Leading by example—bringing Te Ao Māori to the forefront of landscape architecture

‘Ko te manu e kai ana i te miro nōnā te ngahere, ko te manu e kai ana i te mātauranga nōnā te ao!’ ‘The forest belongs to the bird who feasts on the miro berry, the world belongs to the bird who feasts on education’.

William Hatton, Landscape Architect presenting at industry event

While his upbringing in Te Matau a Maui (Hawkes Bay) ignited a passion for design and architecture, it was the chance to reconnect, strengthen and celebrate his connection to whenua that pushed William Hatton to pursue landscape architecture.

“I had passion for how we can inform and shape the environments we live in,” explains William (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Raukawa ki Te Tonga, Rangitāne, Muaūpoko, Ngāti Pākehā). “For me, my identity as tangata whenua guided me into this field as a way to explore that interconnected relationship.”

William’s Master’s of Landscape Architecture research focused on investigating the intricate links people and land share, and the impacts that has on our sense of identity, health, and wellbeing.

“My thesis drew upon the research I undertook during the summer with my supervisor Bruno Marques and in collaboration with Zealandia. I designed a series of interconnecting public spaces starting at Zealandia in Karori and leading to the sea. Through a series of landscape architectural installations, inspired by the layout of a marae and Māori values associated to Te Whare Tapa Whā, I aimed to encourage visitors to connect with the land and each other. It was encouraging to see the beauty of mātauranga Māori and landscape architecture come together in a rich, meaningful way.

“These works excited me as our unique and distinct cultural identity has at most times been overlooked. The research helped me reconnect to my own mātauranga and how our meaningful approaches of whenua can inform the ways we design and reconnect with place—tūrangawaewae.

“I’m proud to have been given the opportunity to help lead the integration of mātauranga Māori and landscape architecture whilst at university, and feed into what is now a growing area of research.”

Since graduating in 2018 William has infused his work with Te Ao Māori design. “I have been fortunate to work as both a landscape architect and cultural advisor at Boffa Miskell in Tāmaki-Makaurau Auckland. I have been involved with some amazing projects internally and externally across the country working with clients, communities, whānau, hapū, and iwi to achieve rich and thoughtful landscape architecture.”

As well as using it in his own work, William promotes Te Ao Māori within his field and across other disciplines. “I have written publications and presented to industry and communities about Te Ao Māori design. I’ve also been able to promote Te Ao Māori design within my field and across other disciplines through my involvement with Ngā Aho (Māori Designers Network) and industry committees such as  Te Tau-a-Nuku, and the Urban Design Forum."

His work in this area is getting him noticed, and he recently won the Tuia Pito Ora / New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architecture’s (NZILA) President’s Award for recognition as an ‘Emerging Leader’ in the industry.

Incoming NZILA president Henry Crothers said of William, "Since graduating from Wellington School of Architecture in 2018, William has made a significant contribution to NZILA and Te Ao Māori design practice through his involvement with TTaN (Te Tau-a-Nuku), Ngā Aho, NZILA Auckland Branch and publications for Waka Kotahi and the Landscape Foundation. He’s been recognised as an emerging leader within the profession."

William is committed to giving back and sharing his knowledge to hopefully inspire future landscape architects. “Recently, I’ve been teaching Landscapes of Aotearoa, a course at Unitec. It’s great having those tuakana/teina relationships and being able to share space, knowledge, and time with our future kaitiaki. I have also been working with kura kaupapa on co-designing classroom spaces to hopefully grow Māori representation in this space. After all, we are the original story-tellers and kaitiaki of these whenua.”

Why is William such a passionate advocate for landscape architecture? “I love working with whānau, hapū, iwi and communities, and using my passion to help shape our unique and distinct environment. Landscape architects help create the spaces  we live in. I am often asked what we do, and for me, we are facilitators and enabling-creators of space. It is about allowing people to express themselves within their environments and for me, it is about providing space for tangata whenua to see their faces in their spaces.”