Safe houses

Cantiere Delle Marche and Young Architects Competitions (YAC) has launched the Kiribati Floating Houses Competition.

28 November 2019


The Kiribati Archipelago might be thousands of miles from Italy, but they are inextricably linked by the sea.

Superyacht builder, Cantiere delle Marche has teamed up with YAC in a contest aiming to encourage designers to devise floating structures for the Kiribati archipelago to tackle the challenges of the rise of ocean levels is part of a wider message: a call to arms.

Straddling the equator and spread over 3.5 million square km (2 million square miles) of the Pacific Ocean, Kiribati’s 32 atolls and one raised coral island have an average height above sea level of just two metres.

Global sea level has risen by about 8 inches since reliable record keeping began in 1880. It is projected to rise another up to 4 feet (1,20-metres) by 2100. This is the result of added water from melting land ice and the expansion of seawater as it warms. In the next several decades, storm surges and high tides could combine with sea level rise and land subsidence to further increase flooding in many regions.


The Kiribatis show us how fragile we are and how compelling is the need to find solutions to what we, as humans, caused to our planet.

The Kiribati Floating Houses Young Architects Competition targeting an interesting sustainable development signal Cantiere delle Marche’s grand vision and commitment to environment protection.

“The islands are ants and industrialized nations are elephants”.

This is how Teburoro Tito described unequal country contributions to climate change. This is what Kiribati is: a handful of atolls lying on the huge womb of the Pacific Ocean. It is an ant that has been paying the cost of elephants for too long. Distant and unaware pachyderms have hurled against it the bulimia of a ferocious, corrupted and swollen sea due to the ice melting.

Kiribati’s elderly people look at this sea with bewilderment. They are hurt by the incomprehensible betrayal of what they used to consider a loyal friend, even more loyal than the Earth. Today they show threadbare photographs of their island when the ocean used to be fara

way from the houses. Differently, now clouds gather at the horizon, lead grey clusters rise and rumble at sunset. This is when the water and salt monster seems to shake off lethargy. This is when the ocean rises to claim the shores of the island.

Another coastal storm passes and leaves a trail of flooded plantations, destroyed houses and poisoned wells behind it. Kiribati is still Kiribati. However, it is a little more faded, a little thinner.

Yet, resignation does not belong to these atolls. Surrender does not suit navigators’ descendants. In fact, in Kiribati there is one single word to define “people” and “nation”. Here, these two concepts blend together. There is no Kiribati without its population. There are no natives without their island.

Fleeing is not an option. Leaving is not the solution. This is why Kiribati Floating Houses is needed.

Vasco Buonpensiere, co-founder of Cantiere delle Marche and member of the Jury of the YAC 2019 said “I have been immediately taken by the images and the words of the Head of State of the Kiribati Islands proudly asking for help to the most powerful men of the world.

“When I also heard that the Kiribati government purchased 6,000 acres on Fiji in 2014 to try and ensure food security as the environment changes and that they were implementing a program, ‘Migration with Dignity’, with the aim of creating a skilled workforce able to find good employment abroad, I loved the positive and constructive attitude of this population who is paying the consequences of our mistakes.

“I really wanted to know more to see how we could help. In CdM style, when the idea was proposed to me, I was all-in from the start!”

A cash prize of € 15,000 will be awarded to winners. In addition, some projects will be selected to be part of an exhibition at Santa Maria della Vita in Bologna and some other projects will be selected to be part of an exhibition about ocean exploration held by National Geographic at Palazzo Blu in Pisa, selected by a jury made of  internationally renowned architects such as Kengo Kuma, Moon Hoon, Rocco Yim, Cristiana Favretto (Studio Mobile), Simon Frommenwiler (HHK Architects), Giuseppe Zampieri (David Chipperfield Architects) and Vasco Buonpensiere , co-founder and Sales & Marketing Director of Cantiere delle Marche.

Kiribati Floating Houses aims at promoting a housing model able to provide local populations with high quality architectural solutions. They will have to ensure the best possible harmony between artificial elements and landscape, local languages and contemporary purposes. Likewise, they will have to be feasible.

Projects will have to use technologies and materials that are consistent with the local context (therefore, wood and steel are preferable); b. Projects will have to deal with the energy issue.

Each dwelling will have to be designed as an independent and self-sufficient unit. Consequently, each one of them will have to be equipped with elements that generate electricity through renewable sources; c. Kiribati’s main problem is the supply and conservation of fresh water. Rainfalls are frequent. However, recurrent coastal storms affect water potability.

For this reason, drinkable water collection and conservation systems will be essential elements to design each housing unit; d. Projects will have to deal with the hygienic/sanitary issue of the context. As a matter of fact, there is no dry land to dispose waste; e. The new architectures will have to protect people from oceanic storms. The new Kiribati needs architectures able to change according to the conditions of the external environment.



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