After visiting the site several times and talking to the public, the artist realized that he would like to have something that wasn’t too abstract or unrecognizable, and spoke to the local history of the area.
The design depicts a carved koruru (head figure) and maihi (representing arms), as seen on the marae (Maori meeting house), transforming into a 1920s architect’s compass.
In this depiction, the transition from traditional Maori techniques and architecture to European materials and design can be likened to the establishment of relationships between the tangata whenua natives and the European settlers of the region, explains Keri-Mei Zagrobelna.
“It is innovative and I hope it will spark interest and curiosity in the area’s history through the architecture, commerce and significant historical stories that take place in the territory.”
The building is located on what would have been the foreshore area before land reclamation to develop the city, and is located close to important sites of significance for the mana whenua, Kumutoto Pā, Kumutoto Stream and the old shore.
Wellington City Council’s City Arts Team has partnered with the owner of 86 Customhouse Quay, SAVICA, and their property management company, CBRE, to support the development of the artwork on the facade of a prominent heritage building in the center of town.
SAVICA has expressed interest in transforming this site – once a billboard – into a contemporary art platform that enhances the streetscape and contributes to the creativity of the city.
“We are committed to playing our part in enhancing the building’s character and heritage while maintaining its connection to the city’s evolving culture and arts scene. Keri-Mei here symbolizes the marriage of two cultures in excellence,” says Arnauld Kindt of SAVICA.
Designed by Wellington architects Clere & Clere in 1925 and completed in 1928, the building is nearing its centenary. The architecture, derived from Renaissance palace design, is one of the most significant examples of this form in the capital. Dominating the facade of Customhouse Quay, a large portal takes up almost a third of the vertical height of the building. This leads to a main office space which, at the time of construction, was one of the largest single bedrooms in New Zealand.
The artwork will be in place for at least the next 12 months, complementing the city’s sculpture trail and the architecture of the central business district.