World class experience in cultural tourism opened
Today Te Puia celebrated the opening of its most ambitious development project since it first opened to visitors 44 years ago. The new facilities, named Te Tawharau o Te Ao Turoa will treat visitors to a world class experience, through leading edge technology, by bringing alive the myths and legends of the Whakarewarewa geothermal valley and its ancestors.
"Te Puia has a rich history of story telling that reaches back in time to the mid 1800’s," said Robert Macfarlane, former Board Chairman. "These extraordinary new facilities add to that rich background by blending the written, spoken and latest interactive technology to give tourists an even deeper understanding and appreciation of the magic that Te Puia has to offer."
Most significant to the development is the completion of three magnificent structures; Te Heketanga a Rangi, Nga Waru Pu Manawa and Te Whare Tapere. The impressive Te Heketanga a Rangi forms the entrance with 12 laminated beams that reach to the sky each adorned with intricate carvings at their pinnacle that represent the realm of the Supreme Being from which all things, spiritual and physical, originate. Placed at the base of the structure is the guardian pounamu gifted to Te Puia by the people of Ngai Tahu.
Nga Waru Pu Manawa gallery is a large multi sensory gallery which tells the ancient stories of the Whakarewarewa Valley and Te Arawa people told through 21st century audio visual and artistic displays. The Gallery features the art works of more than 30 Māori artists and craftspeople. Te Whare Tapere contains 3D sensory tables and innovative touch screens giving visitors a new and interactive experience of Te Puia.
Carin Wilson, Ngati Awa, Ngati Rongomai, with over 30 years experience in architectural design was delighted when he was given the opportunity to design a new facility at Te Puia that would awaken an understanding of the rich multi layered characteristics of Māori culture. Faced with remarkable concepts that form the Māori world from the Supreme Being to gods representing natural phenomena to the stirring stories of ancestors who possessed supernatural powers, Carin knew it would be a challenge to create a space where all these elements converged.
"With the invaluable guidance of the late Te Keepa Marsh and weeks of research we were able to create a response to the site which, we believe, forms the links between past and present in imagery that is unique to the Māori world and Te Arawa in particular," said Carin.