The world is a scary place.
“Two hundred million people … have been affected by natural disasters and hazards in the last decade…Ninety-eight percent of these victims are in the developing world.”
This sobering information comes from the introduction to Beyond Shelter: Architecture and Human Dignity. The book presents 25 reports from the field by experts who work on disaster prevention and recovery.
After a disaster, designers face the challenge of “building back better” while working quickly and within the capacity and rhythms of the community.
In Banda Aceh, Indonesia, following the earthquake of 2004, 190 temporary barracks were built by the military. The sites selected were chosen by fear of new quakes and tsunamis. However, these sites were so remote that refugees could not return to work or assist with reconstruction.
When project planners began working with the community, women were initially excluded. Residents were opposed to building traditional stilt houses which are climatically efficient and earthquake safe. They favoured modern houses with masonry walls that are often fatal during an earthquake or tsunami.
Providing the building materials threatened to exhaust local resources which could potentially cause a secondary environmental disaster. And the construction boom sent the price of materials soaring.
The story of reconstruction outlines the enormous complexity faced, the solutions that evolved and what the project team learned from the experience.
The book is a call-to-action to the architectural and design communities to provide leadership and innovative solutions to enormous global problems. It's a fascinating read.