The Appearances of Nauru
“The essence of the deserted island is imaginary and not
actual, mythological and not geographical”
The island is elsewhere.
A mere dot appears within the azure seas of the southwestern Pacific Ocean. But zoom in closer and reveal an ambulatory of shoreline speckled with further dots – buildings, tied like a necklace around its perimeter. Beyond this thin band stretches an arid landscape of limestone rock formations. These are the dire effects of a mining boom driven by the colonial powers who ruled Nauru for much of the 20th century.
Zoom in closer between the rocky pinnacles and you will
notice a clearance housing a cluster of buildings – the Australian Offshore
Processing Centre. As phosphate reserves depleted Nauru’s economy became
dependant on Australia for funding in exchange for housing their refugees.
From colonialism and resource extraction to refugees and even obesity, this island has been repeatedly hit by the global forces of the past century. This is set to continue as Nauru is predicted to be amongst the first nations to disappear under rising sea levels.
This project orchestrates the disappearance of Nauru,
proposing architectures which enable the forces that have shaped Nauru to be
articulated in new ways. These architectures follow five principles, which
correspond to Nauru’s spatial and temporal trajectories:
1. Swim, or sink
2. Use whatever’s left
3. Cast the characters
4. Engage external interface
5. Mind the void
On this basis, the following interventions appear.
An inflatable playground which claims Nauru’s airport runway as a civic space outside of its ten flights per week. This play space and civic focal point also possesses a latency of political occupation – the inflatable structures can be re-appropriated as runway blockades to be activated as events on the island unfold.
A new Australian Football League ‘Information Stadium’ is set within the island’s centre, reachable only virtually. This explores the island’s dialectical condition between its external perimeter which is accessible via the media and its dark interior of which little is known - a heart of darkness full of detention camps and wild dogs.
A series of monuments is carefully set in place to be discovered after the island is drowned, staging its ruination. Their meaning comes into being only once submerged and discovered by diving explorers.
These interventions derive their power from the spaces they occupy on the island. They are neither purely theoretical, nor literal oppositions but rather, a remote observer’s attempt to use architecture as a tool for understanding the forces which shape the island of Nauru.
This project is thus an exploration of the limits of architectural perspective played out on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean, which appears on google maps as it disappears under the rising seas.
School of Architecture
MA Architecture, 2017
- BArch, Glasgow School of Art, 2014