The world is progressing at a very fast rate and so are we adapting to its changes. Changing times have made us more prone to natural and manmade disasters. A disaster leaves an unchangeable impact on the community, leads to loss of life, resources, and infrastructures. Such a situation calls for cost-efficient architecture, low maintenance, modular, built in no time, and made by using materials most easily available and familiar to the community for which it has been built. 

Several architects all over the world have given their entire lives for helping out disaster struck communities and have developed dwellings and buildings which have completely changed the faith of these people. Here are the top 5 architects who have created an everlasting impact in the world with their humanitarian work:

1. Shigeru Ban

Over three decades, the Shigeru ban has touched millions of lives with his architecture. He has worked all over the world from India to Italy to Japan and Sri Lanka, with his extensive knowledge of recyclable materials like paper and cardboard, he has constructed high quality, cost-efficient dwelling. Three of his prominent projects are listed below:

i. Cardboard Cathedral, New Zealand

In 2011 a massive earthquake struck the city of Christchurch in New Zealand, as a response to this situation, ban designed a triangular cathedral out of paper tubes which have a capacity of 700 people

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ii. Paper Log House, India 

Shigeru ban designed this house in Bhuj, India after the earthquake of 2001 by using the rubble from destroyed buildings for the foundation, traditional mud flooring, and woven cane mat for the roof along with paper tubes for constructing the walls.

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iii. Tsunami Reconstruction Project

Kirinda is a village located on the south-east coast of Sri Lanka, most of the buildings of this village were swept away by Tsunami. Ban replaced the temporary houses of this village with permanent low budget house-made using compressed earth block (CEB) which locally available in Sri Lanka

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2. Yasmeen Lari

RIBA acclaimed Yasmeen Lari has constructed more than 45,000 houses since 2010 under the relief disaster management program using local materials. Her journey began in 2005, when a massive earthquake hit Pakistan, inflicted terrible damage to the infrastructure. Lahri decided to do something for the affected community and built houses for them using vernacular techniques and materials available at hands like mud and bamboo. She also runs an organization where she trains villagers to build their own homes.

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3. Alejandro Aravena

“We don’t think of ourselves as artists. Architects like to build unique things. But if something is unique it can’t be repeated, so in terms of it serving many people in many places, the value is close to zero.” These words by Alejandro Aravena clearly shows his compassion for the people and is one of the most socially involved architects of the century. After the earthquake and tsunami of 2010, he constructed Villa Verde in Constitución. The main concept was to develop ‘half houses’ and they involved people in constructing to reduce the costing of the entire project. In this setup residents took over the initiative to build up the rest of the by saving money, slowly shifting a makeshift low-end housing to a desirable housing unit.

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Image 5: ©

4. Stefano Boeri

The earthquake of 2016 devastated the city of Amatrice and the surrounding villages in Italy. Stefano Boeri along with Renzo Piano-designed the new Amatrice catering to the social needs of the residents of this town. He built the new school canteen and the city center, Polo del Gusto Square, with the buildings accommodating eight restaurants. This provides new jobs and revived tourism which in turn gave the much needed kick start to the economy of the city.

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Image 6: ©

5. William Ti

When the world was in chaos, hospital beds were filling up quickly, cases were doubling every second and everybody was in the fear of catching coronavirus, William Ti, the principal architect of WTA designed a mobilized emergency quarantine facility (EQF). This EQF made up of easy to use, flexible, and readily-available materials, is replicable and scalable was made in just 5 days to meet the growing demand of hospital beds at the same time helping to flatten the curve. In a race where speed is of the essence, WTA’s design provides a space for 1000 beds, fully ventilated and equipped with toilets and donning- doffing areas in no time.

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While we acknowledge the work of these architects, we should ask ourselves a simple question: what is our roles as architects, is it to create a tall building which talks only money and looks like a gem whose future is as uncertain as David in Caracas, Venezuela or is it our responsibility as professionals to contribute to the society in times of crisis and dire need, to build infrastructure which is the need of the hour.


Rudraakshi, architecture is an expression of values, tradition, culture and emotions. She believes in achieving aesthetics through a sustainable and vernacular approach. Through the power of her words, she aims to give a new perspective to architecture.

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