Navigating culture and architectural vision

When Mila Makasini enrolled in Otago Polytechnic’s Bachelor of Architectural Studies at the start of 2018, his ideas around Architecture could best be described as a rough sketch.

Mila Makasini


I feel I have grown immensely in terms of critical thinking, technological ability, contextualising places, construction, research skills, professional skills and other various aspects of the Architectural profession.

Now, Mila can reflect on not only all he has learned academically – but how much he has grown – as he prepares to present his final-year project as part of Detail, a showcase exhibition by Otago Polytechnic BAS students.

“Initially, I wasn’t sure what Architecture consisted of and what career paths were available to pursue. But, with the help of my mentors, I was quickly able to identify my strengths and passions and develop an understanding of what Architecture meant to me.

“Most importantly, I have developed the confidence to conceptualise and contextualise my design ideas thoroughly and then communicate these ideas through various mediums and methodologies.”

Of Tongan descent, Mila was born in Auckland and moved to Dunedin in the mid-2000s. Having enjoyed  Art, Design and Timber/Metal workshops at high school, he was interested in a career than blended science and creativity.

“The ability to study Architecture here in the South Island without leaving home was a bonus.”

Mila says he is grateful for the support and pastoral care of the staff in the programme.

“I have a young family. They have been extremely helpful and understanding of my needs and situation.

My peers and colleagues have also been very encouraging and motivating. I don’t think I would have been able to accomplish what I have if it wasn’t for the support and encouragement of my lecturers and fellow students.

Mila says a strength of the Bachelor of Architectural Studies programme is its strong connection to industry. This is exemplified by him gaining an internship at a leading Architecture firm in Dunedin. 

“We are always doing on-site visits and checking out new and old buildings around town. We have met with and learnt from so many experts: Registered Architects, Structural Engineers, Developers, Industry Product Manufacturers, Council Planners . . . the list goes on.  All of this activity keeps us connected to the industry we all see ourselves as a part of.”

Through his evolution at Otago Polytechnic, Mila has been able to connect his Architectural learning to his culture - and vice versa.

“My final-year Studio Major Project is focused on the architecture and the culture of Polynesia, particularly the two islands within the South Pacific Ocean from which I originate - Tonga and New Zealand.

“The Architectural elements in my project are inspired by Polynesian boat-building and shelter-building technology. It is a lightweight timber structure which spans a large area without the use of conventional structural elements.”



Mila Makasini