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HOME Magazine NZ - - ‘taihoa’ Translates Loosely As ‘no Hurry’ - Q&A with ar­chi­tect Philip Por­ritt

How did you get the ma­te­rial to such an iso­lated site? The bulk came up the Oron­gorongo River in an old army truck in De­cem­ber, 56 years ago. We had col­lected ma­te­ri­als and dumped them on Gwenda’s par­ents’ lawn. What­ever we could bor­row or steal was dragged up to the site, which we’d ex­ca­vated a lit­tle bit. We built the roof first, on poles, then the walls, and then poured the con­crete floor in the May hol­i­days.

And the tim­ber? Most of the tim­ber was cut out of the bush. The tawa posts were felled on site, while the kahikatea rafters came from down by the river. We worked out if you threw the kahikatea into the river, you could peel the bark off more eas­ily. They’re a very im­por­tant part of the look of the hut.

Tai­hoa’s fu­ture, like the other 50-odd huts re­main­ing in the Oron­goron­gos, is un­cer­tain. Why? The Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion now ad­min­is­ters the Oron­gorongo Val­ley and we pay a li­cence fee of $630 a year. It has said that no huts can be trans­ferred to other peo­ple, so the own­er­ship of the huts re­verts to DoC when the cur­rent li­cence hold­ers and their spouses die, or by 2050.

You were just 17 when you helped build Tai­hoa. Did it have any in­flu­ence on you choos­ing ar­chi­tec­ture? I had al­ready de­cided by then. I had the ad­van­tage of be­ing brought up by a fa­ther who ex­pected me to help with what­ever he was do­ing. He was al­ways build­ing some­thing, so I ab­sorbed all that knowl­edge. And I as­sumed that every­one else knew about those things, too. So I was able to tell peo­ple we needed studs and top plates and things like that.

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