Ideas sought for future of hamlet known as Edinburgh of the Seven Seas

The RIBA has launched an ideas competition for the future of a small community on the world’s most remote inhabited island.

The government of Tristan da Cunha wants to puts its only permanent settlement, known as Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, on a sustainable future.

Many of the government buildings – more agricultural sheds than icons – are reaching the end of their lives.

The two-stage contest, run by RIBA Competitions, is seeking innovative, cost-effective approaches to re-designing and consolidating these buildings as well as ways of improving the living standards and performance of residential properties. There are about 300 inhabitants.

The government also wants entrants to come up with improvements to the island’s agrarian systems so they better support grazing and the year-round supply of fresh produce.

Tristan da Cunha, which consists of four islands in the South Atlantic, lies 1,750 miles south-west of Cape Town – a journey that takes at least a week.

The archipelago can only be reached by sea but, because of the severity of ocean swells and limitations of the harbour, this is only possible about 60 days a year.

Entry is open to design teams from around the world. They must be led by a practising architect.

Five anonymous design approaches will be shortlisted for further development and awarded an honorarium of £3,000 (plus VAT) each. The winner will receive an additional £2,000 (plus VAT). 

The jury includes John Whiles of Jestico & Whiles as the RIBA architect adviser and the head of government on Tristan da Cunha, Alex Mitham.

Whiles said: “This is an intriguing competition to create the very best holistic solutions for the diverse needs of this community, who are committed to advancing their lives, their skills and their future in an absolutely sustainable way.”

Mitham said: “As the community nears its 200th anniversary, it is a perfect time to not only reflect on the past, but also look to the future and ensure the community’s viability for generations to come. I believe that a competition such as this offers the community that chance to thrive.

“We live in a time when you can step on a plane and be almost anywhere in the world within 24 hours. However Tristan is truly unique, and offers a fantastic opportunity for designers from around the world to have a beneficial impact on how Tristanians live and work for years to come.”

For further details and how to enter visit

The closing date for phase one is 2pm on June 2.