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Kastam: Exploring the Architectural Principles of Exchange and Resilience

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posted on 2021-12-07, 23:23 authored by Saunyama, Ruwarashe

The Refugee Resettlement situation on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea is in dire need of a humane intervention. The Manus Island Detention Centre was officially permanently closed on the 31st of October 2017 (ABC News), leaving 600 men with three options; moving back to their countries of origin, relocating to the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre or moving and resettling in the United States of America on the basis that they get granted refugee status.   The option of relocating to the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre may seem like a viable option to the Australian state but to the 600 men it's a move that would render them vulnerable and in danger. Relocating to the transit centre will only cause more overcrowding and depletion of the already scarce resources. The living conditions of the Manus Island Detention Centrefor refugees and asylum seekers was deemed harsh and inhumane. The conditions of East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre are no different.   The lack of bare essentials in these refugee camps such as a constant source of clean water, food, healthcare and accommodation has led to health and psychosocial problems amongst its inmates and if left unaddressed it will worsen further. This has resulted in the refugees becoming increasingly dependent on the Australian and Papua New Guinean states – which treats the centre as a state of exemption. This situation and their isolation from society has also contributed to disempowering the refugees who are increasingly unable to function in day to day life and experiencing difficulty integrating into the Manusian society.   This thesis will address this crisis architecturally; its intention is to explore architecture as a medium that will orchestrate the development of better and empowering living opportunities for the refugees and facilitate a sense of community within the Manusian society via a holistic community model.  The objective of the model is to firstly enable the refugees to become self-sufficient where they don't have to rely on the resources provided from external sources as the Papua New Guinean and Australian state.  Secondly the intention is tofacilitate community integrationby creating opportunities for the refugees and the locals to interact through shared and mutually beneficial opportunities. By developing a sense of community and reliability between the locals and refugees; both parties engaging in a traditional Papua New Guinean practice of Kastam (Otto T.), based on exchange, supportiveness, respect and honour.   The thesis aims to test and readdress, through an exploration of architectural principals related to exchange and resilience, the stigma and ideology of refugee resettlement―by moving away from the idea of refugees as reliant on the states that govern them, to the refugees becoming self-sufficient and thereby becoming less of a burdenand more of an asset to the host community.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Architecture (Professional)

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


de Sylva, Shenuka