Te Wharau a Tako

Wellesley Street and Albert Street

Te Wharau a Tako literally means the shelter of Tako. It is the name of the village that once stood on the Swanson Street ridge, between Queen Street and Hobson Street. There was a well-formed access way named Te Tarapounamu that led down to the Te Wai Horotiu Stream.

The location would have been chosen because of its proximity to the stream, now running below Queen Street. The village was famed for its hospitality and this area is close to what is now Albert Street and the route of the underground City Rail Link.

The Auckland Council headquarters building at 135 Albert Street was given its name, Te Wharau o Tāmaki, in homage to the original identity of the area.

Russell Clark (Pākehā)
Matahorua and Tainui Anchors, 1959
Photo by Marlaina Key
Bledisloe House, 24 Wellesley Street West

Russell Clark’s Hinuera stone pieces are sculptural representations of the anchors of the Matahorua and Tainui waka (canoes), produced for the Bledisloe building in 1959. The sculptures celebrate the great navigations of each waka.

Kupe, navigator of the Matahorua discovered Aotearoa (New Zealand) and returned to Hawaiiki with navigational directions which many waka followed over future generations. The Tainui landed in the Bay of Plenty area and then sailed on to the Waitematā. It portaged into the Manukau and sailed south to Raglan, Kawhia and Mōkau.

These pieces introduced adventurous contemporary forms to public sculpture of the 1950s. With them Clark helped change attitudes toward art in public spaces with his use of distinctly Māori themes.

Rewi Spraggon (Te Kawerau a Maki) Arekatera Maihi (Ngāti Whātua), Puhi Thompson (Marutūahu), Sunnah Thompson (Te Waiohua) & Vern Rosieur (Ngāti Wai)
Pare, 2014
Photo by Jay Farnworth
Te Wharau a Tako, Auckland House Auckland Council, 135 Albert Street

This wooden Pare (ornamental lintel) was carved by Ngā Whaotapu o Tāmaki Makaurau (The Sacred Chisels of Auckland). Ngā Whaotapu is a collective of Tohunga Toi Ake (expert artists) formed in 2014 to preserve Māori history through carving. The group includes carvers from five tribal regions of Auckland with about 150 years of carving experience between them.

This pare was the group’s first of many commissions. The 4.5-meter lintel is made from 600-year-old kauri (native timber) and created specifically for above the entrance to Auckland Council building.


Johnson Witehira (Tamahaki, Ngāpuhi)
Pou with Tohu, 2016
Photo by Michelle Ardern
Te Wharau a Tako, Auckland House Auckland Council, 135 Albert Street

Part of Auckland Council’s visual identity is a group of five tohu (symbols). These tohu celebrate Māori identity and are featured on council communications.

Johnson Witehira was commissioned to redevelop council’s legacy kowhaiwhai artwork into bold graphics. Here, they are on a series of illuminated pou in an inter-linked, repetitive line formation.

Each tohu holds a specific meaning. Te Ao Tūroa is inspired by the takarangi (spiral) found in Māori carving and symbolising interaction with the world around us. Taonga Tuku Iho, the poutama (steps) pattern acknowledges cultural and intellectual capital. Whanaungatanga, strengthening relationships is the koru formation. Tūrangawaewae, a place to stand and a sense of place is depicted by a whare (house). Mana Whakahaere, rangatiratanga (leadership) and decision making is from the tiki form found in carved pare (lintels).

Holly Sanford (Pākehā)
Glass Canopy, 1987
Photo by Marlaina Key
Auckland District Court, 65 - 69 Albert Street

This work is made up of three canopies of glass over three entryways which inter-connect visually from one to the next. The integrated work complements the shape of the canopy structure and reflects patterns within the makeup of the building.

The triangular motif takes its form from the traditional Māori tāniko weaving pattern known as ‘aramoana’, which comprises a series of triangular patterns. The variety of sizes and positions of the tāniko pattern suggest the protocol and hierarchy within the structure of the judicial system.

The design was commissioned by the Ministry of Works and Development in 1987. Sanford’s intention for the work is that it is approachable, gives a sense of purpose, dignity, stability, humanity, quality, and hope.

Peata Larkin (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Tuhourangi)
Untitled, 2021
Photo by Yonas Yoseph
New Zealand International Convention Centre, 101 Hobson Street

Peata Larkin's 143-meter-long, multi-storey terracotta tile wall spans Hobson to Nelson Street through the future laneway of the New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC). The artwork wraps the wall internally and externally, consisting of over 13,500 terracotta tiles. It complements the other major artworks on the site, 550 glass panels by Sarah Hughes and Lyonel Grant's waka that will be suspended within.

The undulating raranga patterns symbolise navigation and Tāmaki Makaurau's abundance of natural resources and geography, particularly the many waterways that surround it. It also, visually, could be the trunks of Aotearoa's native trees.