Port Vila Market : A Niu-Way

Deanna Li


Markets are an integral place for women in Vanuatu, as traditional kastoms and associated gendered roles have given them a dominant role in the marketing of agricultural produce. The Port Vila Central Market is the largest and most predominant market in the country, hosting vast amounts of women vendors from across the archipelago. However, their endeavours are accompanied by various social and climatic challenges that are currently under-addressed by existing architecture.

In response, this thesis synergizes with the aims of the UN Women’s Markets for Change programme and proposes a new hybrid market typology which seeks to reform the hardships and empower Ni-Vanuatu women.

Current marketplace architecture in Vanuatu lacks the ability to accommodate for the vendors overnighting on site due to high transportation costs. Despite its fundamental role in women’s lives, the absence of social considerations through the lens of a woman regarding safety, security, and comfort sees the Port Vila Central market neglecting opportunities to empower its users. Climatically, inadequate architectural considerations further exacerbate challenges as climate change induced natural hazards heavily associated with the country render women more vulnerable to the corresponding effects.

The UN Women’s Markets for Change (M4C) initiative was created in acknowledgement of these issues, as they aim to ensure that marketplaces in rural and urban areas in Vanuatu and other Melanesian countries are safe, inclusive, and non-discriminatory, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Through providing financial and agricultural training, coupled with the aims of improving physical infrastructure, they strive to enhance the roles and influence of women market vendors.

Working in parallel with the aims of the M4C, this project demonstrates the potential of reforming these challenges through architecture by employing the practice of space appropriation, coupled with an influence of vernacular design principles hybridized with locally suitable and preferred materials. A new hybrid typology is proposed on a new site located more inland in relation to the current flood-prone port-side location. With a dramatic increase in size, it renders the market as an intersection of programmes, so it becomes an amalgamation of accommodation, educational facilities, and an upscaled market hall with beneficial amenities. The new market hopes to influence a new way of life for women vendors in Vanuatu.

Block 1
Eastern end of market: food court and education centre above
Block 2
Ground floor plan of market house: public vending spaces
Block 3
First floor plan of market house: private vendor accomodation
Block 4
Market hall: relationship to street side lined with storm shutters
Block 6
Left: flower market || Centre: main market hall || Right: food court
Block 5
Food court: relationship to hillside lined with storm shutters
Block 8
Left: vendors communal kitchen || Centre: vendors accomodation hall || Right: education centre
Block 9
Vendors lounge looking out to the basin
1:50 sectional model: accomodation above market hall