Tristan da Cunha



Tristan da Cuhna


Andy Isaacson

In March 2015, RIBA launched a Design Ideas Competition on behalf of the Government of Tristan da Cunha.


Situated within the South Atlantic Ocean, Tristan da Cunha is the remotest inhabited Island in the world, in which the settlement of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas is home to a permanent community of around 270 Islanders.

The brief was to design a more sustainable future for tristan da cunha’s community. The unique challenges were location, remoteness, communication, weather, wind, rainfall, sea, swell conditions, volcano, soils Logistics, limited harbour access times and ability for off-loading cargo.


The proposed solution addresses the needs of Tristanians, now and into the future. It’s about understanding the totality of what’s required to create a thriving, sustainable and self-empowered community – to ensure the community’s viability and success for generations to come.

The approach identified and balanced the civil, social, environmental and economic challenges of Tristan da Cunha into a coherent blueprint. These four core areas become the key framework for delivering specific and tangible outcomes.

Governance & Citizenship Solution: On the 7th November 1817 a small group, led by Scottish corporal, William Glass drafted a voluntary agreement called ‘The Firm’, based on equality and cooperation.

This fundamental constitution has sustained the island during years of almost complete isolation, and still exists today. This collective spirit is the essence behind our idea – A Community Hub.

Communications Key Considerations: New satellite and fibre optic network through the town establishment to connect Tristanians to the wider world making online business, tourism and education accessible for enhanced opportunities.

Communications Solutions: Laying of fibre optic network cabling, termination of fibre optic points into all buildings, installation of end point user wireless modems into each building

Community Hub (interior)

Energy Systems Considerations: Introduce alternative sustainable and natural energy solutions, restore faith in present day renewable energy technologies after the wind turbine failure in mid 1980’s. Some of the followings are suggestive and may require further research in consultation with the local community.

Energy Solutions: Geothermal energy as a clean and sustainable energy source for the community by installing pipes and fans for geothermal heating. Demonstrate the advancements of Gale Force Wind Turbines since the island’s initial encounter. If consensus is to retry, arrange a trial of new current ‘Gail Force Windkraft’ wind turbines.

Permaculture System Key Considerations: Managing current systems on the Island to align with the Island’s natural ecology.

Permaculture Solutions: Agriculture (The Patches, maintaining an island tradition), Food Forest (recreating nature through sustainable food production to service the Organic Café and the community), Organic Food Production for the community and the Cafe, Grazing (field rotation, ensuring livestock sustainably maintain grass lands)

Water System Key Considerations: Evaluate cost effective solutions for wastewater management and to encourage reuse of resources. Explore additional avenues for water collection and conservation.

Water System Solutions: Water Harvesting (Swales & Dams) Using a combination of swales leading to dams to collect water in order to secure the water needed during the dryer months of the year. Constructing wetland that only demands pumping energy ensures low capital costs and simple operation.

Recycling (turning a waste stream into a reusable material source on the mainland). Composting (turning food waste into usable nutrients for sustained food production). Landfill Solutions (ensuring the land fill is not extended and mitigation of current LFG’s.