Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Sovereign Sense

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posted on 2022-07-28, 01:20 authored by Majurey, Dylan

The South Pacific Island of Funafuti, Tuvalu is at threat of becoming one of the first countries globally to be Inundated due to rising sea levels. The likely result is that the people of this country will lose a sense of place and culture and be unable to sustain their National Sovereignty in the face of impending climate change and refugee status. Willi Telavi Tuvalu’s Prime Minister states ‘Relocation is not seen as an option but as a last resort, rights to land and culture are held with utmost importance’. And thus relocation will result in a loss of sovereignty (McNamara and Gibson, 2009). Architectural intervention can insure that a sense of sovereignty is maintained during the drastic climate change transformations that their native lands face. The intention of this Architectural Thesis is to design a solution that actively engages with sea level rise so that Tuvalu and other low-lying atoll nations can maintain a minimum of subsistence dwelling and economy.

The current problems the Capital Island of Funafuti face are crippling with the loss of coastal areas and increased tidal flooding. This results with not only a loss in land area but also permanent salinisation in areas traditionally used for crop harvesting. This salinisation will only increase in severity with the projected future sea level rise. It will force the population of Funafuti to become climate refugees before it is fully submerged (IPCC, 2013).

The main question this thesis aims to address is; How can architecture maintain a sense of sovereignty within a disappearing context. And what are the implications of habitation, culture and contested territories for the Tuvaluan’s?

This critical reflection aims to investigate the architectural advantages of atoll environments. How the preservation of social, cultural identity and order can be maintained through a contemporary evolutionary process. Throughout this changing context it is imperative to maintain a sense of human scale within this small populace of Tuvaluan’s.

The process begins with analysing a series of architectural design experiments. They are design led research experiments with themes of impending reality. They are similar to Tuvalu’s vernacular and built environment by their inherent characteristics and layout design Sourcing concrete current ideas and findings on Tuvalu itself are scarce as to the nature of fluxes of the global climate change predictions. Therefore research will be provided on the current environmental conditions of the island and the current problems the Tuvaluan's face, The predictions for sea level rise will be compared on a Funafuti cross section. This will show impact on the islands informal dwellings over time periods and how improvements can be made to mitigate the exacerbated conditions of climate change and the potential future problems that Funafuti Island will face.


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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


Pedersen Zari, Maibritt; Martinez-Almoyna Gual, Carles