View fulltext online
Citation:Austin, M. R. (2014). Oceanic Architecture. 14ª Venice Architecture Biennale catalogue. New Zealand Institute of Architects. pp. 18-25
Permanent link to Research Bank record:http://hdl.handle.net/10652/2908
Pacific pavilions The Oceanic way of building boats involves duplicating hulls “One would imagine that a contrivance so simple and practical for pro- curing stability and increased carrying capacity would have been adopted everywhere, but as a matter of fact it belongs almost exclusively to the Indo-Pacific area.” Until very recently no one would have thought that the America’s Cup, the premier global yachting contest, would be sailed in multi-hulled craft originating from the Pacific. In the same way that we can characterise the Oceanic canoe as uniquely multi-hulled there are a number of generalisations that can be made about Pacific Island buildings. The first is that they are universally single-celled pavilions. Small or large, Pacific buildings are always unicellular, and free-standing in open space. Differentiation and separation are achieved not by walls and partitions, but by space, much as islands are separated by sea. This term for this spacing is va, an Oceanic word, that, with numerous complex variations and translations, is applied to both the social and physical worlds. Fundamentals In the Pacific the gabled house form, which goes under variants of the term fale and which is known in New Zealand as the whare, is also standard. The gable cross section is, surprisingly, an inherently unstable form and it is, of course, a form that is not confined to the Pacific. The characteristic of the gable in Oceania is that posts support the ridge pole, which has the structural benefit of eliminating outward thrust on the wall posts; in the West this lateral load is usually resisted by trusses or buttresses. Sometimes this ridge post is truncated to become a king post, but always the ridge is propped. These props have all manner of symbolic associations. In the Māori whare the ridge post, or poutokomanawa, is the heart of the named ancestor who is the house. This identification is detailed and literal. The gable house form, in all its variations, is utterly fundamental to Pacific architecture.