Matariki Williams reviews Rewi on The Spinoff


Matariki Williams has given an excellent review of Rewi: Āta haere, kia tere by Jade Kake and Jeremy Hansen on The Spinoff:

“Rewi” scrawled in disco pink across the cover, so declaratory that I read it with an apostrophe it doesn’t have: “Rewi!” Judging this book by its cover, I assume I am in for a riot, a read that matches the bold legacy that architect Rewi Thompson (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Raukawa) left when he passed suddenly in 2016. However, the secondary title shared on the spine is a clue for readers: “Rewi: Āta haere, kia tere”. Rewi, proceed with caution and quickness, care and boldness, consideration and cheekiness. 

Coming in at over 450 pages, editors Jade Kake (Ngāpuhi — Ngāti Hau me Te Parawhau, Te Whakatōhea, Te Arawa) and Jeremy Hansen draw upon Rewi’s archives to include the voices of the many people he worked with, taught and inspired. Crucially, the first interview in the book is with Rewi’s daughter Lucy, the editors stating the book would not have been made without Lucy’s support and endorsement. Grounding the book with this interview immediately humanises Rewi and his work. Yes, he was a visionary architect but he was also a loving father, and husband to his late wife Leona. This kōrero also provides the first insights into arguably Rewi’s most idiosyncratic building: their whānau home in Kohimarama. 

Variously described as shaped like a ziggurat or a poutama, save for a small vertical slit of window in the middle and the entry foyer at ground level, their home presented an almost completely closed-off facade to the street. This exemplifies the bold care and considered cheekiness of Rewi’s practice: yes, the design will push the envelope and draw a lot of observation, but that observation will not penetrate, for this is a whānau home. From the archives, Rewi observes that the house is responding to the landscape and city it sits within while acknowledging that, “Auckland has a violent past both geologically and culturally.” Perhaps Rewi is hinting at the tīpuna maunga that mark the Tāmaki Makaurau landscape? The extinct or dormant volcanic cones, or in the case of Takararo and Takamaiwaho, no longer existing cones? As Rewi goes on, he mentions Rangitoto as one of the original landmarks of Tāmaki, a place taken over in others’ minds by the Sky Tower, thus is built heritage also responsible for the invisibilising of culture in Tāmaki Makaurau?’

Read the full review here.