Wikipedia Definition: The word atoll comes from the Dhivehi (an Indo-Aryan language spoken in the Maldives) word atholhu. Its first recorded use in English was in 1625. However, the term was popularised by Charles Darwin, who described atolls as a subset in a special class of islands, the unique property of which is the presence of an organic reef.
The name change from the architectural practice called Ian Banks Associates to a new art + architecture collaborative called Atoll, was made in January 2005. This name change was made partly in response to an occasional Maldivian dimension to the practice's work, and partly in recognition of the importance of sustainable thinking: Ian Banks is linked to Maldives, having lived and practiced there for 4 years. He is married to a Maldivian and also registered as a Maldivian Citizen. The Maldivian dhivehi language is spoken by no more than 250,000 people world-wide, and the word atoll is the only dhivehi derived word that has ever made it into common English usage.
Above: Outline proposal designs prepared for Hodaafushi Golf & Island Resort, Maldives for Voyages Maldives: 2004
The slow growth of diverse coral communities onto extinct volcano rims helps form the structure of atolls (and hence eventually the islands, and supported life-forms upon these). The myriad of diverse organisms making up such reefs, then provide the critical building-blocks, that can be seen as a metaphor for both the continual potential and the peril associated with such fragile communities - ones that no matter how remote and microscopic, are inextricably linked to the industrialised world and its global concerns. As such, the name of Atoll was felt to be a fitting and evocative name to help symbolise the collaborative and sustainable ambitions for this evolving art + architecture practice.
Above: Sustainable Tourist Island concept: Lakshadweep Islands, India for Jetan Travel Service: 1991