Landscape Architecture - Honours


The small island nation of Kiribati, consisting of 32 coral atolls and one island, and could very well be the first nation to be swallowed by the ocean due to sea level rise by 2100. Tarawa is an atoll residing within the collection of Islands called the Gilbert Islands; which are seen to be the most fertile of the three clusters (Line Islands, Phoenix Islands and Gilbert Islands) (Thaman.1992). Tarawa is home to over 50% of the Kiribati population, and sees more and more of the I-Kiribati migrating there for the essentials and safety as time passes. Aquarius is, therefore, a project that embodies social and environmental justice, which in this instance, are arguably one and the same. Aquarius’ intervention embraces cyclical relationships and systems and redefines prosperity through social innovations, and ultimately redistributing power. Aquarius requests a legacy of transparency, accountability and contributions towards a prosperous future.

“It is not just about being alive and have a place to stay. No, it’s about a country, and a people, called the Kiribati people….

….We will continue to fight until there in no breath in us”

– Penelise Alofa (National Co-ordinator Kiribati Climate


This strategic plan will aim at being a pilot project document that can demonstrate principles as a catalyst for landscape evolution for nations bearing the consequence of climate change.

This strategic plan will address accountability, impact policy reform and implement migration with dignity through the rejection of the extractive linear ‘progress’ (Escobar. 2018)


Through mapping and understanding of Tarawa, one thing became very clear, more land, safety and time was required. An assessment of adjacent atolls was conducted, which showed that while providing additional land mass, more land was required if it was to consider the entire population of Kiribati without detrimental degradation to the land. Heading underwater was given great consideration and understanding of the infinity the I-Kiribati has with the ocean and its systems. It was then concluded that moving underwater could achieve the vision and intent of social and environmental justice while supporting migration with dignity through social innovations and accomplish a redistribution of power through knowleged and expertise in leading science and tech


horizontal systems

Aquarius is a false atoll. Horizontally it will strengthen and fortify ocean connectivity to the existing adjacent atolls systems. Aquarius’ topography, which is largely set at around 4 meters above sea level, will provide opportunities for self-organisation and settlement on land, with varying topography that can support inland water capture and diverse vegetation communities; whilst also allowing access to the ‘lagoon’ waters.

Vertical systems

Vertically, Aquarius provides for similar system opportunities as that on land. Allowing for self-organisation through gradual settlement, health and government facilities, with a host of opportunities for education, research, science and technology development. This vertical collection of systems is where Aquarius drives a shift in power, allowing a nation who could be the first to live underwater, lead the way in development of research, science and technology. With over 200 million people perceived to live below sea level by 2100, and 70% of which, living within only 8 countries in Asia (Buchholz. 2020), this puts the I-Kiribati in a position with specialist skills and knowledge.


Donna Harrison is currently an honours student with a background in Horticulture and Landscape Planning, with 21+ years’ experience. Donna specialises in social and environmental justice, with regenerative design embedded within all of her projects. A strong believer in the power of ethical design through respect, passion and positive drive.