2022 Architects Medallion winner: Tualagi Nokise

The award gives validation to the topic of sustainable disaster relief architecture in our changing environment which acknowledges the grass roots impact and relevance of traditional technologies to the continual struggle of local communities.”

The Architect’s Medallion is awarded annually by the Board to a NSW graduate of an accredited Master of Architecture course who has achieved distinction both in a particular subject area at the final level and generally throughout the two years of the course. The Medallion is presented, along with a $5,000 prize.

In 2021, five candidates were nominated by their universities:

  • Tualagi Nokise of the University of Newcastle
  • Justine Wohl of the University of New South Wales
  • Ania Lloyd Jones of the University of Sydney
  • Rhiannon Brownbill of the University of Technology Sydney
  • Alen Eessa of Western Sydney University

We are thrilled to announce that the 2022 Architect’s Medallion has been awarded to Tualagi Nokise of the University of Newcastle.

The Jury Citation reads:

Tualagi Nokise is an exceptional graduate of architecture. Profoundly influenced by his experiences growing up in Fiji where he witnessed numerous devastating weather events, Tualagi worked in Suva before moving to Australia to study architecture at the University of Newcastle (because there is no architecture course available in Fiji).  He has channelled his personal cultural knowledge of Fiji to develop a focus during his architectural studies on post disaster and sustainable programming for community infrastructure in the Pacific that responds to climate change and global warming.

For his final design thesis project, Tualagi was inspired by the unshakable capacity of the Fijian community to recover from the devastation of cyclones and rising sea levels.  He developed a program for a research and training centre on Vanua Levu that explores the role of architecture and urban design in disaster relief. What he had already learnt in his architectural studies was supplemented by completing a Construction Management course in Disaster Management and Resilience.  The resulting proposition is underpinned by substantial research and detailed to an incredibly high level, producing an urban and architectural strategy that is both aspirational and pragmatic.

This is a sophisticated response to place – not only in terms of addressing climate and topography but also in its drawing together of other layers such as community and cultural values, sustainability, and availability of materials. Tualagi successfully operates across scales from the macro to the micro.  At the scale of urban strategy, he exploits the barrier effect of the degraded landscape of Nawi Island to protect the town of Savu Savu. While at the scale of the building, he reinterrogates traditional construction techniques, materials and typologies to produce a beautiful building that features exquisite internal spaces and sits comfortably in its landscape.  The project makes a significant contribution to knowledge about the role that architecture can play in disaster management and resilience and Tualagi has already taken steps to present his research to policymakers.

Tualagi is mature in his translation of theory into practice and has an unusual breadth of experience and insight that he applies to his architecture. Moreover, he is an engaging and confident presenter who can talk about cultural context in terms that are easily understood by diverse audiences.  He adopts a hands-on approach to addressing the challenges of our age in the context of the Pacific through architectural propositions that are insightful and humane. Tualagi is optimistic that traditional construction techniques can endure.  Villages that have been swept away can be re-built in new locations.  Traditional building typologies remain relevant, even if the materials may have to evolve.

It became clear to the Jury during the discussion that Tualagi has empathy and self-awareness that enable him to listen, voice an opinion, question things and to keep learning from those around him.  He is thoroughly aware of what he can offer as an expat travelling between Australia and the Pacific. He understands the role he can play as a conduit for new ideas that promote and implement systems in Fiji appropriate to address the challenges of climate change and global warming.

But he also recognises the broader challenges.  Tualagi understands the problem of importing building codes and standards that may not be appropriate to local conditions, of dropping in ‘ready-made’ solutions from somewhere else, and of introducing new construction systems that fail to draw on available resources and building traditions.  He can also identify the social factors within Fijian society that work against cultural traditions, such as the rural-urban drift that is resulting in knowledge loss and leading to the construction of ‘modern’ buildings that are not safe or appropriate.

Tualagi is motivated by these opportunities and constraints to draw on his Australian architectural education in his engagement in the practice and profession of architecture in the Pacific into the future.  In his endeavours Tualagi is forging important connections between Australia and its neighbours. He is acutely aware of geopolitical issues and the challenges to genuine cross-cultural engagement and sensitive to the tensions that exist between well-intentioned expats who seek to bring their expertise back to Fiji by proposing solutions for Fiji, versus a local population who accept that the existing built environment will likely not survive the increasingly significant weather events.

The Jury is confident that Tualagi’s combination of well-informed pragmatism with his authentic respect for traditional Fijian knowledge equips him to become a future leader in the architectural profession and the wider community.  We are unanimous in awarding Tualagi Nokise the 2022 Architects Medallion.

The Selection Panel was unanimous in awarding Tualagi Nokise the 2022 Architects Medallion.

Image supplied: Tualagi Nokise.


Contact Us

T: 61 2 9241 4033
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
W: www.architects.nsw.gov.au