Whakamana Embracing Uncertainty in Relationally Responsible Spatial Design Studio Pedagogy for a Flourishing Aotearoa

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Jen Archer-Martin
Georgina Stokes


Socio-culturally restorative and ecologically regenerative futures for Aotearoa will be coproduced only in the context of mana-enhancing, Te Tiriti-led partnerships that embrace uncertainty and ‘possibilism’. What are the implications of this for spatial design pedagogy? In this text-based research essay, we explore how Te Tiriti-led pedagogy might be integrated in a meaningful and fundamental way in undergraduate spatial design studios, including projects in which students self-select topics as part of developing their own design identities. These types of projects do not lend themselves to external partnerships, being too broad in scope, not initiated by the partners, and unable to adequately ensure tangible mutual benefits, particularly within institutional timeframes. Te Tiriti-led futures, however, will require a diversity of practices, not all of which can be conducted within the context of direct cocreative partnerships.

This presents a particular pedagogical challenge: whether mana-enhancing partnership and ethical engagement with Indigenous knowledges is possible in undergraduate studio projects where the ‘partnerships’ are only hypothetical. We analyse a third-year studio in which we introduced an expanded model of partnership, combining identity-driven studentcentred pedagogy with Te Tiriti-led design for restorative and regenerative futures. This model rejects certainty/uncertainty binaries and reframes uncertainty as a fundamental condition of ethical engagement across cultural difference. We turn instead to Māori concepts of mana and manaakitanga, exploring ways to empower agency and overcome paralysis, and draft a relationally responsible framework for engagement with Indigenous knowledges. This employs a weaving metaphor that both protects the identity and autonomy of each knowledge source and enhances its mana as part of the woven fabric.

Offering this up as a case study of situated, ethical design pedagogy, we critically reflect on the effectiveness of these strategies, and find our own opportunities for transformational learning in the student work. We reject the toxic certainties of the dominant, degenerative paradigm, envisaging a joyfully uncertain pluriversal future in which ecologically regenerative and socio-culturally restorative processes facilitate human and environmental flourishing.


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How to Cite
Archer-Martin, Jen, and Georgina Stokes. 2023. “Whakamana: Embracing Uncertainty in Relationally Responsible Spatial Design Studio Pedagogy for a Flourishing Aotearoa”. idea journal 20 (01):183–204 . https://doi.org/10.37113/ij.v20i01.513.