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Winner – Lucy Vete

Lucy Vete. Photo by David St George

Lucy Vete, from the University of Auckland School of Architecture and Planning, has won the 2017 NZIA Central Innovation Student Design Awards with her project 'Shifting Grounds'.

Project description

This speculative project portrays Tonga through the projective lenses of cosmology, history, social reality and diasporic memory. As a ‘home,’ ‘homeland,’ and ‘imaginary homeland’, Tonga exists as a malleable construction of ideas, stories, traditions and histories. This project draws upon these numerous conceptions and imagines how architecture can be used to stimulate progression and movement in Tonga’s present and future. Along the north-western axis of Tupou Lahi road, at the heart of Nuku’alofa, Shifting Grounds presents a linear trajectory of social spaces between two bodies of water. From a produce market and canal at the Fanga’uta Lagoon, through public structures and a tectonic imagining of the cosmological ‘Giant Toa Tree’, to Tuli Hopo, a leaping-off point into the South Pacific Ocean, architecture functions as a catalyst for emergence and imagining.


Lucy’s scheme was an impressive exercise in cultural exploration and site development. It was supported by considerable research and interrogation of both personal and architectural motivation, and moved fluently between different scales. It had a spatial richness as well as cultural resonance, and captured a migrant’s experience and an isolated maritime condition. The imaginative project was coherently realised and excellently presented, and the architectural spaces it proposed were well-drawn and compelling.

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