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Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
Critical Community Praxis Otara
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Critical Community Praxis Otara

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A group of long-term unemployed Pasifika youth team up with white university architecture students to revitalize the Otara town center with surprising results.

A group of long-term unemployed Pasifika youth team up with white university architecture students to revitalize the Otara town center with surprising results.

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  • 1. CRITICAL COMMUNITY PRAXIS THE OTARA PROJECT © 2009 Tony Ward To download this and other free PDFs visit: www.TonyWardEdu.com.
  • 2. CASE STUDY THE OTARA PROJECT What follows is a case study in which a Community Design and Development Project in Otara, New Zealand exemplifies and articulates the Critical Sustainability Theories outlined previously.The project was completed in 1994 at the University of Auckland School of Architecture. It extended over a period of 20 weeks and involved 24 Architecture students working alongside eight long-term unemployed youth from Otara, one of Auckland’s poorest suburbs, populated mostly by Pacific Islanders, indigenous Maori and (more recently) increasing numbers of Asian immigrants. This is their story.
  • 3. SOCIAL CONTEXT Otara is a suburb of South Auckland inhabited predominantly by Pacific Island and Maori people. The township is satellite to Auckland and although it lies adjacent to some of the wealthiest suburbs, it comprises a swath of often-neglected State housing clustered around an outdated shopping centre, much tagged by the local youth whose opposed gangs divide along ethnic lines and are modeled on the Cripps and Bloods. of Los Angeles. Otara provided the location for the renowned New Zealand film, Once Were Warriors. Its statistics are depressing. It boasts Otara Market the highest truancy, unemployment and crime rates in the Auckland region, and has the greatest number of disaffected young people of any area of New Zealand. In an attempt to improve the Otara economy, and to attract investment into the community, a group of local business, civic and church leaders in 1993 formed Enterprise Otara - to “turn around” the social, economic and spiritual image of the town by building upon the rich and colourful resources and talents of the residents, to be witnessed at the iconic Saturday Otara Market. An essential part of this revitalisation process were refurbishment and redevelopment proposals for the existing shopping centre at the heart of the community. In 1994, the Community Design Studio at the Department of Architecture at the University of Auckland was asked by the Manukau City Welfare Day at the TAB Council (Otara’s legislative body) to do this work.
  • 4. DESIGN FOR SOCIAL CHANGE The Community Design Studio already had experience of Town revitalisation projects, in Hamilton (pop. 70,000), Whakatane (pop. 25,000) and Highbury (pop. 25,000), working in each case as consultants to the Town Council. Excellent designs and Design Reports were produced, only to gather dust on the library shelves. In each case, the real social change for which the project had been conceived by the Community Design Studio had remained unrealised. At best, a vision and opportunities had been opened up for further development and corporate profit, without any benefit to those for whom the programme had been intended. The Otara project was conceived differently. Given a history of municipal neglect, and suspicion of tokenism, a condition was laid down as part of the terms of engagement. The social change espoused by the Council must be made a part of the process. The Council were required to employ long-term unemployed Otara youth to work in an equal capacity alongside the University students. An agreement was made to employ these youth on a 1:2 ratio - that is, one unemployed youth for every two Architecture students. Eight unemployed youth (7 men and 1 woman) from the local community (Maori, Tongan, Samoan and Nueian) were employed, through government subsidised Work Training schemes. With the twenty university students enrolled in the course, they produced a design which was justly acclaimed by the Manukau Council as well as by Enterprise Otara. The Otara members of the design team worked for 24 weeks on an equal basis with the university students and, by the end of the project were producing design drawings which were indistinguishable from students who had had two or three previous years of design tuition. At the conclusion of the project, four of the eight were accepted into tertiary education while a fifth now works as a member of Primitive Nature, a Pacific Island design consultancy working full-time for the Auckland City Council. This is their story.
  • 5. THE PEOPLE Some team members. (Left to Right) Riley Letalu, Daryn Ahotolu, Paul O’Neil, Tony Ward (lecturer) Maurits Kelderman (tutor) Soli Fonoti , Marina Makani, Charlie Carlson, (project co-ordinator), Len Brown. (Manukau City Councillor). Missing is Carl XXX (who left mid-way through the project to accept an offered place at Design School).
  • 6. THE SETTING The Mall looking South The Otara Shopping Centre (East) The Mall looking North The Otara Shopping Centre (West)
  • 7. THE SHOPFRONT One of the intended roles of the Otara “buddies” was to link the University students into the community - to facilitate community dialogue about the project. The first step in this process was to establish a base within the community itself, rather than. At the University twenty kilometres away. A local retailer donated an empty shop (rent-free) within the shopping centre mall. This was decorated by local Polytechnic students as part of their Painting and Decorating course and was opened and blessed by local kaumatua. Notices were displayed in the shop window in Māori, Samoan, Cook Island Māori, Nueian and Tongan, inviting residents to drop in for coffee and chat about their hopes and aspirations for their community.
  • 8. THE OFFICE The interior of the Project Office was further decorated by a large poster about the project, and colourful paintings produced by local High School Art students were hung on the walls - all intended to make the place feel comfortable for the local residents and to reflect our appreciation their culture (right). To facilitate dialogue, the team produced a large (4.8m x 2.4m) scale model of the entire shopping centre site and its immediate surroundings (below right). A notice board, with suggestive and evocative images of the progressing design work was placed outside the shop (below left), in the pedestrian mall, to entice passing shoppers to drop in and participate in the project.
  • 9. GROUP DESIGN SESSIONS Students and “buddies” all had regular hours of work which were logged and noted (for payment purposes). Attendance was mandatory and generally kept. Only one of the employed team members failed to regularly attend, and it was eventually discovered that he could not read and had been too embarrassed to say. He chose to leave the team and was replaced. The first team task was to have each member try to draw their ideas about what ought to be done. From the start, the “buddies” were reluctant to draw - seeing themselves compared to middle-class design students with two or three years prior experience. Initially, they sat and listened, but were too shy to engage in demonstrating their own perceived difficulties with graphic representation. They would talk and discuss, but they would not draw. They left that to the more experienced of the Architecture students (below right)
  • 10. FIRST ATTEMPTS The first halting attempts at drawing by one of the “buddies” - the perspective drawing below - demonstrate a definite timidity which was understandable in the context of the relative skill levels of the team members. But it did draw upon experiences and interests close to the hearts of the Otara members of the team - basketball. The one clear thing that they shared was a passion for basketball. It was on this basis, that the whole group decided to form themselves into a competitive basketball team - The Hupas - playing other local teams in the evenings. A basketball hoop was set up outside the shop for practice during breaks and quiet moments.
  • 11. SECRET DRAWINGS The drawings produced by the Buddies in the class contained none of the verve and colourful -in-your-face passion of the graffiti and “tagging”that otherwise covered the walls of the Otara community and with which the Buddies themselves were at least familiar and in which they were probably instrumental. Still, they soldiered on, laboriously trying to achieve what they thought were the programme expectations regarding architectural drawing. One day, I arrived from Auckland for our afternoon design session at the site office. I was a little early and entered the office unexpectedly, just in time to see one of the Buddies hiding something away under his drawing board. I asked him to show me what it was. With obvious reluctance, he revealed a drawing that bhe had been secretly doing, of a large-breasted, bikini-clad woman set against a Pacifica design (below) I asked him if he was the author and he admitted sheepishly that he was. I asked him if he realised that none of the architecture students from the University could draw so naturally and so well. He said he didn‘t believe me. I suggested that he ask them, and show them his drawing. Which he did, much to the amazement and admiration of the University students. I asked him if there were another, similar drawings that he and the other Buddies had done. He admitted that there were, and when prompted to do so, revealed a veritable treasure trove of cartoon drawings that had, until now, remained hidden.
  • 12. GRAPHIC TREASURES
  • 13. CARTOON IMAGES
  • 14. DETAIL & QUALITY To give some indication of the sheer professionalism and detail of these images. Compare one original with its line detail. The sureness and confidence of the line is astonishing - much greater than that achievable by the best of the architectural students. It speaks to a very keen eye for human observation. The dress, the characterisation of the subject, the posture, the feelings and attitude of the subject that are implicit in the folded arms, the sideways glance, the suggestion of suspicion and possible resentment…. And all carried out with an unself-consciousness and delight in imagery that characterised by a lack of any formal training. The University Architectural students and their instructors were deeply impressed
  • 15. AND THEN …BASKETBALL!
  • 16. AND MORE BASKETBALL Here was the passion that we had been missing! Each drawing, lovingly constructed to depict their humour, their frustrations (note the on-court violence), their testosterone. The female member of the group was not part of this outpouring. Occasionally, their graphic talents started to evoke more serious cultural images, but always there was a depth of humour.
  • 17. THE OTARA HUPAS Encouraged, they formed their own competitive basketball team - The Hupas
  • 18. TEAM IMAGES Once the cat was out of the bag, nothing remained sacred or immune from the piercing Pacific Island humour of the Buddies as they caricatured their University team-mates! Images of the team itself began to emerge, making fun of one tutor (below left) and celebrating my own birthday (top right).
  • 19. AFFECTION They saved their most perceptive (and fun-poking talents for the one for whom they felt the greatest affection - Maurits, their young tutor, recently graduated, a fluent speaker of te reo Maori (and some Samoan) and a prominent Palangi (European) member of the Hupas.
  • 20. COMING OUT This profusion of graphic talent required real celebration! The drawings were at first pinned up on the office notice board, and then later, as they became increasingly numerous, in the shop window.
  • 21. TRANSITIONS Over time - about two weeks - the drawings began to change, and images specifically pertinent to the project began to emerge. The students began to engage with deeper, historical images of their cultures, of ancient warriors alongside their contemporary Hupas descendants. All of this unsolicited! Although the images of men continue to show warrior-like characteristics, the images of women begin to soften, and to take on characteristics and dress of traditional P. I. cultures. A subtle shift seems to be taking place, as the buddies reconnect with their (more balanced?) ancestral gender value and relationship systems
  • 22. EMERGING AWARENESS First indications of the linking of this shift to design issues came in the preliminary sketches for the design of a fountain/monument to be included in the project. Here, the earlier warrior/testosterone laden images of the Hupas basketball warriors begins to transmute into specific images of a fisherman raising a net on board his proa, and a woman pouring water from a jug .
  • 23. FOUNTAIN This emerged as the Centrepiece of their design proposals - a proposed sculpture, with waterfall, and Polynesian fishermen designed to occupy a central place in the Market
  • 24. EARLY ATTEMPTS This led to more confident attempts to come to terms with the more technical drawing that they saw the University team members doing. As they gained confidence, the colour and scale of the representations begins to increase and become bolder - at the same time, beginning to reflect the material technologies of traditional Pacific Island cultures, and began to image the Market itself as a centre of Polynesian Culture, drawing on iconic images and references to their cultures of origin..
  • 25. (E)MERGING OF STYLES Perhaps most startling, is the emergence of an architectural style which is neither ancient nor modern, and which appears to be an amalgam of differing Pacifica themes integrated into a new and dramatic whole - as in this sketch of a meeting house, aimed at exploring traditional Pacifica design in a modern architectural context. Carl, who drew this image was soon after accepted into Design School at the local Polytechnic.
  • 26. EMERGING SKILLS Gradually, around week eight,the Buddies begin to demonstrate a new confidence in their technical drawing abilities. Below, we can see the contrast between Riley’s earliest drawing of the basketball court (left) with his later designs for a housing complex with an open Pacifica marketplace: Riley‘s Arc. He is able to adeptly shift his perspective point and use his newly-developed drawing skill to explore the design inside and out and to locate his building design into an existing context accurately.
  • 27. RILEY‘S ARC
  • 28. COLOUR SCHEMES Towards the end of the project, as the final form of the design began to take shape, it was important that the colours used in the development reflected the life and style of the community of users - the Pacific Island community. Daryl and Soli undertook the important task of experimenting with different colour schemes for the exterior of the otara Shopping Centre. Mid-way through the process, Daryl got a fit of giggles. Asked what was funny he responded, “Six months ago I was tagging this building. Now I’m doing the colour schemes for it!”
  • 29. DEVELOPMENT Recreation Ctr. PLAN While all of this has been happening, the model, too has been developing, as design ideas, developed through a continual process of drop-in community consultation. Finally, approaching the end of the project, all of these Well-Being Ctr. design ideal are integrated into a final development proposal, visually displayed in both two and three dimensions. Cultural Ctr Housing Development Plan (above) Model (Left)
  • 30. THE SUSTAINABLE PROPOSAL Participatory research had clearly identified four needed facilities for a the creation and development of sustainable Otara community. Each was designed to generate employment, bring in much needed revenue, provide essential services, act as a cultural clearing-house and support. 1. A Community Centre where: • Pacific Island groups could meet for cultural, language and art classes • To create and sell there art and cultural products • To make artist-in-residencies available with scholarships for P. I youth 2. A Well-Being Centre where: • Traditional Pacifica Healing Practices might be delivered and taught • Preventative medicine nutrition, budgeting and culturally sensitive and appropriate counseling might be available. 3. A Recreation Centre providing: • 4 competitive basketball courts able to house national competitions • A Full length swimming pool with a surge machine 4. Urban Housing with: Affordable housing for singles and elderly built into the development, close to • shops, cultural activities, recreation and education Short-stay affordable rental accommodation for visitors •
  • 31. CULTURAL CENTRE (EARLY) By week ten, and working collectively, they are beginning to develop conceptual ideas for a Pacifica Cultural Centre, to be located at the heart of the redevelopment.
  • 32. CULTURAL CENTRE PLAN
  • 33. WELL BEING CENTRE The design has several distinct elements. There is a Well-Being Centre, for instance, where traditional Pacific Island and Maori healing arts and remedies are practiced alongside their Western counterparts. Here, the emphasis is placed upon staying healthy, rather than curing illness. PERSPECTIVE (Above) The facility also offered a wide range of counseling and advice services: •Budgeting, •Family Planning •Domestic Violence •Child care •Employment PLANS
  • 34. RECREATION CENTRE The design also includes a Recreation Centre, adjacent to the Well Being Centre and incorporating an competition swimming pool and (of course) a competitive basketball arena. The swimming pool incorporates a wave- machine, intended to bring in fee-paying PERSPECTIVE customers from the surrounding affluent suburbs. ELEVATIONS RECREATION CENTRE PLANS
  • 35. AFFORDABLE HOUSING There is the development of a Residential block of one and two-bedroom apartments designed to accommodate students studying at the adjacent Polytechnic, as well as the elderly, located at the heart of the community.
  • 36. PACIFICA URBAN VILLAGE The housing complex surrounds and looks onto a Pacifica Open Market Square, the centrepiece of which is the sculpture seen earlier. Entrance to the Square is from the existing shopping mall and is flanked by two upper level gardens serving the resident. One of them houses a shaded park with water features. “Riley’s Ark” is very much in evidence here!
  • 37. HOUSING MODEL
  • 38. THE MODEL As the final day fro presenting the design to the community approaches the entire team focuses upon completing the three dimensional model of the proposal
  • 39. PUBLIC PRESENTATION By the end of the project, the drawings and the model were finished and assembled outside the office in the centre of the Otara Mall. With the community in attendance, and the City Councillors and representatives of the University of Auckland gathered around, the students made their final presentation to the Otara Community.
  • 40. PUBLIC DISCUSSION
  • 41. UNIVERSITY DISPLAY Following the presentation of the proposal to the Otara Community, an exhibition of the project was presented at the University of Auckland. The “Buddies” went on to be commissioned by the Manukau City Council to develop a colour scheme for the shopping centre. As one of the Buddies was heard to say, “ Six months ago I was tagging this place, and now here I am doing colour schemes for it!”
  • 42. THE CERTIFICATES At the completion of the project, all of the Buddies received Certificates of Completion from the University. Of the eight (previously long-term unemployed) Buddies involved in the project, four went on to tertiary study. While two went on to work as Pacifica Design consultants
  • 43. EPILOGUE • Karl ???? was accepted into the Manukau Polytechnic Design Scool • Daryn Ahotolu went on to accept a position in Fashion Design at a local Polytech • Soli Fonoti, Soli Tafai and Paul O’Neil, formed Primitive Nature Design Consultancy • Soli Tafai went on the teach Art at Kelston Boys Grammar School • Allan Ta‘alolo joined Manukau City in Advertising Design and Events Promotion • Both worked for the Auckland City Council designing the annual Pacifica Festival. • Marina Makani was accepted in a tertiary programme in Early Childhood Education. • Riley Letalu,was offered a place at the Auckland University School of Architecture. • He instead went to work for wages in a factory after he and his girlfriend conceived a child • Charlie Carlson ?????? • Len Brown went on to run unsuccessfully for the Mayoralty .
  • 44. SO MUCH FOR DREAMS So what happened in the end to the design Not Much proposals and the vision for Otara promoted by Enterprise Otara outlined in subsequent reporting in the •The Recreation Centre was built, New Zealand Herald (below)? without the revenue-generating wave- machine. •The Cultural Centre was never built •The Pacifica Village was never built •The Well-Being Centre was never built •The shopping centre was given a “face-lift” in the colour scheme developed by the Buddies. • Unemployment • Crime • Gang violence • Vandalism All continue to pervade the community at unacceptably high levels. But the people of Otara continue to sustain their remarkable cultures in the face of political deceit, fiscal neglect and municipal NEW ZEALAND HERALD, 25TH AUGUST 1994 PAGE 13
  • 45. TEN SUSTAINABILITY MYTHS Myth 1. Consultation: Consultation does not mean asking people what they want and then making sure they get it Consultation means asking people what they want then telling them what you have already decided on their behalf. Myth 2. Participation: Participation does not mean working with different cultural groups toward common goals to solve common problems Participation means inviting cultural groups to work towards solving their problems but reserving the right to ignore their conclusions Myth 3. Partnership: Partnership does not mean that all players have equal decision making powers Partnership means that one partner has all of the power to ignore or veto decisions and conclusions reached either together or singly. Myth 4. Equity: Equity does not mean that all groups in a working process are equal, or that the outcome will lead to their equality Equity means that the most powerful group will use the myth of equality to undermine political protest, to shape outcomes and do everything in its power to retain its power. This group is predominantly white, male and middleclass. Myth 5. Representation: Representation does not mean that political representatives will represent your interests to the fullest extent of their abilities. Representation means politicians will advocate your interests only when they are congruent with their own, and that your voice and desires will be filtered and “balanced” to ensure that you get only enough of what you want to keep you quiet.
  • 46. Myth 6. Democracy: Democracy does not mean that the voice of minority groups will be heard or that their dreams and expectations will be met Democracy means that minority interests will always be subordinated to the will of the majority. Myth 7. Social Transformation: Social transformation does not mean that society will be transformed to be more equal, more caring and more satisfying. Social transformation means that dominant groups will strive continually to control all of the information and decision-making agencies to maintain the status quo. Myth 8. Employment Creation: Employment creation does not mean that projects undertaken will create jobs in the community Employment creation means that employment will be created or sustained for those within State agencies who will manage processes and file reports. Myth 9. Open Government: Open Government does not mean that you will have direct access to decision-makers or that their decisions will be transparent Open Government means that decisions will often be made behind closed doors on the basis of undisclosed information and in the interests of private interest groups. Myth 10. Political Fairness Political Fairness does not mean that decisions will be even-handed and that all groups will have equal access to the decision-making process. Political Fairness means that you will be seduced into believing that the system is fair in order to obviate complaints and protests when decisions are made that are unfair.
  • 47. SO WHAT TO DO? One of the most frustrating experiences to be had in the field of Community Design, Community Architecture or Community Development is to be when one works through intermediary functionaries at City Hall - from the Mayor, down to the lowliest employee. The most successful projects are undoubtedly those that arise from the community, that are initiated by the community and are driven, developed, monitored, evaluated and implemented by the community. Such examples are rare! Notable examples include the work of: • The Pratt Centre for Community Development (PICCED) in New York (http://www.prattcenter.net/), • The Miami University Centre for Community Engagement in OtR (http://www.fna.muohio.edu/cce/index.html) If you know of any further examples of Cultural Community Praxis that you would like to make public, contact: http://www.tonywardedu.com

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