Relational drawing as agency:

negotiating the tangible and intangible of Samoan diaspora social space


  • Karamia Muller University of Auckland



Spatial design, Samoan culture, Interior architecture


Se’i motu le pa ‘a ‘ua iloa

‘May the pearl shell fish-hook never be lost before it has been shown to others.?He who has a fine-hook should not nervously hide it, but allow others to see it and admire it; else he could not proclaim its eventual loss.’ 1 Samoan Proverb

This paper will discuss how drawing production has enabled experimentation into and critique of conventional spatial representational systems from a Samoan cultural perspective. It considers how relational documentation can be used to advance a spatial design practice concerned with interrogating indgenised agency. To introduce this paper the Samoan proverb ‘se’i motu le pa ‘a ‘ua iloa’ is used. Within Samoan culture the proverb suggests that ‘it is mean to hide one’s possessions’ so that they may not be shared. 2 Indeed, the display of possessions informs the function of relational drawing practice, which ‘displays’ the Samoan diaspora’s attitude to their material culture. It is proposed that Samoan value systems underpin contemporary Samoan approaches to their tangible and intangible culture and that these values challenge contemporary Western conventions. This paper proposes that a paradigmatic shift, from the formal to the relational, needs to occur in order to appreciate Samoan buildings and their interiors. Relational drawing practices are employed to analyse the ancillary architecture utilised by Samoans living in Aotearoa New Zealand. Relational drawing is presented as agency for Samoan research and studio practice, enabling the display, through depiction, of Samoan diaspora’s cultural values as they are played out in daily life and manifested in domestic architecture.


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Author Biography

Karamia Muller, University of Auckland

Karamia Muller is a graduate of the Masters of Architecture Research programme at the School of Architecture and Planning, University of Auckland, 2011. She is currently working in architectural practice in Auckland. Current research interests examine how relational documentation and design methodologies can be utlised to offer indigenised agency, resulting in an innovative creative practice.




How to Cite

Muller, Karamia. 2012. “Relational Drawing As agency:: Negotiating the Tangible and Intangible of Samoan Diaspora Social Space”. Idea Journal 12 (1):122-39.



Design Research Paper