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Early New Zealand Houses

Updated: Oct 16, 2020

“Makeshift” Adaptation to the New Environment

The primitive shelters of the first European immigrants to New Zealand express the embryonic growth of all living things and the root of all architecture—the separation of “human” from “natural” environment. Architecture involves the idea of man moulding Nature to suit his own needs. The early settlers met Nature on different terms from the Maoris, for they had the power to conquer and control and thereby to shape their traditional Western culture to the new environment. At the beginning, with limited time, tools, and makeshift materials, occasionally with help of friendly natives, the pioneers built “temporary” basic shelters; a universal stage of architectural development. They improvised “primeval” shelters of raupo, toitoi, flax, fern, and totara bark; tents from poles, saplings, canvas, and planks or split slabs; tree-fern huts or more permanent dwellings from clay, sods, “wattle and daub”, or stone. Isolated from the outside world by the vast ocean and from each other by virgin bush, mountains, and rivers, they had to adapt themselves to conditions of great hardship in lonely settlements.

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