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Sunday, 05 May 2013 14:22

Critical Community Sustainability: The Otara Project

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This PDF tells the story of the Otara Project, in which the City of Manukau (in South Auckland) initiated a revitalisation project for the Otara Town Centre - the cultural and commercial centre of the distric'ts large Polynesian community.
 
The township is satellite to Auckland and comprises a swath of often-neglected State housing clustered around an outdated shopping centre, much tagged by the local youth whose opposed gangs divide along ethnic lines and are modelled on the Cripps and Bloods. of Los Angeles. Otara provided the location for the renowned New Zealand film, Once Were Warriors. Its statistics are depressing. It boasts the highest truancy, unemployment and crime rates in the Auckland region, and has the greatest number of disaffected young people of any area of New Zealand. Its public image is very poor. In an attempt to “turn around” the Otara economy, and to attract investment into the community, a group of local business, civic and church leaders in 1993 formed Enterprise Otara - an organisation whose mission statement was to “turn around” the social, econonmic and spiritual image of the town by building upon the rich and colourful resources and talents of the people of Otara themselves. An essential part of this revitalisation process was the production of refurbishment and redevelopment proposals for the existing shopping centre which is the heart of the community. The Community Design Studio at the Department of Architecture was commissioned by the Manukau City Council (Otara’s legislative body) to do this work. The project ran for 24 weeks and involved some major advances to community design theory and practice. Two aspects were  significant:

The studio was established in the shopping centre itself and was located in a shop in the heart of the complex. Students maintained an open-door policy, encouraging members of the local community to “drop in” at any time to see how the project was progressing and to offer their advice and design ideas. Continual surveys were conducted in English, Maori, Samoan, Tongan and Nueian and design ideas contributed from the community were modelled on a developing 1:200 scale model of the area.
 
Two aspects of the project were significant:
 
  •  The studio itself was located in the shopping centre - in a shop in the heart of the complex. Students maintained an open-door policy, encouraging members of the local community to "drop in" at any time to see how the project was progressing and to offer their advice and design ideas. Continual surveys were conducted in English, Maori, Samoan, Tongan and Nueian languages anddesign ideas contributed by the community were incorporated into the svale model of the proposal.

  • The design team included eight (all previously long-term unemployed) local youth who were employed by the City Council on Government subsidised work schemes. These young people worked alongside the University students in an equal capacity, producing a design that was eventually lauded by the Council and the community. At the conclusion of the project the work-subsidised local youth received certificates and commendations for their work. Five of the eight went on to graduate from tertiarty institutes. Two went on to work for the Auckland City Council as design consultants for the annual Pasifika Festival .
  Eight long-term unemployed youth from the local community (Maori, Tongan, Samoan and Nueian) were employed, through government subsidised work-training schemes as equal members of the design team. They, together with the twenty university students enrolled in the course, produced a design which was justly acclaimed by the Manukau Council as well as by Enterprise Otara. The Otara members of the design team worked on an equal basis with the university students and, by the end of the project were producing design drawings which were indistinguishable from students who had had two or three previous years of design tuition. At the conclusion of the project, four of the eight were accepted into tertiary education while a fifth now works as a member of, a Pacific Island design consultancy working full-time for the Auckland City Council.
 
 
 
The PDF charts the progress of these young people from a drop-out lifestyle of "bombing" and "tagging" the Centre, to becoming accomplished designers, tertiary students and successful professionals in the local community.

This PDF tells the story of the project and the remarkable emergence of these Pasifica youth from the gang culture of Otara to the world of professional design.

  

Download PDF here  

 

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