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Architect Competition Promises Unique Prize

Architects seeking a unique challenge are being invited to participate in a singular design competition. The winner will receive an assignment at the world’s most remote settled island, which is more than 1,000 miles from the nearest continent.

The Royal Institute of British Architects conceived the contest to create self-sustainable living conditions for the citizens of Tristan, a microscopic community where the weather appears to be in charge. It is one of the Tristan da Cunha group of tiny islands, and has a permanent population of only 288 people.

This British South Atlantic Ocean territory is officially the most remote inhabited archipelago, located 1,750 miles from the coast of South Africa. The principal island of Tristan da Cunha is 7 seven miles across and just under 38 square miles in total.

The islands were discovered in 1506 by Tristão da Cunha, a Portuguese explorer, but would not be officially inhabited until an American named Jonathan Lambert arrived in 1810. He claimed the islands as his own personal domain but perished in a boating accident only two years later. The archipelago eventually came under the control of Great Britain, where it remains today.

As Tristan da Cunha’s 200th anniversary date draws closer, architects from across the globe have been invited to submit ideas to redesign the settlement’s buildings, raise living standards, and improve farming operations to ensure the community’s ability to sustain itself for generations to come.

Traveling to the island from Cape Town by sea can take up to 10 days, and the ocean conditions, combined with basic harbour facilities, allow ships to dock no more than 60 days per year.

Tristan da Cunha’s current residents are all descendants of sailors from Lord Nelson’s fleet more than 200 years ago, as well as American, Dutch, and Italian sailors. Only eight surnames exist on the entire island. The islanders are British citizens and speak English. The local currency is the pound sterling.

Tristan government leader Alex Mitham called in Riba to help find an architect to redesign local homes as well as replace the current government buildings, which are little more than sheds nearing the end of their usefulness.

The people who make a living by working the land also need improvements made to Tristan da Cunha’s agrarian systems to enable better grazing and production of fresh produce.

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Mr Mitham said that the winning design will give the community the opportunity to thrive. Calling Tristan “truly unique”, he added that the competition offers an unparalleled opportunity for architects from around the world to have a positive impact on how Tristanians work and live.

Interested applicants have two months to present designs. Riba will select a longlist of 20 followed by a shortlist of five. There will ne no advance site visits due to the difficulty of accessing the island and no commitment to accept the work.

Yet, according to the administrators of Tristan da Cunha, the winner will have the opportunity to change the course of the archipelago community’s history.

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