MAORI BATTALION MEMORIAL
A Distinguished Building by a Gifted Architect
On 26 January 1940 the 28th Maori Battalion was formed at Palmerston North, and it was from their training-ground at the Palmerston North Showgrounds that on 2 May 1940 the men of the Maori Battalion marched out to depart from New Zealand for active service.
Years of Planning for Memorial
Since the war the battalion has maintained strong ties with the city, and even before the war was over the idea of building a war memorial at Palmerston North was being considered. After the war the planning of the memorial and the organisation of fund-raising activities were taken over by the Raukawa tribal executive (now the Raukawa Maori Executive Committee), in whose district Palmerston North belongs. Assisted by contributions from the 28th Maori Battalion National Association, and with the aid of the local branch of the Maori Women's Welfare League and local Pakeha organisations, the executive set about raising money for a substantial building which would be a memorial to the battalion, a centre at which visitors from all over the country could be welcomed, and a valuable social and cultural asset for both Maori and Pakeha in the district.
In 1954 the Raukawa tribal executive commissioned the Maori architect John Scott of Hastings to prepare plans for a three-storey community centre which would cost about £24,000. One of the requirements was that the building should be a harmonious combination of Maori and Pakeha architectural traditions.
An Outstanding Success
Mr Scott's design is an outstanding success. The building is one of the most handsome ever to be erected in New Zealand and would be well able to stand comparison with the best contemporary work being done by architects overseas. Yet at the same time the Maori
Battalion Memorial Centre unmistakably belongs to our own country, for it owes much of its power and beauty to the fact that it draws its strength from both of the cultural traditions of New Zealand. For this reason, it may well prove to be something of a landmark in the history of the development of New Zealand architecture.
The 14 carved panels on the facade, each of them eight feet high by 1 ft 6 in wide, were made by the well-known carver Mr Kelly Kereama of Feilding. Inside the building, tukutuku panels have been employed at the same time for their decorative effect and as acoustic tiles, and there is intricate scroll work (kowhaiwhai) on the exposed wooden beams.
The ground floor has a large main hall with a stage, and toilet and office facilities. On the first floor is a dining room, a kitchen and storage rooms. The second floor has a small hall, sleeping rooms to accommodate visitors, and a caretaker's quarters. Each floor has an area of 3750 sq. ft.
Other Buildings by John Scott
As well as having built a great many private homes—many of them for clients with limited finance, but some for people who could afford larger and more expensive homes—Mr Scott has designed three other public buildings. All of them, like the Palmerston North Memorial Centre, are widely admired for their beauty and originality of design. They are St John's Chapel at Havelock North, St Patrick's School for Girls at Napier, and the ‘Futuna’ Chapel at the Marist Retreat House in Karori, Wellington.
Ans Westra Photo
Mr John Scott of Hastings, the architect who designed the Maori Battalion Memorial and supervised its building, is widely recognised as being one of the leading architects in the country; and much interest has been shown in his work by visiting architects from overseas.
Both Mr Scott's parents are of part-Maori descent. His father, Mr Charles (Mangu) Scott, who is half Maori and half Scottish, is an Arawa from Ohinemutu, while his mother, formerly Kathleen Hiraani Blake, from Taranaki, is of quarter-Maori descent.
Mr Scott and his wife, formerly Joan Moffat, from Otaki, live at Haumoana near Hastings. They have four children.
As well as designing ambitious public buildings such as the Centre at Palmerston North, Mr Scott often designs family homes for clients who do not have very much money to spend. This house breaks away from many of the stereotypes of lower-cost housing, yet cost, no more than the average State house.
Like the lower-cost houses discussed on pages 23–5 of this issue of ‘Te Ao Hou’, it has a sunny, sheltered verandah as an extension of the living area.