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    Solomon Islands: Looking up at palm trees. Go Now!

    Solomon Islands
    This Melanesian country is best known for its many islands and beaches... and this natural landscape (pictured) is why most people go. Don't miss out on the unique Melanesian culture and foods though! Begin Your Journey!

  • Tonga!

    Tonga: Coastline. Go Now!

    The heart of Polynesian culture is rooted in Tonga, but most visitors just come for the natural beauty. Explore Tonga!

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    Vanuatu: Jetty into the ocean. Go Now!

    Picturesque serenity is a good way to describe Vanuatu, but the culture offers much more, including the inspiration for bungee jumping, which remains a rite of passage for young men. Explore Vanuatu!

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    Few people have even heard of this small Micronesian country, but those who have often return with stories of beauty unmatched elsewhere, such as view of the "70 Islands" (pictured). Go Now!

  • Explore the: Federated States of Micronesia!

    Federated States of Micronesia: Overlooking some islands. Go Now!

    Federated States of Micronesia
    This diverse country stretches for thousands of miles and has the diversity to prove it, including the people from Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Yap among others. Begin Your Journey!

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    Samoa: A traditional home. Go Now!

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Architecture of Tonga

The people of Tonga have been buildings houses, or fale for hundreds of years and these traditional wooden houses have a fairly specific design. Because these houses are made of wood, few survive over time, but even today the people of Tonga build houses much as they did in the past so the historic architecture continues to survive today, despite the fact that it is not old.

The fale in Tonga tends to be built with tree trunks as supportive pillars, thatched roofs, screens on the sides, and the entire structure is woven together with palm leaves. These structures were ideal for storms as they were designed to protect the people from the winds and rains, while their design naturally shed winds. It was the fale that formed the base of the architecture in the past and on which later architecture was constructed. The fale in Tonga also acted as meeting houses, which had a very specific seating structure and organization as chiefs were seated in certain areas based on rank.

Another historic, but much less common structure in Tonga was made of stone. All of these stone structures that survive today are burial sites, including those in Ha'amonga 'a Maui and in Lapaha.

The structures, designs, and materials used in architecture in Tonga substantially changed with the arrival of the Europeans. Having good relations with the Europeans and quickly adopting foreign influences made the adaptation of European styles and materials an easy change, although the lack of economic wealth still made this a slow transition.

This shift began in about 1800 as missionaries and other settlers arrived, but didn't arrive in significant numbers until the mid-1800s. The first significant move the people made was adopting stronger materials; most of the historic materials, like palm leaves, broke down rather quickly so incorporating carpentry skills and hard woods helped their traditional fale last longer.

Later, the architecture continued to change as bricks, sheet metal, and nails were added to make construction easier and longer lasting. At the same time buildings foreign in style were introduced. The capital of Nuku'alofa built a few buildings in the Victorian style, including the palace (1867), which incorporated elements of both Tonga and Britain. This led to a movement of numerous houses being built in the Victorian style, mostly in the form of pre-fabricated houses from New Zealand, which represented that country's architectural style. These houses were almost always painted white and even today most houses are painted white, no matter their style.

In the 1900s and into today more modern buildings in international styles and designs have been built in Tonga, but the cost of these buildings has prevented many from being built. More common is the use of leftover building materials from other countries being incorporated into the fale of the people. It's considered a great source of pride to have western building materials on your house so today the housing seems to be a combination of past designs with random assorted materials that the people can get their hands on, often through friends or relatives in Australia or New Zealand.

This page was last updated: February, 2013