Exhibition: Oceanic Architectural Routes

Oceanic Architectural Routes: The photographic archive of Mike Austin

Curated by Albert L. Refiti
Exhibition design by Hannah Manning-Scott
Presented by Architectus

3 December 2022 – 26 February 2023

On 2 December 2022, Objectspace will open a new major architecture exhibition presenting the photographic archive of renowned architect and academic Dr Mike Austin.

Oceanic Architectural Routes presents the photographic archive of Dr Mike Austin – images taken during his travels from the late 1960s to 2006 in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fij Samoa, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Hawai‘i and Rapanui.

The photographs formed the basis for Austin’s architectural anthropology studies of house forms and cultures in the Oceanic region. They were also primary source materials for his popular courses ‘Oceanic Architecture’ and ‘People and Environment Studies’ at the University of Auckland School of Architecture from the 1980s until 1999, and in his later work as a supervisor of Pacific Master of Architecture students at Unitec and the University of Auckland.

The images and ideas seeded by Austin’s Oceanic architecture lectures quietly sprouted alternative roots in contemporary New Zealand architectural history. Some of these roots became routes (to borrow a metaphor from anthropologist James Clifford) – they enabled Pacific architectural customs and knowledge to connect with the vast reservoir of Indigenous knowledge worldwide, leading to the burgeoning interest in Pacific/Moana and Māori architecture today.

In the teaching of Austin, roots and routes are not separate but are entangled threads, continuities in transformation that are “rewoven and repeated”* in his studies, photographs and architectural practice. Numerous examples of this cut through this exhibition – from Austin’s studio teaching and the birth of the experimental pilot school The Brick Studio at the Auckland School of Architecture in the 1970s; the rerouting of architectural anthropology via ‘Oceanic Architecture’ in the 1980s; and the weaving together of critical theory, Pacific architectural modernity and Indigenous knowledge from 2000 onwards. Plans for the exhibition spurred on the digitisation of Austin’s archive, propagating future opportunities for the photographs to circulate and educate.

It is not surprising that for Austin, an experienced sailor, architecture in the Pacific is intimately connected to both land and sea – the land for roots to take hold in, and the sea for routes of ideas and relationships to extend and connect.

* James Clifford, Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty-First Century, Harvard University Press, 2013. Clifford originally used his roots/routes metaphor to describe the legacy of Epeli Ha‘uofa.

Please join us at the opening celebration:

Friday 2 December
6pm – 8pm
13 Rose Road, Auckland


With thanks to Objectspace for the above text.
Image: Mike Austin, Bure, Fiji, 1973. Courtesy of Objectspace.

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