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A/Prof Colleen Butcher-Gollach
Melbourne School of Design
T(Kiribati): +686-62500

David Scott
Media Unit
T: +613 83440561
M: 0409 024 230

University of Melbourne students will gain valuable experience in urban design, planning and architecture as part of a unique travelling design studio to the Central Pacific island of Kiribati.

The fourteen Masters students studying architecture, urban planning or building, will be working with local professionals on a draft structure plan, construction guidelines and model house designs for the South Tarawa area from June 27 until July 8.

The studio is designed to work in with the Government of Kiribati’s urban renewal initiatives, while collaborating with the Ministry of Environment, Lands & Agricultural Development and Central Land Planning Board, the Teinainano Urban Council, the Betio Town Council and their respective Citizens’ Taskforces.

Studio leader, Associate Professor Colleen Butcher-Gollach, said the students would be able to play a meaningful role in assisting locals to improve conditions in existing urban villages.  “One of the key assignments the students have is to look at the existing quality of housing and come up with simple, low cost construction guidelines to home owners about how they can improve their buildings.”

“While a lot of the buildings are quite traditional in material use and style, there are an increasing number of Western style buildings that don’t have much to draw on in terms of inspiration or ideas.  Regardless, the students will be looking at things such as roofing and guttering, the types of foundations that are in place as well as how ventilation can be improved.”

“Quite a number of existing villages are overcrowded, and there has been little effective development control over where people live and how.  So the students will also have the opportunity to provide input into a draft structure plan for guiding future growth of the South Tarawa area, as well as helping to come up with ‘model’ housing plans for low or middle income families who will have the opportunity to build on a new green fields subdivision being created by the Government.

“The structure plan is something entirely new for South Tarawa” said Associate Professor Butcher-Gollach. “While the authorities have had general land use plans completed in the past, there’s never been one overall strategy to link all the villages East to West and in particular identify areas that are not safe for human settlement due to the effects of climate change.”

“Kiribati is only a small country, one that doesn’t have that many civil servants but that still has a huge number of infrastructure investments it needs to complete.  So the students will have a chance to get first hand experience and exposure to local government practices on projects with real world applications.”

More information about the studio can be found at