Jasmax Architectural Graduate Icao Tiseli to represent Oceania at Archiprix International

Alongside students representing Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America, architectural graduate, Jasmax Associate and University of Auckland alumnus Icao Tiseli has been selected as the sole graduate to represent Oceania at the Archiprix International Workshop, themed ‘Rebuild Ukraine’, to be held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Icao’s graduate design thesis is also entered in Archiprix International, a leading biennial design competition which showcases the next generation of the world’s best architects, urbanists, and landscape architects.

Icao Tiseli

Archiprix International invites universities worldwide to participate in the competition by submitting the work of their most exceptional graduates who completed their studies within the last two years. Travelling to Rotterdam for the event is a remarkable achievement for Icao, who was nominated by the University of Auckland’s School of Architecture and Planning in 2021. With over 1,700 registered universities participating, the student competition culminates in an award programme and inclusion in a database of the world’s best graduation projects on the Archiprix website.

Together, the student work offers unrivalled insights into the current trends and solutions in design education for addressing modern and future challenges. The Hunter Douglas Award, to be announced on December 2nd, honours the competition’s top entries.

Icao’s thesis project earned her the opportunity to join a select group of around 40 graduate designers in Rotterdam this November. Born in Vava’u, Tongatapu, her winning thesis celebrates her Tongan heritage. ‘Mapping the Feke’ explores the concept of the ocean as a bridge rather than a divider between land and people. She states, “Lines between water and land are conveying the boundless nature of people and their culture.” Embracing her favourite quote by Tongan-Fijian activist, writer, and scholar Epeli Hau’ofa that “smallness is a state of mind”, Icao will bring her unique perspective to tackle the challenges of living with water in new ways during the workshop. She states, “I am so grateful that I get the chance to meet other graduates from around the world and look forward to learning from them as we embark on making a contribution to the future of Ukraine.”

During the upcoming five-day ‘Hackathon’, participants will engage in assignments and workshops focused on design solutions for rebuilding the war-torn state, particularly addressing water management and the future rebuild of the Mariupol region. Students will be challenged to address the most urgent needs, while considering long-term urban planning, sustainable development, and climate adaptation strategies – ultimately delivering diverse perspectives for a resilient future for Ukraine.

At Jasmax, Icao has made significant contributions to cultural and community focused projects, including Te Ao Mārama South Atrium at Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira and the Fale Malae. Jasmax CEO Matt Glubb says, “On behalf of Jasmax, I congratulate Icao for the recognition she has received on the global stage. It is a testament to her talent and dedication to creating spaces that positively impact communities and embrace cultural diversity. Her work serves as an inspiration to aspiring architects, and we look forward to seeing her continue to make a difference in the industry."

Icao’s thesis synopsis:

Vava’u is a remote island nestled in the South Pacific Ocean, within the group currently known as Tonga. Vava’u is a microcosm of Polynesia, hosting its own archipelago. It is not merely a ‘site’ thought of as separate from its inhabitants; rather, like the ‘feke’ (octopus), Vava’u is a watery creature and an all-encompassing participant in the everyday life of its people. The architectural structure is engendered by Eurocentric systems presently embedded in our processes of cultural production. This project reclaims an architectural process that adheres to and emboldens a world view that celebrates and advocates for the cultural values of the indigenous people of Tonga. The project centralises the actioning of maps oriented Hihifo-Hahake (East-West instead of North-South); maps that re-envision ‘scale’ as bigness in relation to Pacific voyaging; maps carrying charted, experiential meanings of sites. Lines between water and land are conveying the boundless nature of people and their culture. The night sky precipitates onto land. An ontology of life rich and ready for an architectural proposition is conveyed. This is a school for studying traditional Tongan practices of navigation. The spatial programme reflects the importance of Land, Sea and Sky. Students arrive, with a map of experience, into the centrally based Studio / Archive. This space, positioned as Land, anchors ramps harking to Tonga’s active, pervasive geo-tectonic condition. The Sea is a bridge for locals and is represented by the Tongan double-hull Vaka (boat) that traverses between islands. Located on the farthest island in Vava’u’s archipelago is the Observatorium, a place of repose where cultural knowledge embedded in the Sky is revealed. Students end with a map conveying their internal world view which is stored in the archive. Architecture provides this knowledge with a sense of permanence and importance.