"Try to make a timeless solution, which addresses the present and supports the future"
11.000. That is the number of people who will be homeless in a 50 years time. The Tuvalu archipelago, or Tuvalu for short, is located at the heart of the Pacific Ocean. This miniature archipelago, independent from the United Kingdom since 1978, is in great danger because of mankind's direspect for nature. Indeed, in about 50 years, the whole archipelago will be gobbled up by the ocean and leave all its inhabitants without their homeland, making them the first ever climate refugees.
More than this, sea water has infiltrated many of the island's sources of drinking water, turning them unsanitary to drink.
What do we do now? Change the way we live? Let them lose their homeland? Do we flee?
The human relationship with Earth is the matter of adapting rather than changing. The architects' approach doesn’t look for an alternative, focusing rather on the invisible potential of context to build a resilient, cost effective and adaptive network.
The South Pacific islands are identified to be the most vulnerable and the context was well deciphered. The forces of wind and water were then identified as the driving agents for design. Land being the basic resource and water, the fuel for survival, encompasses a larger ecological loop. The conversation between these two thus becomes the crux.
It’s not about land or water, but the conjunction of it. It’s a matter of land, water and the space in-between.
The Land was strengthened and recovered through sand harvest. The threats from water were turned as the new opportunities through coral plantation. The gap was refined with groynes making the land grow with water. The diverse forces were thus envisioned to synthesize an interdependent bond that brings social, ecological and economical resilience to the context.
We interviewed Prethvi Raj on their project and their work:
Above all, tell us about yourself in a few words: Where do you live, study or work at the moment?
Hi, I’m Prethvi Raj currently residing in Chennai. I’m a junior architect at Varsha and Pradeep architects, Chennai. Prasanth is from Kanchipuram and presently working under Andagere architects, Bangalore.
One sentence to tell us about your project
Our design intervention was driven from a scientific background which can encounter the issue at its crux and offer multi-layered ECO-infrastructural systems. By envisioning such an idea, the diverse forces of the context were expected to synthesize with each other and evolve a synergic bond that brings the social, ecological and economical resilience to the context.
What does your project mean to you?
It was during our college days, while studying architecture, our cultural capital of India – Chennai, got flooded, despite being a coastal city. We got stranded in our hostel, and whole city had no power or signal with very little supplies. So, we experienced the climate change personally. So, when we came across this competition, we really wanted to help this crisis, and come up with a design considering all the parameters.
What challenges did you face during the creation process of your project?
We believe design process is continuous and thus should justify both subjective and objective parameters. The main challenge was with the chosen site context, TUVALU, as it is the most threatened place on planet and being economically vulnerable as well. More than the climatic factors, we had to equally deal with energy based parameters and economical dimensions. The multi-faceted integration we conceived for the island had put forth disparate ISSUES to regulate and redefine. Well, anyway its all part of the exercise and we didn’t consider any of them in isolation.
How does it feel to try to be one of the most visionary architects in the world?
Thank you for your acknowledgement. We feel proud of our design proposal and our thought process which led us to this stage. We truly believe that architecture has capacity in itself for many unanswered problems and crisis the world is facing, and we feel great to be part of the team of change makers who works for a better future.
Do you think the Foundation played a crucial role in your project’s advancement, visibility?
Of course, Yes. We believe that the way brief was set was the most influential factor of our design. There was no restrictions given in any forms, like in terms of site, typology, number of participants etc. but had a clear intention of Sustainability and Innovation. This showed that the foundation’s open minded search for a true solution and excited us to work with a broader vision and deepened knowledge.
Why participate in such a competition? Would you do it again?
Design exercises cannot be isolated from research, analysis and documentation. This kind of competitions in particular encourages all those to happen simultaneously and also allows for uncompromised exploration with no intellectual or geographical boundary. It could help us in taking our ideas to a bigger platform for a progressive dialogue.
We believe our ideas should be displayed for open discussions so that it can see physical transformations and also transcend cultural limitations. Hence we always prefer to take up such competitions and experiment.
What’s the next step?
Our perception over sustainability found a whole new level after the competition, and it’s completely inspiring us in our day to day life. Having won this competition encouraged us to take our own desired path towards sustainability. Well, I wanted to further broaden my vision, and thus planning to do a Master’s degree in Sustainability, and Prasanth started his practice in a firm, which respects the vernacular architecture and sustainable way of construction. We had great start for our first year of our career by winning this competition, and hope to establish a practice in a larger scale and for the greater good.
A word of advice for this year’s participants?
Broaden up your mind, while proposing an idea. Make sure you exploit the opportunities given by the open brief with diverse ideas. Try to make a timeless solution, which addresses the present and supports the future. Think simple; Genuine and contextual.