The Art of Permanence

Lauded architecture writer and critic Alastair Gordon looks at the Orongo Station project in New Zealand

How often does a single design firm get the opportunity to turn a 1,200-hectare property into a sprawling work of integrated art, architecture, agriculture, ecological and cultural reclamation, wildlife preservation and landscape design?

That’s what Thomas L Woltz and his US-based design team at Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects have accomplished at Orongo Station in Poverty Bay, New Zealand. The project includes the restoration of an old homestead that was already on the site, new outbuildings and utility buildings, domestic gardens, reconfigured wetlands, sheep paddocks, a reforested coastline, a ceremonial bridge and citrus groves, as well as the expansion of a Maori burial ground. It’s almost too much for the imagination to take in. Rather, it grows on you slowly, as does the level of care and integration that went into the property’s evolution.