Bulls opening

Te Matapihi Bulls Community Centre - Connecting Community

The notion of river as metaphor is an ancient one, the sort of archetype born, perhaps, of their power and our presence alongside them – that the Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges speaks of in  ‘The Book of imaginary Beings’, his own remixing take on the Medieval Beasteries  that once informed colonial  perceptions of the “other”.  As Borges writes of the varying dragons (read taniwha for NZ) from across the world: “ We are as ignorant  of the meaning  of the dragon  as we are of the meaning of the universe, but there is something  in the dragon’s image that appeals to the human imagination, and so we find the  dragon in quite distinct places and times.  It is so to speak, a necessary monster, not an ephemera or accidental one … So too is the river necessary, its shifting ever-present form standing not just for the passing of time, but the ways we both are and are not the same."   ‘Where The River Runs’  - Dan Kelly


After a long gestation the Te Matapihi Bulls Community Centre was opened on September 25th 2020 (see Architecture New Zealand issue: Nov/Dec 2020). It was a fabulous calm night to say good-bye to the old town hall (not up to seismic code) and hold a variety of opening events; karakia, powhiri and opera before cutting the ribbon for the multifunctioning community centre. 

"The project brings together previously scattered functions in an effort to increase community connection and overlap." - Christopher Kelly, AW

The Rangitikei District Council brief of 2014 was based on community consultation by David Engwicht, of ‘walking school bus’ fame, which identified a local need for a town square and community centre.  “A desire was expressed for the building to engage strongly with the street and reverse the tendency of shops in Bulls to retreat from the streetscape."

AW propose that architecture can recalibrate how we look and what we value.  We wilfully included public gathering on the level two roof terrace to draw in iwi and hapū and emphasis the cultural interconnectedness of the Rangitikei River with the new town square.  We left space in the circulation from the flowing central stair for the articulation of stories ingrained in the landscape, from neighbouring Iwi Ngati Apa and Ngati Parewahawaha.

The Carapace filters the interior from the sun and casts shadows that extend the interior space.  Embellished with Len Hetet’s ‘watchful eye’, the external shield amplifies a variety of taniwha and protector narratives in conjunction with the ‘meme’ of a bridge.  A bridge bringing us across the river as well as a bridge bringing differences together under the umbrella of architecture.


Congratulations to our client RDC for embarking on new Te Matapihi amenities for the community rather than spend hard earned rates bringing four old buildings up to scratch.


Click to view a video of the opening: Te Matapihi_Bulls Community Centre Opening Evening 

Photograph: Grant Davis


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