“The islands are ants and industrialised nations are elephants”.
This is how Teburoro Tito described unequal country contributions to climate change. This is what Kiribati is: a handful of atolls lying on the huge womb of the Pacific Ocean. It is an ant that has been paying the cost of elephants for too long. Distant and unaware pachyderms have hurled against it the bulimia of a ferocious, corrupted and swollen sea due to the ice melting.
Urban Planning Concept
The design offers a high level of flexibility both on the village-level and the house-level, allowing for a step-by-step, organic growth over time. Parts of the village and the housing unit remain open and unfinished, allowing for a gradual evolution as the population grows, people’s needs change and the environment transforms due to climate change.The overall structure resembles that of a tree: the access to the town center symbolises the tree’s trunk while the modular blocks including the housing units represent the branches. These grow organically over time.
The Functional Core of the Floating Housing Module
In the heart of each housing block lies the answer to the brief’s other programmatic requests. Apart from domestic space, the design accommodates an ever-present open-air space in the very center of each living unit. What is the program? Vegetable garden, shelter for domestic or farmed animals, pool for fish farming. These functions are integrated into the houses, situated in connected modules to ensure the maximum protection from the seawater. Vegetables, fish and animals are essential to locals, thus this is addressed both on village-scale and house-scale.
Self-Sufficiency: Energy and Water
Photo-voltaic panels are the primary source of electricity supply and are aimed to ensure electrical self-sufficiency of the housing units. They are placed on the slightly tilted roof to maximise the exposure to sunlight. In addition to hosting a PV system, the tilted roof collects rain water in water grills, which is collected in freshwater tanks below the house. Rooftop and tank are connected by enclosed pipes to ensure maximum collection of water. In this way the proposed housing modules are part of a system while being able to autonomously respond to their needs for energy.
The In-between Space
The proposed structure of wooden lamellas for the Kiribati Floating houses serves a twofold purpose:
1. Building onto what is already there
The design proposal seeks to add itself onto the existing architectural and material context of Tarawa in a soft and considerate way. The innovation in this case lies in a number of strategies around energy, adaptability and future growth, as described on the previous pages.
The look and feel of the living spaces is created to welcome, not alienate the people the houses are intended for. Natural and tactile materials like wood and bass are selected to blend in with the built surroundings and local material language.
2. A strong dialectic between indoor and outdoor space
Second, the wooden structure as designed allows for maximum permeability of the houses. What is interior space? What is exterior and what are the semi-open housing zones in-between? The idea is to make the boundaries between indoors and outdoors hardly visible when it comes to how the house is experienced in everyday life. The design welcomes the surroundings -the sunlight, the sky, the view of the Pacific Ocean- to inhabit it and help it acquire the identity that it can only have in this specific geo-location, this climate, this unique part of the world.