Woven walls, threaded horizons: traditional architecture in the modern urban fabric of Papua New Guinea.

  • Rosemarie Rusch

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis seeks to provide an understanding of housing transformation in light of the social and cultural interface between village and urban settings in PapuaNew Guinea (PNG). The issue of concern here is based on the premise that there is an intrinsic link between the legacy of traditional architecture and social practice in PNG, which embodies memories, cultural beliefs and behaviours intimately linked to the cultural and physical landscape.

An escalating demand for housing solutions that meet the needs of both urban and rural residents has been highlighted by the impact of human settlement expansion and the resultant development crises, particularly for Oceanic economies. In this study the point of departure is an analysis of housing transformation processes that consider people’s own views of housing in villages and the efforts of villagers and urban settlers to provide housing for themselves.

Peoples’ need for housing is a basic one which, in PNG, is rooted in village life. It is important, because houses are the artefacts of human interventions, to understand the drivers of traditional village architecture in PNG, with the hope of providing valuable insights into core values of housing that respond to modern lifestyle demands.

Therefore, this thesis calls for a greater understanding of traditional village architecture in Papua New Guinea to appreciate the diversity that is needed to allow individuals to determine their own contemporary housing needs. The value of the past provides a guide for future narratives if the authenticity and integrity of the traditional built environment is respected, at the same time allowing room for the creativity and lifestyle aspirations of these dynamic communities.

Reflecting on architectural transitions in PNG since 1914, this research documents and analyses traditional architecture through two embedded case studies of villages. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, this research adds to the body of knowledge related to traditional architecture in PNG, which has seen rapid transformation of its built environment in little over 100 years.
Date of Award21 Oct 2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMarja Sarvimaki (Supervisor), Paul Jones (Supervisor) & Eric Best (Supervisor)

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