Scientist, architect and Samoa join forces for special exhibition


A unique art exhibition that combines science, architecture and anthropology to forge a new future for a Samoan village opens in Wellington next week.

The exhibition stems from a pilot project to help Samoa’s largest village, Sa’anapu, better cope with natural disaster after it was badly affected by a tsunami in 2009 and Cyclone Evans in late 2012.

The pilot project was initiated by NIWA marine geologist Geoffroy Lamarche and Cécile Bonnifait of Wellington's Bonnifait+Giesen Architects. It aims to help the Samoan community build its resilience to natural disasters and proposes some new building solutions that take into account Samoan culture and local know-how and materials.

The exhibition seeks to explore memories of the coastal village after the impact of natural disasters and climate change and the resulting shifts in the physical, cultural and psychological aspects of the village environment and people.

It also showcases some of the work already completed and includes physical models of new village facilities that could be built at Sa’anapu.

NIWA's involvement

NIWA has been involved in assessing the potential impact of a tsunami on the village, by investigating historical event, generating a numerical model of a tsunami originating from the Tonga Trench, and in estimating frequency of natural disasters.

Dr Lamarche says the relationships between the natural environment and the architectural and social environments are rarely accounted for in projects involving coastal island communities.

“We are merging research, creativity, construction and knowledge transfer in a very exciting way. But what makes this pilot project really special is its focus on finding modern solutions that retain and preserve the cultural heritage, history and traditions of the village.”

Event runs from March until May

The exhibition opens on 18 March and runs until 12 May at Pataka Art + Museum, Porirua. An activity week will be organised at the Museum from 4 April to 9 April with Samoan Talking Chief Popese Leaana who is visiting from Sa’anapu. On 7 April a function will be held at the Museum in presence of Muliagatele Filomena Nelson, Assistant Chief Executive Officer of the National Disaster Management Office of the Samoan Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy (ACEO DMO MNRE) in Apia.

Dr Lamarche and Ms Bonnifait say the engagement of the Sa’anapu residents has been crucial to the success of the project with the next stage being to secure more funding so that this conceptual project can progress to a feasibility stage.

Funding for the early stages has been a joint effort between NIWA, Bonnifait+Giesen and the Pacific Fund of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


What: Shifting Paradigm, the village of Sa’anapu, Samoa
Where: Pataka Art + Museum, cnr Norrie and Parumoana Sts, Porirua
When:  18 March – 12 May 2016

View the exhibition listing on Pataka Museum's website 



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Archived on 23 April 2020