On the eastern coast of New Zealand, Orongo Station is a sensitive, sustainable-minded and wonderfully ambitious project – and visitors might not even notice its existence. And it’s a 2018 AZ Awards Winner for Landscape Architecture.
Lead architect Thomas Woltz sought to both restore the landscape and create something new. His team conserved the saltwater wetlands and constructed a meandering freshwater stream that overflows into nearby flats during the rainy season. They also planted 600,000 trees to shield the coastline from wind and rain, thereby protecting it from erosion.
Large-scale landscapes like this are in need of design to be sustainable decades from now. That’s what makes Orongo Station so powerful.” – Claire Weisz
A decade in the making, the site has now become a haven for endangered species ranging from the tuatara (a spined lizard) to the miniature blue penguin. But this isn’t your typical rarefied conservation zone. It is admirably mindful of the region’s Indigenous heritage, preserving historic Maori defensive structures, fishing encampments and a centuries-old graveyard that had long been neglected.
It also carved out open fields for sheep to graze. Fencing, bridges, staff housing and facilities for shearing and storage have been worked into the plan, along with immaculately clipped gardens that surround the homestead. As Wall Street Journal’s architecture and design critic Alastair Gordon noted, “It’s almost too much for the imagination to take in. Rather, it grows on you slowly, as does the level of care and integration that went into the property’s evolution.” For AZ Awards juror Megan Torza, Orongo Station is a vital restoration not only of a farm but also of culture.
Orongo Station is so ambitious in its scope it defies categorization, yet in many ways, it’s hardly visible to the naked eye. It is, nominally, a 12-square-kilometre sensitive land management project on the eastern coast of New Zealand – an area that was once blanketed in rainforest.
Orongo Station Stewardship Master Plan
Poverty Bay, New Zealand
Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, Charlottesville, USA
Thomas Woltz with Jeff Aten, Alissa Diamond, Breck Gastinger, Evan Grimm, Jeremy Jordan, Jim Kovach, Sara Myhre, Hara Wilkiemeyer Sánchez and David Timmerman