Survival Island: Warsaw architect wins international comp to save locals on SINKING islands
With the low-lying, isolated islands of Kiribati threatened by rising sea levels, a Polish architect has found his work going viral after winning an international competition that has sought to find solutions to save the threatened Pacific paradise.
Composed of 33 islands with a permanent population of little over 100,000, locals have looked on with alarm as the seas that surround Kiribati have inched further up the beaches that once separated their homes.
Facing the raw end of climate change, it is their ancient way of life that stands to pay the hardest price of the environmental crisis.
Kiribatian politician Teburoro Tito said: “The islands are ants while the industrialized nations are elephants.
“We’re a handful of atolls lying in the huge womb of the Pacific Ocean, but yet it is our ant that is paying the cost of the elephants.”
Potentially standing to be the first country to sink out of existence, it was this alarming situation that prompted organizers of Young Architects Competitions to focus in on the stark reality facing Kiribati and challenge entrants to design a resilient “new dwelling model in order to globally tackle the challenges of the rise in ocean levels and climate change.”
“We regard it as one of the last most fragile paradises of our planet,” say the organizers, “and our competition will provide prizarchitects an additional opportunity: to redeem the civilized world.”
Faced with stiff competition from an array of international architects and designers, it was Marcin Kitala of Warsaw’s Kuryłowicz & Associates architectural studio that scooped the coveted top spot and EUR 8,000 prize.
Envisioning the construction of inter-locking, pentagonal-shaped platforms, the winning concept features floating modules of an area of 4,300 sq/m, each large enough to fit a maximum of five homes and 30 habitants.
“The five-sided shape gives the freedom to be scaled up or down according to various needs,” says Kitala, “with each platform that is added enriching the village and creating a community built fragment by fragment – much like the Pacific Islands themselves were built by nature."
Touting a range of sustainable innovations, each of these platforms would also come with space for greenhouses, water purification systems, vegetable gardens and solar panels – the idea, says Kitala, would be for every module to have all the required tools to function in a way that was entirely self-sufficient.
Avoiding a high density of buildings, the artificial islands would further be given different functions: “some would be dedicated to housing and others just to nature,” says Kitala.
With some earmarked to serve solely agrarian purposes and others dedicated to leisure time, the project, says the architect, would preserve the local way of life by offering both quiet and secluded areas as well as those bustling with activity.
Assembled together he continues, the terraces would form one community and living organism able to withstand challenges by simply readapting and reconfiguring the layout.
Titled Riiki (a Kiribatian loosely translated as “Change of Weather Every Few Days”), and drawing inspiration from native mythology, the project has met with acclaim for its creative approach to a looming tragedy that could see the islands swallowed by the ocean within just fifty years.