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Design Inspiration

Hypatia was a Greek Neo-Platonist philosopher, and one of the first notable female mathematicians of ancient history (born c. AD 350 – 370).  She was head of the Platonist school in Alexandria teaching mathematics, philosophy, and astronomy.  Tragically Hypatia was brutally murdered by a mob in 415 AD as a result of political tensions in the city.

Our building is named Hypatia in her honour. This seemed appropriate given the strong ties Grafton has to the University of Auckland. The idea of looking towards and extending to the sky influenced the Hypatia’s design with the strong vertical precast elements located on the Khyber Pass street frontage. The shape of the building forms two wings, with an internal courtyard, opening out to the sky on the fourth level. The spandrels create clean horizontal lines around the building which is softened on the corner with a gentle curve.

Historically, the site was home to many Māori tribes. Ockham has worked closely with Maori Art designer, Reuben Kirkwood the Kaiwhakairo (head carver) for Ngai Tai Ki Tamaki to make Hypatia one of the most artistic buildings of recent history.

A modern re-working of traditional Māori design elements has been incorporated into the façade to reference the past while looking confidently to a new future.

Hypatia Artist

Māori culture and its connectedness with nature, astronomy, spirituality and geneology (creation) are expressed within traditional carving designs. These designs serve to bring mana to a site, to honour ancestry and to communicate the identity of one tribe or hapu to another.

Individual iwi and carvers may be identified by the way in which their carved arts are composed, although essentially all Māori carvings are a combination derived from the same set of basic cuts:

  • Haehae - Parallel grooves and ridges. The ridges are referred to as Raumoa. The most common base form of carving embellishment. V chisel.
  • Niho Taniwha (Dragons tooth) - Consists of rows of evenly spaced chevrons, most commonly set between rows of haehae.The principal motif that represents the realm of mythology. Flat chisel.
  • Unaunahi (Fishscale) -  An elliptical cut that represents water dwelling creatures (fish, taniwha). Curved chisel.

The following designs are created using a combination of the above:

  • Manaia - Symbolises a mythical being with the profiled head of a bird. Manaia are considered as kaitiaki of the living and as messengers between the Gods and mortals. One of the most versatile designs in Māori carving, Manaia can be used in combinations to form a range of figures.
  • Rauponga - A combination of haehae and niho taniwha composed at a diagonal angle to suggest the growth of tree fern, Ponga. Used to represent growth in general, genealogical growth. Often used to adorn Waka Huia.
  • Whakarare (Distortion) - Alternating haehae which intercept geometrically to achieve a pattern. Represents positive seismic activity, the formation of land features- volcanoes, rivers etc. A symbol of creation.

Our customary carver and designer for Hypatia, Reuben Kirkwood was born in Auckland in 1976. A keen passion for New Zealand history and early Māori arts developed into Reuben’s first carving experiences 15 years ago. While predominantly self taught, Reuben has been trained and mentored under the guidance of Tuhoe carver, Chaz Doherty, with additional early support from Flametree Gallery. Reuben works chiefly in the medium of carving native timbers and whale bone, but has completed numerous cultural commissions in the medium of steel sculpture, public landscape design, multiple bridge designs,motorway design elements support, and precast concrete elements for buildings and infrastructure.