Rock Islands Marine Laboratory

Geoffrey Li, B.Arch '23

  • SP.23
  • Level: undergraduate
  • Discipline: Architecture
  • Instructor: Marcos Sanchez

The Rock Islands Marine Laboratory complex is a project that claims reparations for the Palauan people as their homeland faces total destruction from rising sea levels. Palau is facing injustice from climate change caused mainly by larger, more industrialized countries. There is nothing they can do to save Palau from sinking beneath the waves of the Pacific Ocean. However, if they take control and solicit foreign investment into domestic laboratories by offering Palau as an object of climate change study while still retaining the intellectual property, Palau can create an opportunity to deviate from their economic dependence on tourism and build their scientific prowess. Despite the offering of their land, Palau still stands in a position of power and control through the architecture of the RIML. The main design of the RIML includes curved laboratory strands that run along and protrude the coastline, which are also connected to Palauan bai houses, which are used for civic and communal purposes. The juxtaposition of these two typologies is representative of the beginning of the incorporation and adaptation of Palau’s future scientific industry into its existing culture, not a situation where a foreign architecture invades their existing heritage. As it stands today, it is only a matter of time before Palau sinks into the Pacific Ocean, but as long as Palau takes control and uses the idea of the RIML as a vanguard, they can adopt a more sustainable industry to rely on and secure their future survival.