The Fijian traditional wooden house known as “bure” is a vernacular architecture locally developed in Fiji islands, which had been built with communal work in each village throughout the country and which building skills and knowledge had been passed down from generation to generation. In the course of modernization, bure has given way to housing in Western in the latter half of the twenty century. It means that they have missed opportunities to transfer the indigenous building technology to the young generation and are at risk of losing a valuable culture of Fijian traditional wooden house. In these circumstances, indigenous Fijians especially elderly express their hope to preserve the building tradition of bure which symbolizes Fijian culture. Furthermore, recognizing the possible use of bure in terms of tourism or disaster response, its value has begun to be re-evaluated.
Under these circumstances, “bure construction project” was carried out in collaboration with Center for Appropriate Technology and Development (CATD), a governmental vocational training school, with the purpose of providing a learning opportunity for their young trainees. This paper aimed to record and examine the indigenous building technology of Fijian traditional wooden house through this project as well as based on a series of field surveys in the villages which still had bure and literature reviews.
According to the previous studies, the architectural style of bure was classified into four types by plane and structure: houses with straight sides and rounded ends and an arched roof (Tongan type) (Fig. 3-1), rectangular houses with a main post in the middle of each of the short ends (Fig. 3-2), rectangular houses with no main posts (Fig. 3-3), and rectangular or square houses with a center pole (Fig. 3-4). The bure constructed at CATD belongs to the type of Fig. 3-3.
Its construction process demonstrated the traditional design methods including utilization of body based units of measurement. Seven body based units for measurements and actual size based on the lengths of a Fijian adult male was recorded as shown in Fig 5. According to the interviews, the dimensions of bure were customary determined in each village which resulted in variety in size of existing bures (Fig. 6). Table 2 lists the building materials used for the bure construction at CATD. Due to the location where CATD is in coastal area, mangroves were used for structure while different hardwoods were used in the mountainous areas. The building materials vary depending on the availability of the natural plants. It took eight people approximately one month to construct one bure. Table 3 provided a detailed construction process and amount of effort and time expended.
This study clarified the architectural style of bure and its traditional design and building technology based on the detailed record of a construction project as well as the interviews and a series of field surveys. This also revealed that it reflected the locality since the building materials and construction methods reflects varied from place to place. In the future, there is a need to carry out a further research for the systematical and comprehensive understandings of Fijian traditional wooden house.