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The colour connection in Tawa Historical Society’s commemorative memorial

01 Aug 2019

Placed adjacent to the quiet and calming Grasslees Reserve in Tawa is a special commemorative memorial. It’s a project that’s been ten years in the making, representing years of local community commitment and effort by the Tawa Historical Society, in association with the Tawa Community Board and the Tawa Returned Services Association.

There are certain connotations traditionally associated with memorials. What comes to mind are typically large, monolithic concrete structures reaching to the sky, surrounded by statues of war heroes atop giant horses. But this is exactly what the Tawa Historical Society did not want: a memorial ‘object’, like the Cenotaph. Instead, they wished to recognise the 13 young men from Tawa who lost their lives in service in a quiet and reflective space to engage people.

Designed by the team at McKenzie Higham Architects, this unique project manages to do so with grace and beauty.

Placed amongst nature on the edge of a reserve, the concrete wall of the Tawa Memorial has been protected with clear Resene Uracryl, a high-performance weather and graffiti-resistant coating. On the bases of the contemplation seats, Resene Armourcote has been tinted to colours that link to each military campaign where servicemen were lost.

“The location at the edge of the Grasslees Reserve in Tawa, adjacent to the Porirua Stream further enhances the quiet reflective character,” Mark explains. “The ground treatment, paving and landscaping were all designed to complement similar components in the neighbouring reserve.”

The memorial includes a central seating area bordered on one side by a precast concrete wall with commemorative plaques. On the other side is a panel perforated with tawa leaves, the phrase ‘Lest We Forget’ is punctured into the metal. There are five concrete seats spaced apart, intended to encourage people to sit and linger. Each seat is named after a different campaign and is painted in vivid colours relevant to the campaign’s medal ribbon. Mark and his team worked closely with the New Zealand Defence Force and Resene’s colour matching service throughout the project.

“We wanted to make sure the colours were as authentic as possible. The end results are historically accurate and provide eye catching pops of colour that enrich the space.”

The South African War seat support is painted Resene Salsa, Resene Bullitt and a custom colour that’s been dubbed ‘Resene Mckenziehigham Gold’. The WWI seat support is also painted Resene Mckenziehigham Gold but with Resene Wet N Wild, Resene Black and Resene Half Vista White accompanying it. The WWII seat support is in Resene Bullseye and Resene Half Vista White with another custom colour – Resene Mckenziehigham Blue. The remaining seats are in Resene Black and Resene Half Drought, and Resene Bullseye, Resene Surfs Up, Resene Comfort Zone and Resene Bilbao.

McKenzie Higham Architects and the Tawa Historical Society created low concrete seats designed to encourage people to sit and reflect. The colour palette for each seat is based on the ribbons for each campaign. The colours representing the ribbon for WWII are Resene Bullseye, Resene ‘Mckenziehigham Blue’ – a custom made colour – and Resene Half Vista White.

It was important to the project team that the colour scheme would sit comfortably within the space and not overwhelm. They wanted a gentle balance between bright colours and natural shades. As an open public space, it was also important that the surface treatments were practical and robust, so they opted for clear Resene Uracryl to protect the concrete wall and seat tops while Resene Armourcote was used for the coloured portions. Mark explains that “the restrained, natural material palette of poured concrete and corten steel create a quiet, contemplative space that’s harmonious with its positioning on the edge of the reserve.”

The end result offers a subtle but powerful statement and is a testament to great community support, fund raising, consultation and patience, and a fitting place to remember those who gave so much.

The memorial includes this central area inclusive of commemorative plaques and a curved corten steel panel with perforated Tawa leaves. The colour scheme was designed to be quiet, to create a reflective space, while honouring the official colours of each campaign’s medal ribbon. The concrete panel at the right is protected with a clear Resene Uracryl.

images Brent Higham
designer McKenzie Higham Architects for Tawa Historical Society