Papua New Guinea’s indigenous pole houses served as design inspiration for the new Pacific Games Village built in Port Moresby to accommodate the participants and officials of The Pacific Games 2015.

Opened recently by the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, the Pacific Games Village has been designed by Warren and Mahoney to house 4000 athletes and officials including a first-time New Zealand contingent. After the conclusion of the event, the village will be incorporated into the University campus as student accommodation.

Design architect Shannon Joe describes the Games Village as a culturally significant development with the design reflecting the original vision of a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere that would inspire energy, passion and pride among locals.

Featuring a contemporary design based on the traditional Win Haus, the Games Village has pairs of double-storey linear blocks, connected by transparent bridges and positioned around communal courtyards to recreate the clusters of a traditional village environment. The design enhances a feeling of community with the pairs of blocks facing each other and a natural alignment of view lines through the entire site.

The 200 cultures within Papua New Guinea share a universal pride in art, in particular a triangular geometry, which is interpreted here in the form of steel triangular struts lifting up the generous timber canopies that offer shade and shelter to the student rooms in the base building. The triangular pattern is repeated in the stained-plywood soffits of the canopies.

Joe explains that they chose the inexpensive plywood instead of indigenous hardwoods, which are also unsustainable. Precast concrete panel walls provide cost-effective structure to the rooms, which are furnished with built-in double bunks. Shared facilities are provided for laundry and ablution. Instead of glass, perforated metal or mesh screens have been used for demarcating the balconies and stairwells.

Each block is defined by vibrant colours for easy identification with the spaces in between the blocks serving as central gathering zones for the athletes to prepare and share food. Freestanding, thatched-roof shelters, complete with a Mu-mu sunken cooking pit in each structure, have been provided.

The Pacific Games Village 2015 is an elegant and important architectural icon that draws on an indigenous heritage to look positively to the future.