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‘Ike Honua - The Sense of Place

James Miller formed ‘Ike Honua as a design lab rooted in research, wherein research and design drive and inform each other and frequently intersect through praxis. ‘Ike Honua translates to “sense of place,” or “value of place.” We are guided in this principle in our commitment to creating design solutions that promote resilience in communities and the built environment and preserve and foster natural and cultural resources in building and adaptation strategies. We center our work around Indigenous knowledge and its holders, providing space for multiple voices and epistemologies within architecture and urbanism.


Our projects have been broken up into four categories: Climate Change Adaptation & Resilience, Indigenous & Traditional Knowledge & the Built Environment, Inclusive Urbanism, and Community Building. These categories are reflective of ‘Ike Honua’s values and objectives.


Highlighted Projects

'Ohana Dwelling Guidebook

A how-to-guide to building an 'Ohana Dwelling Unit in Hawai'i County.

Created by Elizabeth Miller and Dr. James Miller

Funded by Atherton Foundation / Ho'oulu Lahui

In Collaboration with Vibrant Hawai

Indigenous Placemaking in the Marshallese Climate Diaspora

How is Indigenous Knowledge used in the production of culturally supportive built environments for transnational Indigenous communities?

This study investigates the role of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) in the transnational placemaking of Indigenous communities. Within growing transnational networks of communities facing climate change impacts, the aim of the study is to understand how IKS is maintained through placemaking.


Co-Designing Disaster Risk Reduction

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is facing the detrimental impacts of climate change, most notably through sea level rise. These environmental risks are compounded by broader social issues, such as lack of access to education and expertise, which are needed to increase civic capacity and climate resilience. This applied research project looks to provide a model for co-designing disaster risk reduction through the democratic design of K-12 education facilities.
This project integrates two strategies for incorporating community stakeholders within development decisions: (1) community-based disaster risk reduction (CBDRR), which provides a method for assessing risk, building capacity, and assisting in climate change adaptation, and (2) participatory design, which brings the community into the design process.


Process-Based Dwelling Ecosystem for Pacific Atoll Nations

This research project examines traditional, vernacular, and contemporary housing in the Republic of the Marshall Islands in an effort to develop improved housing solutions that are affordable, culturally supportive, adaptive, and resilient. Through a systems design approach, we examine and integrate a more holistic approach to housing design and development. These areas include: cultural practice, socio-spatial patterns, innovative material use, resource chains, economic development strategies, agroforestry, transportation, climate change adaptation and resilience, and strategic collaboration and partnerships.


SDA School Laura Campus

The Seventh Day Adventist Church reached out to Metaamo Studio and Dr. Miller to assist in the master planning and design of their K-12 school in Laura Village. After conducting initial site visits and speaking with the city council, the community determined the need for an emergency shelter in the area. We are using the school design as an opportunity to create a resilience hub in Laura village and to develop capacity within the community. Together with the SDA School, the City Council, and the community we are working toward a Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction strategy that will incorporate emergency preparedness into the design of the school - as a central component to the community. In February 2020, we will conduct a participatory design workshop with the community and the SDA Laura school to develop a shared vision that improves the wellbeing of the village and improves overall community resilience.







Dr. James Miller

James Miller has a strong commitment to, and experience in, social justice in architecture. He has experience working on projects pertaining to micro-entrepreneurship, post-disaster recovery, public-housing, and culturally based design. James’ research helps bring a needed cultural perspective to critical social issues, and the results of such research will help communities rebuild while maintaining their basic identities. Miller previously instructed courses on Humanitarian Design and Inclusive Urbanism and continues to promote the importance of an architecture of inclusion and the need to critically evaluate the impact of the built-environment on social and cultural sustainability. He holds a PhD in Architecture from the University of Oregon, a Master of Architecture from the University of Oregon, a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Notre Dame, and a certificate in Social Entrepreneurship from the University of Notre Dame.

More about James


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