Dr Tina Engels-Schwarzpaul

profile image

Professor in Spatial Design and Postgraduate Studies

Phone: +64 9 921 9999 ext 8240

Email: tina.engels@aut.ac.nz

Postal Address:
School of Art and Design
Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies
AUT University
Private Bag 92006
Auckland 1142
New Zealand ORCID:
ORCID logo  https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1382-6621

Links to relevant web pages:


2000 PhD (Education and Art History), The University of Auckland. Myth, Symbol, Ornament: the Loss of Meaning in Transition.
1999 Graduate Diploma in Higher Education, Unitec Institute of Technology
1991 Registered Interior Architect, Architektenkammer Hessen (Chamber of Architects, Hessen), Germany
1985 MFA (Hons), Elam School of Fine Arts, Designing and Manufacturing in New Zealand.
1978 Dipl. Des. Interior Architecture, h-da (Germany)

Memberships and Affiliations:

2017- Member IPPh (Institut für Praxis der Philosophy), Darmstadt, Germany
2014 Member Architecture+Women NZ
2014 Editorial Board member of Interstices: Journal of Architecture and Related Arts
2013- Vā Moana/Pacific Spaces research cluster
2013 Editorial Board member of Knowledge Cultures (Addleton Academic Publishers, New York)
2012 Member International Board of University of Waikato's Centre of Global Studies
2009 Kaupapa Whanau member of Ngā Aho (Network of Māori Design Professionals).
2009 Member Architectural Humanities Research Association AHRA, UK.


Born in Germany, Tina first came to Aotearoa/New Zealand in 1982 and has since spent extended periods in both countries. This edge condition has given her research and teaching a particular focus on cross- or transcultural research in art, architecture, design, and performance in Aotearoa, the Pacific, and Europe. A design practitioner since 1978, she entered academia in 1993 and completed her PhD thesis at The University of Auckland in 2000. As Professor in Spatial Design, Tina continues to research and publish about the pitfalls and potentials of relationships between cultures,.

With Albert Refiti, Tina initiated a School of Art and Design research group, Vā Moana - Pacific Spaces, where she conducts research into the role of traditional indigenous art and architecture in the globalised leisure industries. A recent project focused on past and present global movements of Māori wharenui and Samoan fale houses and the roles they play in the performance of Pacific identities when displayed overseas. Research conducted at the Vā Moana research cluster has trans-cultural and cross-disciplinary perspectives and fosters new forms of collaboration. In 2018, Albert and Tina were granted funding for their project Vā Moana: space and relationality in Pacific thought and identity (2019-2022) under the Royal Society Te Apārangi’s Marsden Fund.

Another research interest stems from Tina's supervision of creative-practice led PhD theses and more generally her engagement as PhD/MPhil programme leader. Considering the theoretical underpinnings of practice-led PhD research, and a growing interest in the less chartered regions of PhD research has led to a book publication, Of Other Thoughts: Non-traditional Approaches to the Doctorate (co-edited with Prof. Michael A. Peters). It explores aspects of PhD candidatures that lie outside the academic mainstream – from ontology to action. A special issue of Knowledge Cultures explored the relationship between emerging and renegade forms of knowledge. From 2005 to 2014, Tina was executive editor, with Dr. Ross Jenner, of Interstices: Journal of Architecture and Related Arts and co-convenor of the annual symposium.

Prior to taking up lecturing, Tina worked for sixteen years as a designer across a variety of fields in Europe and New Zealand. Former employers include the Deutscher Werkbund (German Werkbund) and the Messe Frankfurt Gmbh.

Teaching Areas:

Trans-cultural and cross-disciplinary perspectives in art, design and architecture. | The role of traditional indigenous art and architecture, particularly from Aotearoa and the Pacific, in diasporic and globalised contexts (see Pacific Spaces research cluster). | The role of non-traditional knowledges and research approaches in PhD education (indigenous, feminist, ecologist, social activist, creative practice-led, transdisciplinary, transcultural; see Of Other Thoughts: Non-traditional Approaches to the Doctorate).

Postgraduate Supervisions:



  • Marina Alofagia McCartney -PhD (Creative practice-led) - Moana Cinema: What lies behind the Oceanic lens?
  • Zak Waipara - PhD (Creative practice-led) - Te Mana a Māui / The Magic of Māui: Remix and Reinvention of Pūrākau Māori.
  • Nabil Zabra - PhD (Creative practice-led) - Developing an andragogical model to enhance and assess critical thinking in Yemeni graphic design education.
  • Sue Gallagher - PhD (Creative practice-led) - Head Space Home Body
  • I‘uogafa Tuagalu - PhD - The ontology of the Samoan concept of vā (Space); and the evolution of the 19th Century Samoan worldview
  • Lisa Waldner - PhD (Creative practice-led) - Climate projections – What the public need to know
  • Lana Lopesi - MPhil - Chatrooms, threads and tweets: indigenous material culture online as archival objects.

Research Areas:

Cultural/postcolonial studies perspectives on architecture, design and postgraduate education, interlacing European and indigenous Pacific philosophies, histories, and artistic and spatial practices.

My research interests are closely intertwined with personal, political, pedagogical and professional engagements, which inform research and teaching practices. They cluster around interfaces and thresholds - literal and metaphorical. I am particularly fascinated by differences and commonalities in what can be known from different perspectives, in difference knowledge systems, and how those different views can enrich each other.

Research Summary:

Ever since my PhD thesis (2001), I have explored historical and contemporary overlaps and gaps between Māori and Pacific and Western knowledge practices, working alongside similarly broadly oriented researchers from mostly Māori and Pacific backgrounds.

Current Research Projects:

  • Vā Moana:   space and relationality in Pacific thought and identity

    Researchers: Dr A Refiti, Dr Tina Engels-Schwarzpaul, Dr B Lythberg, Dr O Mahina, Dr T Tengan, Dr B Graham, I’uogafa Tuagalu, Lana Lopesi, Layne Waerea.

    This project grew out of a sustained collaboration between mostly Pacific scholars, particularly with Albert Refiti, which was formalised in 2012 by the founding of the Pacific Spaces Research Cluster at the School of Art + Design, Auckland University of Technology. Questions concerning wā/vā/space in Pacific thinking and practices have always been pivotal to our research projects. However, we have not yet been able to address some fundamental questions regarding the development of these notions, before and since colonisation, their place in various Pacific cosmologies, and the different ways in which wā/vā/space has featured in key relational concepts supporting Māori and Pacific communities in metropolitan diasporas in and outside the Pacific. This project finally addresses some of these questions in a systematic manner by focusing on the areas of architecture, art, performance and education. The collaboration is inspired by the work of Auckland-based Māori and Pacific artists and intellectuals forging visions of new cultural identities for the 21st century.

    Vā Moana/Pacific Spaces research cluster

  • Tupua:   Iconic Afterlife and New Beginnings

    Researchers: Dr Tina Engels-Schwarzpaul, Dr Albert Refiti, I’uogafa Tuagalu, Nooroa Tapuni.

    This project initiates investigations into transformative appropriations and iconic power in the Pacific. In collaboration with researchers in the Pacific, Aotearoa New Zealand and Europe, it traces historic and contemporary exchanges of iconic images and objects through migration, trade, tourism and curation. At the interface of Western and Indigenous Pacific knowledges, and from different perspectives on a shared heritage, we explore the latter’s Nachleben (survival) and new beginnings. From this, we will develop theories pairing tupua and the iconic (“the nested ideas of icon, iconic power, iconosphere, and icon-ology”) that will help better to understand material cultural exchange. To identify how Pacific, Aotearoa New Zealand and European experiences of Pacific icons intersect in the (ex)change of concepts and images, expert interviews and material from Pacific and European archives are analysed, compared with current practices and then further teased out in creative practice-led research processes.

    A consideration of the iconic has widespread implications: it can help understand how images gain traction, socio-culturally and economically, and how important concepts from Aotearoa/New Zealand can extend into the realm of icons, spaces, things and people.

  • Dialogues   between architecture and anthropology

    Edited collection in preparation for publication by Berghahn (projected for 2020).

    Researchers: Tina Engels-Schwarzpaul, Albert Refiti, Lana Lopesi

    What happens when a conversation about sites and buildings in the Pacific takes place between anthropologists and architects? We suggest that the participants in both fields can provide an external perspective on each other’s knowledges, practices, and field of vision, extending the horizons of both fields of engagements. The contributors to this book – architectural practitioners, architectural and spatial design theorists, anthropologists and historians – show not only how the rubbing of aspects specific to one discipline against their equivalents of the other shapes new theoretical perspectives. They also demonstrate how, in a juxtaposition of terms and concepts proper to Pacific ontologies and epistemologies with their corresponding counterparts in Western knowledge traditions, a space is created for something to emerge that goes beyond both, enhancing both fields of potentialities.

    Rather than attempting direct translations between the disciplines and cultures, the contributors engage with Pacific spaces, buildings and agencies through dialogues and mutual questioning. They unfurl a shared horizon through multiple readings of sites or buildings, preserving specific cultural and social positions. Pacific concepts related to mana and tapu, whakapapa (geneaology) or mafua’aga (origin), and vā fealoaloa’i (relational space and social relationships), kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and utu (reciprocity), rituals and sacrifice are re-explored and extended to encompass recent diasporic situations and the movement of buildings, people and ritual spaces. These reassessments are especially important in the essays by Pacific scholars, who attempt to construct indigenous perspectives based on these concepts.

    Collectively, the authors also consider a broad spectrum of notions derived from Western scholarship, such as traditional and contemporary, locally intensive and globally dispersed, relational and singular. They provide fresh insights into the conception, production, designation, articulation and use of physical and cultural states and constructs in the Pacific. From the in-between, they suggest different possibilities of thinking about and looking at space and its experience, and they reveal how spaces, affects and interactions between beings, forms, objects and processes are and are becoming in the Pacific.

  • Trading   images, telling stories. Critical perspectives on power and appropriation   [working title].

Book project in early planning stage.


Interstices 15 (online)
Interstices 14
Interstices 14, 2013
Interstices 13
Interstices 13, 2012
Interstices 12
Interstices 12, 2011
Interstices 11
Interstices 11, 2010
Interstices 10
Interstices 10, 2009
Interstices 9
Interstices 9, 2008
Interstices 8
Interstices 8, 2007
Interstices 7
Interstices 7, 2006
Interstices 6
Interstices 6, 2005

Recent Presentations and Publications

Selected Presentations and Publications