PNG Traditional Architecture and its Influence on Modern Built Environment Design

Rosemarie Rusch

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractResearch


Recent Papua New Guinea (PNG) government and privately funded housing developments appear to be dominated by an imported modern architecture that is often very expensive and prone to rapid deterioration due to poor design and inappropriate materials. Largely led by local developers’ engagement with international architectural firms, the product is arguably unresponsive to social needs. On the other hand many of Australia’s prominent architects and designers who look to produce buildings that are appropriate to their natural environments acknowledge that they have been influenced by the architectural traditions of the Pacific, specifically those that reflect similar climatic conditions. Impressions from his childhood in PNG for example, are said to have influenced Glenn Murcutt’s early work, while Rex Addison, Ken Costigan and Peter Stutchbury have similarly acknowledged the impact and compelling value of indigenous architecture sensitive to place, climate and culture, on their early practice.
This research uses literature from refereed journals, professional publications and architects’ personal archives to review architectural elements from PNG, which once possessed a rich traditional built heritage, to discover how they influenced tropical architectural theory and whether these ideas have retained their value in modern PNG. The approach gives valuable insights about PNG traditional architecture, where design and construction systems retain intrinsic elements suited to the natural environment, and finds new directions to maintain core values of the traditional ecological design while responding to the modern lifestyle demands for soft and hard infrastructures in the sustainable built environment.
The intent of this paper is to examine the influence of PNG building traditions, materiality and ecological design on Australian architects, to see what can be learned from such architecture to address affordable housing issues in PNG. Emphasis will be on architectural tradition as a prime driver for design and construction outside the domain of development aid and government provided housing.

Keywords: heritage, housing, Papua New Guinea, sustainability, traditional architecture, design
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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2015
EventSAHANZ Inaugural PhD Symposium on Architectural History - University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
Duration: 27 Nov 201527 Nov 2015


ConferenceSAHANZ Inaugural PhD Symposium on Architectural History
OtherPapers by current research higher degree students were presented at the inaugural SAHANZ PhD Symposium on Architectural History, which took place on 27 November 2015 at The University of Queensland, Brisbane. The symposium offered students expert commentary on research was well as roundtable discussions on academic networking and publishing.

The symposium was supported by the Society of Architectural Historians Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ) and hosted by the School of Architecture, The University of Queensland.
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