Muller talks about architecture from an Oceanic perspective.
Does being Sāmoan shape your approach to architecture?
I am Sāmoan, and a member of the broader Oceanic community, and that shapes everything. I’m very interested in centring Oceanic voices, Oceanic spaces, and Oceanic narratives. It’s part of my genealogy. It’s a region that is rich, full of knowledge and ways of knowing and I love living in it, so yes, it does shape how I approach architecture.
You’re the first Sāmoan woman in the world to receive a PhD in Architecture. Has architecture, as a discipline, generally excluded Pacific people?
Architecture has always been a part of the Oceanic landscape. Oceanic people were, and still are architects, builders, artists and philosophers of space since we navigated our way and settled across the region. In Sāmoa there is a history of architectural practice in the form of a builder’s guild, who, according to creation stories are the descendants of the gods. Perhaps as a discipline within the western framework it has been exclusionary, in the ways under represented populations face less access to particular fields or spaces. I would argue though, that we do see ourselves as builders and architects, and with the resources we have at hand we create the kinds of spaces we want to be in and we continue to do that.
What would someone learn, if they came to one of your lectures about Oceanic architecture?
You’d learn about relational thinking, in the built realm. The idea that space isn’t just a container, but space as connectivity. So the role of architecture to maintain relationships in Pacific spaces where Pacific values matter and are designed for. So it means thinking about how we can make spaces where Pacific relationships are honoured, Pacific value systems are honoured, where these dynamics are centred.
Photo by Leilani Heather. Caption: Karamia Muller, lecturer in the School of Architecture and Planning and the first Sāmoan woman in the world to receive a PhD in Architecture.