Tapu te Ranga Marae

I visited the Tapu te Ranga Marae several times over the years when I lived in Wellington, NZ. Sometime in the late ’80s or early ’90s I had a memorably cryptic encounter with founder Bruce Stewart in the main meeting hall.

The Marae (very loosely, “community center”) was an extraordinary place. Probably the first and best example of 1970s Maori renaissance architecture, the Tapu te Ranga Marae was built – codes be damned – by generations of young people, out of recycled materials and according to Stewart’s maxim, “As you build the house, the house builds you”. It was aptly described by a journalist as a “hand-crafted labyrinth of stairways and mystical rooms, of art and sculpture, a dream-land place”. Local kids referred to it as the Maori Hogwarts.

Tapu te Ranga Marae was tragically destroyed by fire in the winter of 2019. Plans to rebuild on the site are underway.

The marae is my home. The marae is my place of work. The marae is my church, the marae is my museum, it is where I was born, and where I will be buried.

– Bruce Stewart, 1936-2017