Design Competition

NUWAO Oceania Nature-based Urban Adaptation driven by Indigenous Knowledge Design Competition.

Competition call: We invite design professionals and practitioners, university students, youth / rangatahi and the general public to participate in envisioning how to develop innovative nature-based urban design solutions, rooted in Indigenous knowledge that support climate change adaptation and individual and community wellbeing.

We invite submissions of urban design, landscape design, architecture, temporary structures, interior architecture, public infrastructure and buildings, etc. The scale may be a single site or structure, up to a concept for a whole town or city.

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Call for entries to the NUWAO design competition, particularly rangaitahi / youth in category 3
  • The deadline for entries was 5pm (NZ time) on the 18th of November, 2022 
  • Winners will be announced on the 8th of December, 2022
  • Selected works will be displayed on the NUWAO website and be exhibited online and during the NUWAO international Symposium where a prize giving will take place in April 2023.

Register Here

To register you will be asked to fill out a form with your details. You will receive a confirmation email acknowledging your registration. In this email you will be provided with a registration number. You will need to include this number on all documentation that is submitted. 

Prior to the submission deadline you will receive 2 automated email reminders advising you of competition deadlines. One at 4 weeks and one at 1 week prior to submission. Along with your registration number you will also receive a link to a dropbox folder (coming soon). This is where you will be required to upload your entry. This will need to be uploaded before 5pm (NZ time) on Friday 18th November, 2022

If you have an issues with registration or submission please contact us on:

All submissions will be reviewed by our esteemed panel of judges. We ask that your registration number be in a clearly visible location as this should be the only identifiable reference for your submission. Please do not include your name, voice or face etc in your submitted documentation for categories 1 (professionals) or 2 (students). This is in order to maintain as anonymous a judging process as possible. Where there is a conflict of interest judges will not comment on a particular entry. For category 3, If identity is crucial to how you respond to this challenge you will not be penalised.  

For categories 1 and 2, you are required to include in your submission:

  1. A Project Title and written abstract describing your concept and how it meets the brief 400 words max 
  2. A maximum of five high resolution A3 pages  (420 x 297mm Landscape orientation) or 2 x A2 pages (420 x 594mm). Image files should be no larger than 100MB each. Submission of sketches, illustrations, CAD models, scans of paintings or other artworks as well as photos of physical models, and links to animation and videos  can be included as well. If you would like to submit outside of these mediums, please contact NUWAO to discuss ( . 
  3. Your registration number should be included on all submitted work (no logos or recognisable graphics please). 
  4. Your total submission must not exceed 500 MB.

Please note: By submitting any work to this competition you are agreeing to us exhibiting / publishing your work (with credit of course) and you are certifying that you own the copyright to all images, text etc. for third party online and digital publication. Credits for images must be supplied. You are responsible for obtaining consent to enter from all team members involved with any submission. This includes photographers and people in images / video. This consent must be obtained before you submit any work.

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This is an innovative approach to research and an open call to entrants globally that we hope will draw in design professionals, students, and the general public (particularly our rangatahi / youth). We have three categories with $NZ2000 prize money available in each.

  • Category 1: Professional
    Design professionals, built environment professionals, urban ecologists, development professionals and related people can enter this category. Individuals or groups are welcome to submit work. Organisations and companies may enter projects on behalf of individuals, however they must have permission to submit the project. Your submission must use conventional design communication methods such as plans, sections, master plans, perspective images etc. as you deem appropriate, but you are welcome to submit in any other forms you want to to communicate the project to complement these traditional design methods including animation and film. 
  • Category 2: Student
    All tertiary students who are currently studying or who have graduated in the past two years (2020-2022) are eligible to enter the Student Awards. Students can enter as an individual or group (only one registration is required per submission). If an individual is submitting group work, they need to provide credit to all team members. Your submission must use conventional design communication methods such as plans, sections, master plans, perspective images etc. as you deem appropriate, but you are welcome to submit in any other forms you want to to communicate the project to compliment these traditional design methods including animation and film.
  • Category 3: Youth / General Public
    This category is open to anyone. We particularly encourage young people to participate. You can enter as an individual or a group. Your submission can be in any form. It may be drawings, an essay, a song, a series of interviews, a video etc. Be creative! We recommend you provide a short piece of writing to explain your ideas alongside your entry if you think we will need this to understand what you have done.

We do not want to discourage innovation so if there is a different way you would like to submit please contact us directly at this email address:

Each category will have a winner and highly recommended submissions along with up to 5 honorable mentions.


We invite you to share your vision of nature-based urban design solutions, rooted in Indigenous knowledge that support climate change adaptation and individual and community wellbeing.

If you could imagine a happier and healthier way of living that supports the resilience of community and our ecologies, what would that look like and how does that work? Can design help to integrate nature into urban spaces and transform them so they can evolve or regenerate socio-ecological living systems? How can we respond to societal challenges using Nature-Based Solutions (NbS) together with Indigenous knowledges, while acknowledging, celebrating, and working with local cultural identities? How do these solutions work with the future predicted challenges we are facing? What does better living mean for you and how does that improve our ecologies and wellbeing in just ways?

The brief is intentionally broad to allow a range of visionary approaches and design ideas across different scales. Whether you count yourself among the general public, young people, elders, architects, landscape architects, planners, environmentalists, ecologists, economists, engineers, poets, artists or other interested groups, you are all invited to submit your ideas.All submissions are contenders for prizes. The winners and highly recommended submissions along with up to 5 honorable mentions will be displayed in an exhibition at the NUWAO Traditional Knowledge Driven Nature-based Solutions for Urban Adaptation Symposium to be held at the Wellington School of Architecture, at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, in April 2023. The winning entries will be further publicised in an online exhibition, through our NUWAO website, in a podcast series, and will form part of NUWAO publications including a book (with designers’ consent).

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From your contribution we hope to gain specific ideas, concepts and examples related to how to adapt Oceania’s urban centers to climate change by working with nature in empowering ways for local and/or Indigenous peoples.

This design competition will help us to understand the issues that need to be addressed in these specific urban areas of Oceania  and to gauge existing understandings and approaches to the issues, while also capturing the collective imagination regarding how we might creatively adapt to climate change. Our team’s focus areas are Port Vila (Vanuatu), Apia (Samoa), Tarawa (Kiribati), Te Awakairangi and Ōtepoti (Aotearoa New Zealand) and we particularly encourage you to focus your designs on one or more of these areas. Background information on these areas will be provided on the NUWAO website. We will, however,  accept entries related to any urban setting in any other Pacific Island nation, including Aotearoa New Zealand (see map above). 

  • Design: Optimising design to create a future that cares for nature and provides for future generations. Design strategies that can help reintegrate nature in our cities by transforming urban spaces into liveable, productive, and biodiverse systems.
  • Build: May include urban masterplans, networks and systems, environmental plans, infrastructure, streetscapes, large or small scale landscapes, tourism developments, housing ideas, urban agriculture systems etc.
  • Adapt: Nature-based climate adaptation solutions to create, adapt, or regenerate interconnected hydrological, biological, and social ecologies. Successful adaptation requires careful consideration of the local context and participatory “bottom-up” co-design and implementation with local communities.
  • Perform: Using healthy ecosystems and biodiversity and crucial ecosystem services, as a key link between healthy ecosystems and human wellbeing in urban environments.
  • Share: thriving, just communities that nurture peoples in diverse, unique places through co-design and participatory design.
  • Learn: Create opportunities for learning, engagement and research in culturally enriching ecosystems.
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The geographic scope for this competition is focused on urban areas of Oceania. This map defines our understanding of ‘Oceania’ as the combined Pacific Island nations of Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia.

Figure 1. Regions of Oceania. Source: Adapted from Australian National University (CC License).

Specifically, sites in the following countries: Aotearoa New Zealand, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Hawaii, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Rapanui, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna.

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BACKGROUND: NUWAO, Climate Change, Nature-based Solutions


The Nature-based Urban design for Wellbeing and Adaptation in Oceania (NUWAO) project is made up of a diverse multidisciplinary team, and is funded by a New Zealand Government Marsden grant. Our aim is to develop nature-based urban design solutions, rooted in Indigenous knowledges that support climate change adaptation, individual and community wellbeing in different contexts across Aotearoa and Oceania. Our specific geographic focus includes: Te Awakairangi (Lower Hutt) and the Otago coastal region in Te Wai Pounamu, Apia in Samoa, Tarawa in Kiribati, and Port Vila in Vanuatu. Special consideration will be given to submissions for sites within these particular areas. Our hope is that through this design competition we can learn from your innovative design solutions to understand the issues that need to be addressed and to gauge existing understandings and approaches to the issues at hand while also capturing the collective imagination about how we might creatively adapt to climate change from a diverse range of people and perspectives.

Climate change

Climate change is generated by the choices that people have made, especially  over the last 70 years. It is human influence that has warmed the climate at an unprecedented rate resulting in some difficult future realities. We are facing major issues such as the threat of sea level rise, coastal erosion, storm surges, groundwater inundation, temperature rise, and extreme weather and flooding events. This is in a context of rising inequities and other social factors. These pressures of climate change and urbanisation globally are detrimental to ecosystems and human wellbeing, particularly when looking at vulnerable communities. This needs to be urgently addressed now, particularly in the Pacific. The NUWAO Nature-based Urban Climate Adaptation for Wellbeing Rooted in Indigenous Knowledge Design Competition is a call to designers, urban and development professionals, students, rangatahi / youth, and the general public to add to this research by drawing upon the collective imagination and knowledge of Oceania. We are looking for future-focussed nature-based solutions that seek to rethink our urban environments, generate innovative visions, methodologies, and solutions in response to today’s climate challenges, especially in ways which center, celebrate, and draw upon traditional local knowledges.

Nature-based Solutions Climate change

Nature-based solutions (NbS) are defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”. More simply, NbS are solutions to societal challenges that involve working with nature. They aim to enhance the resilience of ecosystems, their capacity for renewal and the provision of ecosystem services. While NbS are an important strategy to use to adapt to climate change in the Pacific we must also look to Indigenous ecological knowledge, based on the intricate and intimate observation and understanding of complex behaviours within our natural and physical world. A knowledge base that is deeply connected and guided by relationships to the environment. From understanding the cycles of the ebbing moon, natural rhythms of the passing seasons, movement of the stars, weather patterns, ecological and cultural systems. The rights and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples are intimately linked with ecological and climate health in the Pacific. The NUWAO approach understands this and draws upon it.

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