Amber Ruckes

Amber joined Jasmax in 2018 looking for a firm that works with a collective spirit, which would celebrate and incorporate a Te Ao Māori design perspective from the inception of a project, and one which would also recognise her cultural identity, ‘Ko ahau – it is me.’ Amber says “architecture is an outlet for my culture.” She enjoys gathering the stories she receives working with mana whenua in her client briefing role with Waka Māia and finding ways to give full expression to these through design. Amber believes it is important that indigenous people feel comfortable and safe in spaces that feel right.

Amber was born in Japan. Her mother is of Tuhoē descent and her father is African American – of Masai, Nigerian and Kenyan descent. As the eldest grandchild on her mother’s side, Amber grew up living with her grandparents in Rotorua and attended a kura kaupapa where she developed proficient understanding of Te Reo. An archdeacon, Amber’s grandfather - koko holds a PhD in Maori Philosophy and has been a hugely influential figure in her life – his often sought-after advice intertwining religious wisdom and Māori whakaaro very beautifully.

“As an African American Maori, cultural safety is undeniably important and gives me the capacity uplift my values within a professional setting. Waka Māia is a rōpu that provides cultural safety. I know that if I feel supported in my work, my professional growth will be more fulfilling for myself, my workplace, and my family.”

Since joining Jasmax, Amber worked alongside Te Ākitia, the iwi that own the land the future Puhinui Station will be built on. Amber has assisted with preparing the documentation for how the iwi partnership relationship is established. This document also sets out the management of cultural intellectual property including narratives and artworks developed for this project.

Amber is a founding member of Hikitia Collective, a network of emerging practitioners from Te Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa within the creative design and built environment industries. “Helping to set up the Hikitia Collective, a rōpu that focuses on emerging indigenous practitioners, has been a career highlight for me. The upcoming generation of designers currently don’t see themselves represented in senior positions within the profession.”