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Essay

Toro Whakaara: An Acknowledgement

Responses to our built environment

In Aotearoa we lack a rich history of exhibition-making on the subject of design or architecture.

Major shows in our large public galleries over the last three decades (which number so few they can be counted off on the hands) focus on retrospective treatments of a body of work, the private house, or an architect’s life. While valuable, these exhibitions can be narrow in scope. Drawings, photographs and models that comprise the architect’s survey are in contrast to other art forms. Instead of the once-in-a-lifetime drawing together of works within the gallery, in its place the viewer is shown a map that points them elsewhere: to houses, buildings, public spaces and civic infrastructure that exist in far-reaching places, some inaccessible to public view. 

When Objectspace relocated in 2017, a key part of the gallery’s expansion was a more comprehensive commitment to architecture. Design has always featured within the gallery’s remit, but to newly state architecture as one of three pillars of the gallery’s focus was intended as a clear signal to audiences, and when the gallery re-opened it was with New Zealand’s 2016 entry into the Venice Architecture Biennale, Future Islands curated by Kathy Waghorn and Charles Walker.

Since then, we have been examining what kind of architecture exhibition making will be important to Objectspace. As urban development continues to grow at pace, reshaping relationships between human behaviour and the natural environment, a reclaiming of architecture as a design practice that affects everyone feels critical – it is here all around us.

Coinciding with the opening of the exhibition Toro Whakaara: Responses to our built environment, Objectspace is delighted to announce the major support of architecture and urbanism practice Architectus and welcome the studio on board as our Strategic Design Partner. This support will aid the gallery in the development of one large-scale architecture and design exhibition annually and contribute to associated public programming and publishing outcomes. Architectus is renowned for its work in city planning and urban spaces. Their support demonstrates a commitment to generating provocation, thinking and reflection on our shared experiences of the built environment. I acknowledge this support with deep gratitude.

Toro Whakaara is the largest exhibition ever produced by Objectspace. For the first time we have commissioned ten new works by a rich and diverse group of practitioners that will span both ends of the motu, in collaboration with our programme partner CoCA Toi Moroki Centre for Contemporary Art. It marks a significant and celebratory moment for the gallery and it is with Architectus’ support alongside The Rae Family Trust, The Warren Trust, Auckland Council, Christchurch City Council and Creative New Zealand that we are here. Tēnā rawa atu koutou.


This text is republished from Toro Whakaara: Responses to our built environment, a publication produced by Objectspace to accompany an exhibition of the same name. The publication is edited by Tessa Forde, and copy-edited by Anna Hodge. 

Publication front cover featuring ĀKAU, Kaikohe basketball court, 2019. Design by Alt Group.