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
Indigenous Placemaking in the Climate Diaspora: Rimajol Resettlement in the U.S.
As sea-level rise, drought, and receding glaciers are causing a loss of ancestral lands that have sustained them, climate change is leading to the forced displacement of Indigenous communities across the world. This article investigates one such case, the resettlement of the Rimajol (native inhabitants of the Marshall Islands) in a growing diaspora within the United States. It first examines and attempts to discern how Indigenous knowledge
systems are helping to create culturally supportive spaces within the assimilative context of American cities. It then assesses the importance of Indigenous design knowledge within
the resistive process of Rimajol placemaking as part of a larger climate diaspora.
Miller, James. (2021). “Indigenous Placemaking in the Climate Diaspora: Rimajol Resettlement in the U.S." Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review, Spring 2021.
Historically, post-disaster reconstruction policies and practice ignore the embedded knowledge of the affected population; the process following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti followed this trend. This paper aims to examine the production of social space in self-settled post-disaster settlements in Leogane and Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the paper demonstrates the role that traditional settlement patterns played in the production of social capital.
Miller, James. (2020). “Post-disaster recovery through the evolution of the lakou, a traditional settlement pattern.” International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment; Emerald.
This paper investigates the vernacular architecture of the Marshall Islands through a deep-time perspective and demonstrates the Indigenous knowledge present in the production of the Marshallese vernacular house. The focus is on the socio-spatial patterns that represent generations of cultural knowledge and create culturally supportive built-environments, representative of living vernacular architecture. This article investigates the transformations of the Marshallese vernacular house through a diachronic study of habitation on the weto, which is the traditional system of land tenure through matrilineal inheritance. The study found that while manifestations of the Marshallese vernacular house evolve, the core processes remain consistent. The Marshallese vernacular house is a manifestation of generative processes, components of Indigenous knowledge. The Marshallese vernacular house is central to the Indigenous architecture of the Marshall Islands.
Miller, James (2020). “The Evolution of the Marshallese Vernacular House.” Fabrications, 19, Routledge.
Architecture, Redress and the Rights of Nature
The term, Rights of Nature, is often used within the discourse of environmental justice to achieve particular goals and effects. This paper posits that use of The Rights of Nature is problematic in the production of eco-friendly legislation and eco-friendly architecture, requiring critical assessment. Is The Rights of Nature intended as a method to express deeper relationships between natures and not peoples, or is it just another colonial expression of terra nullius meant to insure settler colonial regimes are maintained in perpetuity?
Miller, James and Nay, Eric. (2020). “Architecture, Redress and the Rights of Nature.” Dialectic VIII, School of Architecture, CA+P, University of Utah.
Given the already-devastating effects of climate change in Pacific atoll nations, there is an urgency to establish frameworks that support systemic sustainability and resilience within these regions. The evolution of vernacular architecture and community processes needs to be investigated and analyzed. Fundamentally, there is little understanding of: (1) what resilience means, in the context of architecture, building cultures, and localized networks; (2) the intricacies of socioeconomic, cultural, and political fabrics within which projects are pursued; and (3) how to balance soft and rigid approaches to achieving high-performance building and community solutions, while still remaining low impact in the context of localized material loops and building cultures.
Forthcoming Miller, James, Xiaonuan, Sun and Bunza, Matthew. Future Vernaculars: Towards a Process-Based Dwelling Ecosystem in Pacific Atoll Nations. Urban Tropicality: 7th International Network of Tropical Architecture Conference, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, December 5-8.
Climate change forced displacement and resettlement is becoming a pressing topic as the impacts of sea level rise, drought, and severe tropical storms increasingly impact communities’ livelihoods. As communities and entire nations are forced to resettle, how will basic social and cultural structures be maintained? The transportation of resilient socio-cultural patterns becomes essential for maintaining the health and well-being of a community. Thus, the investigation of the dialectic relationship between culture and the built- environment is essential in the Anthropocene.
2019 Miller, James. Indigenous Design Knowledge and the Climate Diaspora. Future Praxis: Applied Research as a Bridge Between Theory and Practice, ARCC 2019 International Conference, Toronto, ON, May 29 – June 1.
The projected impact of global climate change on community resilience places a significant proportion of the world’s population in a precarious position. The increase in storm surges and sea inundation events create a poor outlook for small island nations in the South Pacific, decreasing habitability. Forced displacement and relocation is a likely future that many communities face in Small Island developing states, such as the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The impending landlessness faced by the Republic of the Marshall Islands calls to question the viability of the Marshallese culture and whether or not it can survive resettlement within another nation. As a freely associated state of the United States, there is a high probability that resettlement will follow the current chain migration of Marshallese into the United States.
2017 Miller, James. How can deep-cultural patterns aid in resettlement? A case study of three Marshallese communities, In Smith, Ryan et al (Ed.) Architecture of complexity: design, systems, society and environment ARCC Proceedings, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah. 352-360.
Within the discourse of sustainability, two worlds collide. When translated cross culturally, sustainability does not hold the same meaning within different epistemologies, as demonstrated by anthropologist, Peter Rudiak-Gould in the Marshall Islands. Additionally, the use of terminology such as ‘sustainable development’, has a marginalizing effect – us versus them. Even within the context of urban renewal projects in the United States, development holds connotations of ‘minoritization’ (Laguerre), gentrification, and white-washing. Furthermore, the use of sustainability does not capture the complexity that is inherent in creating sustainable development. Ulrich Beck implements the term ‘reflexive modernity’ in his description of the ‘risk society’; perhaps if development is thought in terms of the inherent risks associated with ‘progress,’ then we can achieve more regenerative processes. What does sustainability actually mean in practice? Through a literature review on the implications of sustainable development in alternate epistemologies this paper builds a critique of the current practice. The view of sustainable development as a neocolonial agenda is carried forward into the case study of a series of sustainable development projects on Namdrik atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands, which earned the ‘Equator Prize’ in 2012. The rising issue of human resettlement as the next embodiment of sustainable development is brought to light and the implication for the future resettlement of low lyingatoll nations, such as the Marshall Islands, is discussed. Resilience is brought into the discussion in order to propose a way toward mitigating neocolonial agendas in development programs and leading toward the sustained role of social justice in policies and practice.
2017 Miller, James. Questioning Sustainability: A Transformative Approach to Human Resettlement. In Smith et al (Ed.) Architecture of complexity: design, systems, society and environment ARCC Proceedings, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah. 120-127.
The Republic of the Marshall Islands consist of 32 atolls, of which 24 are inhabited, and the majority of the land sits no more than ten feet above sea level. Namdrik atoll is one of the southernmost atoll communities on the Ralik Chain with a population of 508 people and 97 households (2011 Census). Following a 2016 assessment of housing conditions on Namdrik and the availability of resources for repair and reconstruction, it was determined that of the 92 houses documented, over 50% were in need of repairs to protect against inclement weather and tropical storms. In addition, very few houses met standards for protection against typhoons and flooding. This assessment provides a good snapshot of the rural housing conditions in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. With the pressing concern for Climate Change Adaptation, immediate action is required for building resilient housing.
Miller, James (2017). Housing Condition Assessment of Namdrik Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. Living Islands, Majuro, RMI.
Humanitarian architecture has become a mainstay in the social practice of architecture and has had an overall positive influence on design teaching. However, the field of humanitarian design has a tendency to oversimplify growing issues of social and environmental justice. The field of humanitarian architecture suggests to students that design can solve systemic problems, but fails to define the complexity of the systems these problems exist within. Rather than emphasizing critical analysis and deconstruction, it emphasizes trending design vocabulary. This paper establishes the basis of humanitarian architecture, the definition, and the key concepts that define the practice of humanitarian architecture, and it uses the concepts of ‘craft’ and ‘replicability’ to analyze the practice within complex systems. This analysis of the field makes the argument that incremental facilitation and deep community engagement is necessary for a successful humanitarian architecture. And in order to achieve success, a new school of humanitarian architecture needs to be developed that develops students and practitioners who are prepared to work within complexity, employing praxis.
2017 Miller, James. Redefining Humanitarian Architecture with Complexity in Mind: Moving Toward a New Practice. In Rico-Gutierrez, Luis & Martha Thorne (Ed.) Brooklyn Says, Move to Detroit, Proceedings of the ACSA 105th Annual Meeting, Detroit, MI, ASCA Press, New York, NY. 419-424.
The study shows the importance of the lakou, which is a spatial manifestation of the familial social structure in the Haitian culture, through the analysis of post-disaster temporary settlements, showing that through their own devices endogenous inhabitants create the lakou in post-disaster temporary settlements. The methodology was qualitative through interviews, observations, and site mapping, and qualitative coding was used to uncover the emergent themes. This study establishes the importance of the lakou in community vibrancy and demonstrates how the lakou adds to the resilience of the survivors living in such settlements. The unprecedented transformation of the lakou from a kinship based settlement pattern to a more inclusive non-familial pattern points to the importance of the spatial and social manifestation in the development of community in a settlement. It is conjectured that this resiliency factor can be useful in the process of turning a post-disaster settlement into a successful permanent settlement.
Miller, James (2013). “Redefining the Lakou: the Resilience of a Vernacular Settlement Pattern in Post-disaster Haiti,” Dissertation, University of Oregon.
In the era of Global Climate Change, forced displacement and resettlement will affect coastal communities around the world. Through resettlement, the local production of culturally supportive environments can mitigate culture-loss. While previous vernacular architecture studies suggest that the influence of imported architecture leads to culture change, this study investigates the continuity of generative structures in the production of culturally supportive built-environments, demonstrating resilience. In addition, this study expands the discourse on the dialectic relationship between culture and the environment by investigating the role of Indigenous Design Knowledge in the production of culturally supportive space.
Miller, James (2018). “The Continuity of Deep Cultural Patterns: A Case Study of Three Marshallese Communities,” PhD Dissertation, University of Oregon.