Page 1

All architecture is humanitarian architecture | ArtsHub Australia

http://www.artshub.com.au/news-article/news/architecture/peta-mayer/a...

All architecture is humanitarian architecture PETA MAYER

Rebel architects use design as activism and resistance to tackle urban, environmental and social problems.

In the waterside slum of Makoko, Lagos, Kunle Adeyemi's first floating building is a primary school [NLE]. Image: aljazeera.com War, floods and earthquakes, housing crises, military occupation and rapidly expanding cities are some of the issues confronted in Rebel Architecture (http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/rebelarchitecture/) a six-part documentary series to be screened on Al Jazeera (http://www.aljazeera.com/) from August 18. The series profiles architects who use design as a form of activism and resistance to address the world's urban, environmental and social problems. Pakistan's first female architect, Yasmeen Lari, has built over 36,000 houses for victims of floods and earthquakes in Pakistan since 2010. Lari uses vernacular techniques and local materials such as lime and bamboo to create houses with a minimal carbon footprint that people to build themselves. Israeli architect Eyal Weizman’s project, Forensic Architecture, frames a building's military wounds as evidence to be used against the state for the investigation of war crimes, with the aid of innovative architectural and visual technologies. Investigating the use of architecture as an oppressive force in the occupied territories, Weizman states ‘Architecture and the built environment is a kind of a slow violence. The occupation is an environment that was conceived to

1 of 3

16/10/2016 8:34 AM


All architecture is humanitarian architecture | ArtsHub Australia

http://www.artshub.com.au/news-article/news/architecture/peta-mayer/a...

strangulate Palestinian communities, villages and towns, to create an environment that would be unliveable for the people there.’ In Vietnam, Vo Trong Nghia champions green architecture in a country that is rapidly becoming a concrete nightmare. Nghia attempts to institute a vertical farming city and his buildings substitute natural air flow ventilation for air conditioning. Rebel Spanish architect, Santiago Cirugeda, encourages people to use abandoned spaces and enables community building. ‘Self-building hasn't been legalised in Spain, so any architect taking on this problem has to take on civil and criminal liability,’ he says. In African coastal cities, flooding and land occupation have affected hundreds of thousands of people, including 85,000 residents of the Makoko slum in Nigeria's capital Lagos. Nigerian architect Kunle Adeyemi has invented an easy-to-build, low-cost sustainable prototype for a floating building which would allow the slum's residents to remain within their community. Ricardo de Olivera has built over 100 houses with no formal training while utilising the most basic tools, all within his local community of Rocinha, Rio’s largest favela. Olivera explains that the simple buildings meet the social and budgetary needs of their clients, however continuing pressures of resources in Brazil mean that demands on the community are also increasing. Rebel architects challenge the historical tendency to see architecture as an elite profession. At the same time, some people question the requirement to distinguish between ethical architecture and architecture per se.  

Rory Hyde (http://cargocollective.com/roryhyde), architect and author of Future Practice: Conversations from the edges of the profession (http://www.amazon.co.uk/FuturePractice-Conversations-Edge-Architecture/dp/0415533546/), maintains that architecture is undergoing a shift in priorities. While Hyde notes that ‘Architecture in Australia also includes research and healthcare facilities, public buildings, schools, urban design, much of which has a civic function,’ he says that humanitarian architecture responds to a need for architecture to remain relevant to the times. In his chapter in Esther Charlesworth (http://www.rmit.edu.au/staff/esthercharlesworth)’s Humanitarian Architecture: (http://www.bookdepository.com/Humanitarian-Architecture /9780415818667)15 Stories of Architects Working After Natural Disasters (http://www.bookdepository.com/Humanitarian-Architecture/9780415818667), ‘Sending out an SOS’, published this week, Hyde emphasises the need for architects ‘to consider spatial design as one tool within a larger strategy, one that is culturally engaged, and informed by a broad set of social, economic, political and material criteria, and to be motivated by making a difference, rather than by making money.’ Melbourne architect Amanda Warmuth points out that, ‘Architects as a species usually strive to create some sort of social, cultural, and/or environmental benefit through good design.’ Speaking of the western context she says '"Sustainability" is now often viewed as a minimum, as restorative design - buildings that have a net positive impact on the environment are being planned and built. The critical problem is that aspirational projects require aspirational clients, as the architect is unable to transform a project on paper into reality without resources.’ Warmuth observes that historically problems have stemmed from a lack of connection between architects and communities. ‘I think problems sometimes

2 of 3

16/10/2016 8:34 AM


All architecture is humanitarian architecture | ArtsHub Australia

http://www.artshub.com.au/news-article/news/architecture/peta-mayer/a...

arise when privileged, university-educated designers and developers think they know what's good for people they have no real understanding of. The towers and sterile landscapes of Modernist residential projects which have since become vertical slums are examples of architecture trying (and failing) to reform the social problems of the day.’ Hyde points to two practices in particular that stand out as examples of humanitarian architecture issuing from Australia. ‘Health Habitat led by Paul Pholeros is making a huge difference in the most unglamorous ways. Working with remote communities in Australia, Nepal, Bangladesh, South Africa and elsewhere to provide basic needs such as sanitation, housing and education facilities. They were awarded the World Habitat Award from the UN in 2011 in recognition of work which is rarely if ever featured in the glossy architecture journals, and yet which makes such a critical difference.’ In the same year they had their Australian government funding slashed. ‘The other is Architects Without Frontiers, led by Esther Charlesworth, which is similarly doing critical aid work and research around the world, and now with a focus on Australia,’ Ryde says. Rebel Architecture (http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/rebelarchitecture/) screens on 18 August. FIRST PUBLISHED ON FRIDAY 15 AUGUST, 2014

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Peta Mayer has a PhD in English Literature from University of Melbourne

3 of 3

16/10/2016 8:34 AM

All architecture is humanitarian architecture  

Arts Hub article, Peter Mayer, http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/the-good-the-bad-and-the-built-why-architects-should-put-p...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you