Canadian Architect

Student Award of Excellence Winner

Alexander Ring
The University of British Columbia (Thesis Advisor: Raymond Cole, FRAIC)


12-Polyvalent Sea levels could rise several metres by the end of this century, while extreme weather events simultaneously increase in frequency and severity. These pressures are already beginning to force coastal populations to migrate to higher elevations.

Polyvalent Adaptations proposes to create networks of soft and hard infrastructures that meet current needs for resource independence, while also offering emergency support in the aftermath of severe storms. Ultimately, these infrastructures become armatures guiding new, more resilient settlement patterns.

The author chose Tongatapu, a low-lying island home to 70,000 Tongans—and a place that could lose half of its land to the ocean in the coming decades—as a test location.

The thesis takes the form of a narrative spanning from 2020 to 2080, centred on a Tongan named Fokai. When he is 17 and living on his family’s farm near the sea, the Vaota (“forest” in Tongan) is being developed as a new infrastructure strip, stretching the length of the island along the 20-metre elevation line. Planted with trees, it also contains resources such as a market and a water treatment facility. Over the course of Fokai’s lifetime, the pre-planned intensification of the Vaota enables it to become his refuge after a catastrophic hurricane and flood in 2045, and ultimately, the site of his new home in Tongatapu’s trans-planted capital.

Jury Comments

Manon Asselin :: I was quite impressed with the breadth of what was presented in the student projects. It’s enlightening to see young architects taking on serious and substantial issues, and seeing it as part of their responsibility to respond to these issues in building the world of tomorrow—it’s going beyond just making pretty buildings.

Patricia Patkau :: What’s most convincing about this project is that it deals with a serious issue in a rather matter-of-fact way. It suggests that communities can help themselves before the water rises and disaster strikes, and helps them to manage and plan. It has depth and optimism, offering a fully integrated way of approaching these kinds of problems. It’s thorough but also accessible, explaining itself in such a way that anyone can under-stand.

David Sisam :: This project takes a very real situation—rising sea levels—and deals with it in a thoughtful and modest way. The proposal accounts for a decades-long period over which the scenario of reconstruction takes place, and recognizes the importance of both community involvement and proactive initiatives to respond to this crisis. The project was clearly presented, with an impressive degree of pragmatism.