Area(s) of ExpertiseCultural sustainability, Climate forced displacement and resettlement, Indigenous Design Knowledge, Pattern Language
James Miller has a strong commitment to, and experience in, social justice in architecture. He has experience working on projects pertaining to micro-entrepreneurship, post-disaster recovery, public-housing, and culturally based design. James’ research helps bring a needed cultural perspective to critical social issues, and the results of such research will help communities rebuild while maintaining their basic identities. Miller previously instructed courses on Humanitarian Design and Inclusive Urbanism and continues to promote the importance of an architecture of inclusion and the need to critically evaluate the impact of the built-environment on social and cultural sustainability. He holds a PhD in Architecture from the University of Oregon, a Master of Architecture from the University of Oregon, a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Notre Dame, and a certificate in Social Entrepreneurship from the University of Notre Dame.
Miller’s research investigates the cultural losses that occur when an entire nation is forced to relocate due to climate change. Miller believes that architects can play an important role in mitigating the cultural degradation of these displaced populations by giving careful consideration to the cultural identity of the places they design. He sees Indigenous Design Knowledge as a critical method for helping build resilience in the climate diaspora of Indigenous communities of Oceania.
Miller’s research centers on the small island nation of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, which faces forced displacement due to rising sea levels. Over the next fifty to one hundred years global sea levels will rise anywhere from 22 to 79 inches. This change, while not felt by those of us living inland, is devastatingly real for low-lying island nations whose land rises at most two to three meters above the surface of the sea. Already feeling the effects of climate change, many of these atoll nations are being forced to pack their belongings and relocate, often halfway across the world. In the case of the Marshall Islands, many of its residents have begun to relocate to Arkansas, creating the largest Marshallese population outside of the Marshall Islands.
With this forced relocation comes the threat of degradation to the cultural traditions and customs that make up the identity of a people. Building types are lost, customs are forgotten, and the cultural fabric of a people begins to fray. Miller’s research proposes that by supporting the cultural patterns of a displaced people within the context of the built environment, architecture can help stem the loss of cultural identity that a nation faces when relocating.
Miller’s research brings a needed cultural perspective to critical social issues in sustainable architecture, and the results of the research will help communities rebuild while maintaining their basic identities. The Indigenous design knowledge identified in the dissertation provides a framework for designers and planners to develop resettlement plans that mitigate culture loss and assist cultural resilience in forced displacement and resettlement projects.
Miller has on going projects in the Marshall Islands to assist in sustainable land use planning and the development of adaptable housing prototypes that are resilient in the face of climate change. In an ever-changing world increasingly impacted by the effects of climate change, innovators like Miller will be instrumental in helping those hardest hit by a warming planet. Future research includes studies on the climate diaspora and the formation of indigenous identities in immigrant communities and the development of a cross cultural learning collaborative in Indigenous design to develop a framework of Indigenous Design Knowledge in Architecture.
Research Interests Include:
Indigenous design knowledge, transnational placemaking, climate diasporas, resettlement, social impact architecture, humanitarian design, post-disaster reconstruction, cultural resilience
2018 PhD in Sutainable Architecture, Architecture, University of Oregon
2013 Master of Architecture, University of Oregon
2009 Bachelor of Architecture, University of Notre Dame
James Miller Community Resilience and Sustainable Land Use Consultants
James Miller Design
Studio E Architecture
Guerrila Development & Brett Schulz Architect
Awards \ Grants
SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2019 - 2021)
SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant (2019-2020)
Sylff Research Abroad Grant (2017-2018)
Sylff Fellowship (2017-2018)
Julie and Rocky Dixon Graduate Student Innovation Award for International Research (2015-2016)
2019 Miller, James. “Traditional Settlement Patterns Support Social Capital in Post-disaster Haiti.” International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment; Emerald.
2019 Miller, James and Nay, Eric. “Architecture, Redress and the Rights of Nature.” Dialectic VIII, School of Architecture, CA+P, University of Utah.
2019 Miller, James. “The Evolution of the Marshallese Vernacular House.” Fabrications, Routledge.
Professional Affiliations / Boards / Juries
Director, Collaborative for Inclusive Urbanism
Research Director, Living Islands Nonprofit