Virtual reality and village homestays: a Papua New Guinea approach to architecture


The use of 3D and virtual reality technology has been integral to the success of Papua New Guinea architecture firm, Pawa Architecture. But sometimes you have to go back to basics, Managing Director Andrew McFadden tells Business Advantage PNG.

Maternity Wait House Source: Pawa Architecture

McFadden says that ‘architectural plans can be difficult for people to digest’, but, using 3D renders and virtual reality technology, it is possible to tell a story in a way that people really connect with.

‘Our success has been built on creating architecture for community that is driven by the local culture, so it’s important we engage with the community in a meaningful way,’ he adds.

Pawa, a local Papua New Guinean company, has 11 staff, made up of five nationals and six expats from Australia.

With projects in Papua New Guinea and in Northern Australia, the company boasts a wide portfolio including apartment buildings, schools and hospitals.

Pawa also provides earthquake and condition assessments.

Connecting nationals and expats

Pawa Architecture’s Andrew McFadden

McFadden says the use of video technology and online platforms have been integral to the success of the small business, with the team split between two offices, one in Papua New Guinea and the other in Cairns.

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‘Connecting our team of nationals and expats has played a critical role in our effectiveness, with the sharing of knowledge and experience between staff invaluable for the entire team.’

By integrating with the national team, Pawa’s Australian staff has seen first-hand the connection between architecture, people and culture.

‘The national staff show the Australian team there is an important connection between architecture and culture that can’t be overlooked.’

‘There is a great opportunity to improve the lives of people in Papua New Guinea by working closely with communities to truly understand their needs.’

Simplicity in design and going back to basics can be effective, and a strong focus on engaging the community in a meaningful way is the key to successful projects, McFadden says.

Working with the Australian team has provided the nationals with exposure to Australian building codes and standards, which the Papua New Guinea building codes reference.

‘Our Papua New Guinean team has worked on projects in Australia, gaining exposure to a regulated and sophisticated industry, which is great for their professional development.’

McFadden says having both teams working together means they can learn from the strength of one country, while also sharing challenges.


While access to remote communities is a significant hurdle, McFadden says the team’s commitment to understanding the local community’s needs has led them to hike for hours, take boats and drive off-road to reach rural villages.

‘We often stay overnight in remote villages, which provides a great opportunity to get to know the local people in an informal manner.’

‘By staying in the village we’ve been able to build trust with the community and exchange ideas,’ he adds.

Pawa works with Australian Aid and local governments on numerous projects, but McFadden says funding can be difficult to secure and projects are often put on hold.

The company is currently seeking funding for a maternity wait house in Bougainville, to support expectant mothers by providing a safe place to stay near the hospital or health centre in the lead up to their due date.

‘We identified a need for a wait house because expectant mothers were walking up to four hours to hospital in the days before they gave birth.’

Pro bono

Pawa is working on the project in a pro bono capacity, but McFadden says they’ve been unable to proceed to the next stage due to a lack of funding.

‘There is a great opportunity to improve the lives of people in Papua New Guinea by working closely with communities to truly understand their needs.’

‘The technology we use, and our combination of staff in Papua New Guinea and Northern Australia, provides a great learning and growth opportunity for the company.

‘It’s exciting to have access to diverse projects across two countries and a unique team to work with,’ he adds.


  1. Gibson Garong says

    About the house design, it only relates to Australian context where most of the land is own by the state. whereas, in PNG context almost 90% is customary owned and to utilized state land to build such design will only exhaust the state land and will contradicts PNG customary land Act for, there fore to address the rising concern of housing PNG Low to middle wage earners, PNG needs a design that can cater for more than one home on a single piece of land which will embrace both issues stated in the text.

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