Manaaki brings "colour, happiness and lightheartedness" to Tāmaki Makaurau

It was the greatest pseudo housewarming in our history – 1342 people and at least two dozen Fidos attended our Manaaki Community Open Days over Election Weekend. The numbers are seriously impressive: they quaffed 986 coffees and 600 boutique bespoke artisanal sugary drinks – and gobbled 1400 sausages, 90 loaves of bread and 40kg of fragrant onion.

The wee ones are here, waving their rolly-polly legs in front packs, hiding beneath sunrise-coloured sunhats. Some first-rate Fidos are in attendance – we’ve got a coiffed poodle, a handsome beagle, and something black, ruffly and indeterminate. But wait, there’s more! Guitarists and fiddle players have made their presence felt, as have curious neighbors. And a small horde of new owners are  present, shyly acknowledging one another’s ‘M People’ stickers, bestowed upon each on arrival. 

We arrive, we queue: we file beneath a twisty balloon rainbow arch, painted in shades of lemon, apricot, mint, and lavender. But even this delicious fruit-punch gateway pales to comparison to Manaaki itself, basking in the brilliance of the sun. The glazed exterior – its colours tested in Spain, fired in Tāmaki Makaurau – melds candy floss shades with bold textured rectangles. Steadfast fantasy meets fanciful dependability, a match made in architectural heaven. It's like Aphroditees blush met crème de menthe, and they danced together, weaving a tapestry of Mediterranean grottos and landmarks adorned in spring's vibrant hues. This is a canvas painted with the essence of manaakitanga itself.

Two small fish find a home 

Jackson and his brother Eli, along with their parents Hayley and Ben, are soaking it all in. The parental units are thrilled about the location – they were perilously close to moving to a distant satellite suburb to own their own home, far away from a beloved grandmother in Stonefields and Hayley’s work at the airport. Jackson revels in the communal outdoor lounging area and adores the pool. As for Eli, well, “He’s a fish!” says mum.

A couple of years back – centuries ago! – the family efficiently reserved the very first Manaaki sales team appointment, 8am on a Monday morning. They nabbed a Kiwibuild home with a prime view of the pool—oh, the pool! Not many children can boast of having a pool right at their doorstep, and Jackson and Eli are eagerly anticipating round-the-clock aquatic adventures. Who cares the apartment isn’t huge, Hayley muses, when the kids have room to swim and roam? It’s a very different proposition from, say, her Mum’s apartment complex, which has no grounds at all.

Hayley and Ben poured their hearts and wallets into into realising their dream of homeownership. A few weeks back, they drove past this place, and it was nothing but mud. Fast forward, and it’s a native plant paradise, with nikau palms and puriri waving gracefully above the grass.

So these community days are a particularly meaningful and exciting celebration for Hayley and Ben, Jackson and Eli. The fit and finish – the kitchen quality – of the six apartments on display exceeds their expectations (Ben volunteers this without prompting!). They’re coming back tomorrow to show Hayley’s Mum. It all feels real. It’s all becoming real now, their vision of family life, cocooned in their very own sugar-coated apartment, perched just above the shimmering pool.

"Why be afraid of colour?"

It’s the best party of the election weekend. The only gathering graced by the One Tree Hill College 1st XV, resplendent in royal blue attire, manning the barbecue and churing out more than a millennia of sausages.

Then, there's The Architect, Tania Wong, unassuming and friendly, directing visitors when she could reasonably be expected to assume a position on a top floor balcony and deliver Fidel Castro-length speeches on this, her day day of triumph. “I’m stoked,” she allows. Tania lets us in on a satisfying design inspiration: the pretty star-shaped tile pattern threaded across the top of the buildings is a nod to the Star Flats apartments that occupied this site in the pre-Ockham era. Thus, the history of the land is artfully woven into the very fabric of Manaaki.

Inside, it’s a feast for the eyes. Sage green, rhubarb pink, and Blu Tack™ blue furniture adorn the communal lounges. Glossy, textured tiling continues its reign indoors.  Indeed, someone can’t resist trailing their fingers along the undulating lobby wall, reminiscent of Northland’s favorite Austrian artist, Hundertwasser, who once declared, “The straight line is godless and immoral.”

Ockham Captain Mark Todd surveys his Empire of Enchantment with a smile. He asserts that the communal spaces, from lounges to work-from-home areas, lawns to the café (open to non-residents too), are Ockham's finest work, full of cosy nooks and crannies; microspaces and multi-level landscaping. This thoughtfulness is deliberate: a high-density suburban development full of families uses in-house community space in a way that a boutique urban complex cannot replicate. At Manaaki, Mark echoes the sentiments of Ben and Hayley – you can “kick the kids out to go play on the lawn” or the park next door, no matter where your apartment is situated.

The captain avers “no other company in New Zealand could do this.” His rationale? No other company mixes unusual and clear aspirations with top-of-the-game skills, within a vertically-integrated organisation, that ensures quality control at every step from go to whoa. He extols the importance of emotional attachment in high density buildings (“that’s the key thing that gets forgotten”). And then he launches into a Dr Seuss-like ode to colour and contentment:

Why be afraid of colour?
We want to bring colour to the city –
Colour and happiness and lightheartedness!
Everyone smiles from two blocks away;
People are happy and proud to walk in the door.
We try to build buildings with personality –  
We want to build buildings that are well loved!

The sun is here. The future has arrived, painted in the hues of gentle excitement.