Ariana Heslop-Riddell: Scholarship Recipient

September 9 2022

Ariana Heslop-Riddell is the latest recipient of the RTA Studio Scholarship for Māori Architecture Students and will receive $10,000 over 5 years towards her studies. The scholarship programme was launched in 2019 and provides financial assistance for students who may otherwise find cost a barrier to attending university. Here’s why Ariana’s such a deserving recipient…

As the daughter of an architect, Ariana Heslop-Riddell was always being taken to visit houses that her father, Bruce Heslop, had designed. But it wasn’t until he showed her a 70s home by Nicholas Stanish and Russell Withers in Auckland’s Freemans Bay, and for which he was designing an addition in the backyard, that she finally decided to follow in his footsteps.

That house, a study in concrete block and timber, with a sense of Zen, has received an Enduring Architecture award from the NZIA. For the young Ariana, it was what propelled her to her future.

The 18-year-old, who is in her first year at The University of Auckland, grew up in Tokomaru Bay, an experience that instilled her with a mindfulness about community and the environment. “My decision to undertake a Bachelor of Architectural Studies was influenced by my father, who is a founding member of Ngā Aho (a network of Māori design professionals). The ability to create a space that is environmentally friendly, socially enjoyable and culturally responsive, that also benefits the wider whanau, is important to me,” she says.

Her iwi is Ngāti Porou and Ngāi Tahu and Te Reo is Ariana’s mother tongue. As an infant she attended Kohanga reo and later kura Kaupapa Māori; in fact, it was only once she entered intermediate school that she was formally taught English. When the family moved to Auckland to be closer to Ariana’s maternal grandparents, she had mastered her second language so well that a short story she wrote at intermediate school yearning for her tūrangawaewae, entitled ‘My Special Place’, was published in Toitoi, a national competition for young writers.

Although she returns regularly to Iritekura marae, she’s loving taking her first steps along the career path. Lecturers such as Anthony Hoete, who shares the connection of approaching architecture from a Māori perspective, while imparting practical skills such as how to draw to scale, reinforce her commitment to the profession. “After I achieve my Bachelors’ Degree and Masters in Architecture, I aspire to do a Doctorate at Berkeley University in San Francisco, which has an internationally prestigious Architecture and Urban Planning department,” says Ariana.

The value of education has been instilled in her, but she is also mindful of the cost. “Where I grew up, a good education was not a privilege for everyone,” she says. Financially, the RTA Scholarship will reduce the size of her student loan and help her pursue an international PhD.

Her ultimate dream is to be able to give back, perhaps helping to design schools for lower-decile communities. “I hope to one day see Māori advance as leaders in this area of social and economic development in Aotearoa - notwithstanding the contribution I could make as a Māori woman in the architectural industry,” she says.

And with such obvious intellect and clear-sighted determination, we’ve no doubt Ariana will make her mark.