Phd Extreme Architecture - USM-UVI - Sint Maarten

Phd Extreme Architecture - USM-UVI - Sint Maarten

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23 Sep 4 Nov Philipsburg

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Job description

Island(er)s at the Helm: Co-creating sustainable and inclusive solutions for social adaptation to climate challenges in the (Dutch) Caribbean.

Project Description
Driven by the increasing public awareness of the impact of hurricanes and the devastation of coastal areas, Island(er)s at the Helm will contribute to equipping (Dutch) Caribbean societies with proficient tools for confronting these challenging climatic phenomena. Such adverse events have significant ecological, social, and cultural implications, affecting the basic living conditions (water, food, shelter-nexus/WFS-nexus) and heritage of the island inhabitants. This research builds on the principle that local-specific practices and ontologies of Caribbean societies are crucial for promoting sustainable WFS-nexus solutions. The project brings together researchers and societal partners to employ a mixture of technical, traditional, and contemporary knowledge practices for studying climate change adaptation through a long-term perspective. Five inter-related work packages studying the WFS-nexus of the island(er)s will adopt a transdisciplinary research design including: archaeology, paleoecology, (paleo)ethnobotany, social-cultural anthropology, visual arts, performance arts, political science, urban design, urban planning, governance and policy sciences, legal studies, architecture, and civil engineering.

Island(er)s at the Helm is financed by the NWO Caribbean Research programme. The host institute for this project is the Royal Netherlands Institute for Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV/KNAW), in collaboration with the University of St. Martin (USM-UVI). This position consists of a dual appointment at the USM-UVI and the Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands (where graduation will take place). The candidate will be enrolled in TU Delft’s Graduate School of Architecture & the Built Environment.

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Job Description
The Island(er)s at the Helm project is looking for a PhD candidate in Extreme Architecture, in the work package “Building in/for extremes: co-developing/creating future proof architecture with the Caribbean Windward island(er)s”, starting 01 January 2022. The objective of this package is to co-develop locally embedded guidelines and models for future proof architecture on the Caribbean windward islands. In doing so, it draws on traditional knowledge and architectural practices and designs, which often combines locally sourced materials, local skills, and are adapted to the local climate and local ways of living, including closely connected water and food practices. Over the past centuries, architectural designs have been imported to the islands from abroad that do not fit the local conditions and that are unsupportive of traditional practices and techniques for a sustainable Water-Food-Shelter (WFS) nexus. With the growing population and the prediction of more extreme and intense weather events, the WFS-nexus is becoming key in the survival and resilience of the island(er)s, and the sustainable development of their societies/communities.

The PhD candidate will be expected to employ a Research Through Design approach, whereby knowledge of past and present local ways of building and architecture will be identified and developed into principles for extreme building designs. This includes an analysis of the impact of the environment of the islands on the architectural requirements, including both the extreme climatical events, socioeconomic and historical contexts, and culture. In addition, a typology for different levels of WFS service provision will be investigated in relation to the building design, in line with the different densities and the relatively small numbers of buildings on the islands, making centralized infrastructure for most parts of the islands ineffective and too costly. In particular, autonomous buildings and clustered buildings with shared (semi-)autonomous and infrastructure services are interesting alternatives putting islanders at the helm in terms of creative maintenance, collective ownership and management. These design hypotheses will be compared and enriched through a comparative literature research of extreme architecture in other countries or islands in the Caribbean region with comparable extreme conditions. Also, they will be investigated and elaborated through a design charette using appreciative inquiry, a technique focusing on positive attributes that may fuel change. The stepwise investigation and development of design guidelines for extreme architecture will result in a practice- oriented book of guidelines to be used by architects, experts, and consultants in building design and WFS solutions, and residents and building users. The research adopts a participatory approach, with focus groups of local architects, residents/building users and experts in local food ways and water management. The focus group members will be invited to participate in the charette.


Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW)


We are looking for candidates with at least the following qualifications:

  • MA or MSc degree in Architecture or a related design discipline;
  • An excellent command of the English language, both in speaking and writing, and structured writing skills in general.

Furthermore, the following qualifications would be considered a plus:

  • Have the ability to work independently, as well as in collaboration with a diverse team of researchers and (non-)academic stakeholders and local communities;
  • Insight into the use of local materials, including associated constructions;
  • The ability to take initiative, be result oriented, organized and creative;
  • Familiarity with the region and its history of architectural development;
  • A keen interest in everyday living environments and their inhabitants;
  • Knowledge of (regional) water management at system and household level and/or of (regional) food practices is appreciated;
  • Strong design, graphic and analytic competencies;
  • Command of Papiamento, Dutch, Spanish, Caribbean creole English and/or Haitian Kreyol/Guadeloupian Creole.

Conditions of employment

Appointment will be according to the terms of the Collective Labor Agreement of Sint Maarten. We offer a full time position for one year starting January 2022. Extension of the contract with three years is subjected to satisfactory review. The gross monthly salary will be in accordance with VSNU standards. USM-UVI offers an attractive benefits package with 15 days of paid holiday and social insurances.

To apply for this position, we require a CV, letter of motivation, Preliminary Research Proposal according to NWO format (obtainable via applications[at] and two letters of recommendation. Incomplete applications will not be (re)viewed by the selection committee.


University of St. Martin (USM-UVI)

Founded in 1989, the University of St. Martin (USM-UVI) ( is an autonomous, publicly-funded university of higher learning and research, whose mission is to place the arts and sciences at the service of the binational community of St. Martin and neighboring islands for their sustainable socio-economic and cultural development. USM-UVI is governed by the University of St. Maarten Foundation Board; located at Soualiga Boulevard #1, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten.

In partnership with regional institutions of higher education and scientific research, USM-UVI offers quality career and academic degree programs in the General Liberal Arts, Education, Business and Hospitality and Social Work. The University is also committed to the continuous development of scientific research programs geared towards improving the quality of life for the people of St. Martin, the Caribbean region, and the world at large.


  • PhD; Technical and laboratory
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • AT2021-140


Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW)

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