sea. the building was therefore formed into the shape of a womb, appearing to grow organically from the grass. 

CASA builds a ‘womb-like' early learning center for a maori tribe in new zealand designboom

 

 

the only opening to the building is along the north façade and reads as a cut in the earth. this cut symbolically represents the caesarian birth through which all of the tribe (iwi) take their lineage: their ancestor hine ā maru is said to be the first recorded maori woman to deliver a child by caesarian section and survive the procedure around 600 years ago. it is from this opening that the children symbolically enter the ‘world of light’, where they play.

CASA builds a ‘womb-like' early learning center for a maori tribe in new zealand designboom

 

 

the building is located on marshy ground, with the ‘womb-like form’ resembling an island, relating back to the tradition that all land is born from under the sea. a bridge is formed to provide access to the island, which is symbolically shaped into the tribal waka (canoe) ngātokimatawhaorua, representing the journey of the tribes forefathers from hawaiki to aotearoa (new zealand). 

CASA builds a ‘womb-like' early learning center for a maori tribe in new zealand designboom

 

 

the interior, below the earth, represents the nearby waiomio caves where the ancestors lay their buried and the ruapekapeka pā (fortification) where the ancestor kawiti cleverly used underground shelters as defence from attack. the circular form of the design also draws inspiration from the traditional pā.

CASA builds a ‘womb-like' early learning center for a maori tribe in new zealand designboom

 

 

it was equally important to integrate passive environmental design features into the building, therefore all the ‘symbolic’ features have many environmental purposes. all the glazing is oriented to the north for maximum solar gain, while the super-insulated earth roof results in minimal heat loss, which is further assisted by the unheated circulation space placed to the south. for further internal comfort, an exposed concrete construction and natural ventilation allows the building to be passively cooled in summer, with minimal heating back-up in winter achieved by a solar hot water underfloor system.

CASA builds a ‘womb-like' early learning center for a maori tribe in new zealand designboom

 

 

all the spaces are naturally lit and require no additional electrical lighting during the daytime. all blackwater is treated on site and the clean nutrient rich water is used to irrigate the green roof. the design has received a 6 greenstar education rating (the highest possible) from the new zealand green building council, making it one of only three buildings in the country to receive this accolade, and is the only greenstar rated early childhood center in the whole of australasia. te mirumiru early childhood centre has received 11 international and national awards, culminating in 2014 with the world green building council’s leadership in sustainable design award.

CASA builds a ‘womb-like' early learning center for a maori tribe in new zealand designboom

CASA builds a ‘womb-like' early learning center for a maori tribe in new zealand designboom  

CASA builds a ‘womb-like' early learning center for a maori tribe in new zealand designboom

CASA builds a ‘womb-like' early learning center for a maori tribe in new zealand designboom

CASA builds a ‘womb-like' early learning center for a maori tribe in new zealand designboom

CASA builds a ‘womb-like' early learning center for a maori tribe in new zealand designboom

CASA builds a ‘womb-like' early learning center for a maori tribe in new zealand designboom

 

 

project info:

 

project name: te mirumiru early childhood education centre

location: kawakawa, northland, new zealand

architect: collingridge and smith architects (CASA)

client: ngati hine health trust

area: 6157 ft2 (572 m2)

 

designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

 

edited by: lynne myers | designboom

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