An unusual building marking the entrance to a Northland heritage park is being featured among the New Zealand exhibition at a major architectural show.

The Marsden Cross Memorial Centre - Rore Kahu (which means "soaring hawk") - is part of the Kiwi exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale which opened in the Italian city on Saturday.

Rore Kahu overlooks Rangihoua Heritage Park in the northern Bay of Islands, and was opened by Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae in December 2014. It is made of rammed earth walls with a composite panel roof and was designed by Cheshire Architects of Auckland as the park's entrance and the start of a pilgrim's way leading to Rangihoua Bay.

Rangihoua was the site of New Zealand's first European settlement, founded by a small group of British missionaries and settlers in 1814 under the protection of Chief Ruatara, whose pa can still be seen on a nearby hilltop.

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Rore Kahu was commissioned by the Marsden Cross Trust Board, which represents descendants of the first European settlers. The other groups involved in establishing Rangihoua Heritage Park were Ngati Torehina's Rangihoua Pa Native Reserve Board and the Department of Conservation.

Rore Kahu's roof was made by Warkworth-based Core Builders Composites, which also worked on Oracle's America's Cup boats. Other New Zealand finalists include an art gallery in West Auckland, a botanic garden centre in Christchurch and a kura kaupapa in Wairoa.

Several Northland designer homes are also featured in the Venice show, among them the Fielding house in Te Arai Point and an extended family home in Rawhiti.

They are three of more than 50 different architectural works on display by designers from all over New Zealand.