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Above Water

Matthew Feitelberg

Naifaru, Maldives


MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design (MAUD)


Climate, Technology

We are told that low-lying islands are disappearing with news headlines constantly announcing this inevitability. We must say “Toodle-oo to Tuvalu” and “bon voyage to the BVI’s.” Despite the intentions of such headlines to bring attention to the plight of those living in such areas, they view the island as a temporal being; a sliver of land that cannot defend itself and was never destined to last. This rhetoric disregards the rich histories and cultures of small island nations resulting in a reluctance to fight for their survival.

However, recent research suggests that if we are willing to fight, low-lying islands will survive and flourish despite rising seas and other negative effects of climate change. This survival largely depends upon the continued health of natural costal defences such as coral reefs and mangrove forests. Far from simply providing a barrier that shields islands from the sea, these ecosystems provide crucial sedimentation necessary to maintain growth.

I argue that island nations must begin to view architecture as an extension of the land and sea as opposed to something separate. New buildings must engage with the natural forces which create islands and assist in growing as opposed to contributing to their collapse.

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