An examination of photographic records pertaining to the architecture of Rua Kēnana and the community of Maungapōhatu, 1911-16
Keywords:Architectural photography, Architecture, Māori, New Zealand, History, 20th Century, Aotearoa
New Zealand's architectural history, while in no way a culturally comprehensive documentary, has found a special place for Kēnana's isolated Te Urewera community. Credit for this can be attached to Hiona, the remarkable circular temple Kēnana constructed that has, in no small way, become an icon of Māori architecture. However, it is not well appreciated that, by the time of Kēnana's detention, the ritual functioning of Hiona had been largely abandoned. Indeed, the community of Maungapōhatu needs to be understood as having an architecture of two phases. Hiona was constructed in 1907 during a period of optimism for Kēnana and his followers. However, by 1911, Maungapōhatu was in significant decline and in 1914 Kēnana began to systematically reconstruct the architecture of his community. Hiona was abandoned and a more conformist meeting house, Tānenui-a-rangi, was built. At the same time Kēnana reclassified the physical boundaries of the village, clearing areas of dwellings and establishing new spatial hierarchies concerning tapu (sacred) and noa (common) values. In this paper I will be examining in detail the extraordinary photographs available of Maungapōhatu from this timeframe to extract characteristics of the architecture. While some attention will be given to Hiona and the establishment of the village, the emphasis of the research is placed on the second reconstruction period with attention being given to the discernible architectural significance of the changes. In particular this will address Hiruharama Hou, Kēnana's twin gable house which remained a constant above the village and whose architectural role has not yet been sufficiently explored.