Fragments of a Lost Nation // TOPIA


02NOV 2021
# TITLE: Fragments of a Lost Nation // TOPIA
# STUDENTS: Koutropoulou Elli-Maria, Pouloutidou Eleftheria Eirini
# SUPERVISOR: Tellios Anastasios
# DATE: 2021
# COURSE: Diploma Design Thesis
# SCHOOL / DEPARTMENT: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Faculty of Engineering, School of Architecture

The work critically develops around the phenomenon of climate change, and more specifically the phenomenon of sea level rise. The limits have been exceeded, as many islands are now threatened even with a total loss of their land. The most affected areas are the coral atoll state-nations of the Pacific Ocean, from which the state of the Marshall Islands was chosen, in order to explore how this state could potentially survive, as an example of a future non-land state, in the face of this environmental crisis.


What is defined as a state? How could there be a potentially non-land state?

The criteria for considering a region as state are: the existence of population, land, some form of government and the possibility of developing relations with other states. Of these, in this particular scenario, the criterion of the state area is no longer met and on this occasion a research was launched on how the criteria are being altered in the new era of climate change. According to the research, in order for these states to retain universal recognition and rights, they must have a kind of physical presence with a certain number of people, even if the rest of the population moves, as well as a kind of independent government with a physical presence. Of course, a platform with an indicative crew and a flag, does not constitute the meaning of a state with identity, history and sovereignty, but a lost part of a memory.

The present project attempts to formulate an architectural work that will critically comment on the phenomenon, through its presence, and will function as a reference point of the lost state, gathering the fragments of the past, but also consolidating its existence and dominance in the ominous future that follows.


The above intentions are structured in an organizational triptych, at conceptual level: TOPIA, TRANS-TOPIA and E-TOPIA. The first refers to the past and the preservation of genius loci, the second is a transitional stage that symbolizes the present and the loss of the state due to climate change, and the third symbolizes the future of the state and its entry into the new era.

According to the old Marshall religion, death was not seen as the end, but as another beginning, a path leading to the island of the dead or Eorerok, which was not a real site, but a symbolic one. There, what has ceased to exist returns in a different form and co-exists with the living, in the same place and time. Thus, the death and the loss of the state should not be linked to the annihilation of the place and the establishment in another location, but to its reconstitution in another form, at the same exact point and in full dialogue with the past (TOPIA), the present (TRANS-TOPIA) to build and shape the future (E-TOPIA).


Based on scientific scenarios, we placed our project chronologically, according to the evolution of the phenomenon, in 2200. It is the point when most of the surface of the islands is lost and the population has already moved. Therefore, the criteria are no longer met in order for the Marshall Islands to be considered as a state. Our project is shaped to re-validate these criteria.

At the design level, the above intentions of the concept are transcribed into a triptych: the part of TOPIA, which outlines an imaginary form in the same place where the atoll (including the part of the surviving rocky islets) would be completed as a closed shape, the axis that defines the course of TRANS-TOPIA, or, in other words, this symbolic course towards Eorerok and, finally, the third element of the concept, e-TOPIA, which symbolizes and constitutes the future of the state, has maintained the enclosed protected shape of the atoll, defining, in a way, the atoll of the new era. We try to keep this dialogue between the past and the memory [TOPIA], with the difficult present and the stage of land loss [TRANS-TOPIA], and with the future that defines the beginning of the new era of the state [E-TOPIA]. Our design, then, balances between this triptych of past, present and future and as a consequence this intention of the concept is transcribed differently in each of these three parts.

In the individual sections of the design, we must point out that in the TOPIA section this thesis does not attempt to revive the Marshallese architecture, but to reshape elements that are at the core of their everyday life and culture, into narratives of a future architecture neutral enough to be able to be placed many years in the future. Also, the part of e-TOPIA that symbolizes the future, as it has been shaped, and especially through the existence of the administrative building, in its center, is supported by mechanisms that ensure its existence even in worse climate change scenarios than the ones he worked with in this thesis.

As the project is placed many decades later, we sought, at the design level, what things differ the most in proportion to what the major changes have been over the past 180 years. Throughout this period, the architectural approach of the buildings has gone through many different styles and influences. However, there are features and various minor elements that still survive, such as water tanks, silos, etc., that have not changed much in design. We have noticed that the element that is changing radically is the evolution of technology, transportation and the various forms of energy. Peoples way of life and their habits, as well as their needs have not changed much.

In conclusion, by re-examining the terms of a non-land state, it attempts through its design to keep alive the memory of the place, but, at the same time, to ensure that the endangered state will maintain its autonomy, sovereignty and continuity in world history, having, at the same time, its rights over the marine waters and natural resources of the region.