A brief encounter with architect Lama Tone

By Greg Bruce

A few words with architect and former Samoa rugby international Lama Tone.
Lama Tone with his family.
Lama Tone with his family.

Who gets to decide whether a design is "good"?

The people, the site, the rain, the sun, the wind, the clouds, the ocean, the sky, the land. I often tell my architecture students that the site has a huge say with their design concepts, therefore reference its historical, cultural, spiritual, environmental and climatic contexts, so architecture becomes the custodian between the site and the occupant.

Is all design really just a search for meaning?

The key is what is that "meaning" to you? I have seen and engaged with design that has no meaning to me, but is a beautiful object that seemed to be dropped from out of space. It has no specificity to the surroundings. We live in a world of pragmatic and practical solutions and we see a lot of that in our housing here in NZ today. On the flip side, we have some amazing design work done by our own architects.

What has teaching taught you?

Teaching has taught me to be critical as well as self-critical. It has taught me to be aware of other people's philosophies of what architecture is. It has taught me to push architectural boundaries. It has also taught me that we don't have to look far and wide and across the globe for design inspiration, as we have plenty of it here in our own backyard - the Pacific.

A house is not a home. Discuss.

A house should be a home to your way of life.

What has rugby taught you about design?

If anything, I think rugby has ultimately taught me a lot about myself, and people. And I believe architecture is about people.

I think good architects are born, yet most don't realise it until they are introduced into it or given an opportunity to engage with it.
Lama Tone

What part does culture play in architecture?

To me, culture in architecture is identity and a whole lot of things that come with it. It is a fusion of space, form, aesthetics/tectonics and materiality that will identify and respond to your sense of place, sense of belonging and obviously sense of self.

Where do you go to feel inspired?

The great Pacific Ocean is one special place where I feel inspired. It was and still is the lifeway of the Pacific people. I go fishing on a kayak on the east coast, and I feel calm and connected with the ocean while I am floating on a piece of plastic, getting
dinner.

- Canvas

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