A multi-sensory art installation opens in Myers Park

18 January 2024

Just before Christmas 2023 a new public art installation - Waimahara by Graham Tipene – was revealed to the public.

The new artwork is inspired by Te Waihorotiu, the stream that once was visible in the Queen Street valley before being covered in the 19th century. The name Waimahara means ‘a remembering of water’.

Waimahara is integrated into the landscape of the Mayoral Drive underpass in Myers Park, a project Boffa Miskell designers have been involved with since 2020.

The wider project renews the northern end of the city centre park adjacent to Aotea Square. The Boffa Miskell team are responsible for bespoke design elements including lighting, seating and a timber boardwalk, which will help make the park a more welcoming oasis in the city centre. Connectivity is improved by the new staircase leading to Queen Street. Upgraded drainage infrastructure, wetland gardens and over 20 newly planted native trees will help future-proof the park and surrounding area from weather events and climate-change impacts.

Boffa Miskell designers worked closely with artists Graham Tipene and Tessa Harris, who had established narratives and designs for the site expressing te ao Māori, encouraging a deeper understanding of cultural context, environment, and place.

Beneath Waimahara, a pūhoro pattern is moulded into concrete steps and ramps. Graham Tipene says his double-spiral design speaks to the northern and southern hemispheres and to male-female duality, while re-creating the ridges that were once carved into the hulls of waka.

Tessa Harris developed the pātiki (flounder) patterning work for the new staircase reconnecting Mayoral Drive and Queen Street with the park. Historically, Pātiki thrived in the nearby tidal area.

The underpass has long been the focal point of the Myers Park upgrade, and the art installation for the space has evolved over the life of the project.

An earlier iteration, also created by Graham Tipene, was inspired by the taniwha Horotiu – the kaitiaki (guardian) of the Wai O Horotiu stream – and involved rows of more than two thousand moulded scales hanging from the underside of the overbridge – illuminated in gold light and moving with the breeze.

Although changed from the earlier concept, the final outcome retains an interactive element. Currently, as people move underneath the physical form of Waimahara, an ambient display – made up from birdsong, taonga pūoro, water sounds – is triggered. The combination of light and sound changes in response to movement.

Once Waimahara is fully interactive (expected March 2024), there will be a listening site within the new landscape where visitors can learn the Waimahara waiata. Singing the waiata in the underpass will activate a more elaborate light and audio show, adding a new dimension to the full Waimahara artwork experience.

See more about Myers Park Underpass here