As architects, we hold a very unique and highly responsible position in our society, as we can be the drivers of sociocultural evolution in a community. People are the soul of the spaces, the spaces which we architects design. We have the power and diverse skill set to understand the socio-critical issues, economic background and design spaces, which will have maximum benefit and impact on the user.
Following are some examples of works of architects working towards the benefit of communities, its users and in turn helping develop a better living for them.
1. Primary school in Gando by Kere Architecture
Location- Gando, Burkina Faso
In keeping with his roots and cultural practices, Ar. Francis Kere designed a low tech and sustainable primary school for the development of his village. Learning from his hardships in childhood to receive education, he made sure the design would benefit the community and would be a proud landmark in his village.
With the help of the community, he modified and modernized the traditional clay-building techniques to create a robust construction in bricks. Keeping in mind the region’s hot climate, Ar. Francis Kere designed the ceiling with perforation and pulled the corrugated roof above to provide an ample amount of ventilation and thermal comfort. The project won the prestigious Aga Khan award in 2001.
2. Paper Log Houses by Shigeru Ban Architects
Location- Kobe, Japan; Bhuj, India
Designed in response to the earthquake that destroyed Kobe in 1996, the paper log houses consist of beer crates foundation loaded with sandbags. The walls are constructed using 106mm diameter, 4mm thick paper tubes, with tenting material for the roof. The units are temporary, environment friendly and easy to dismantle and dispose of. It was designed to respond to emergencies and humanitarian crises and to provide a sense of comfort and security to its users.
In India, after the devastating earthquake of Bhuj in 2001, such houses were deployed with foundations made from the rubble. Ceilings were vaulted for ventilation and handcrafted cane mats covered the vaulted roofs over which a sheet of tarpaulin and another layer of the mat was placed for protection against rain and hot temperature.
3. Floating schools by Ar. Mohammed Rezwan
To ensure a flood doesn’t stop education in the low lying areas of Bangladesh, Architect Rezwan, founder of a non-profit organisation called Shidhulai Sawanirvar Sangstha, designed floating schools that helps impart education in the rural communities. To confront the uncertainty of the situation, Ar. Rezwan designed self-reliant solar-powered boats which include a small library, space for laptop, batteries and solar lamps.
Shidhulai- has created a supplement to the lost amenities on land, both socially and physically. The nonprofits floating infrastructure doesn’t stop at schools, either. It also runs floating medical clinics and a playground that doubles as a library on the river. The material used for building is usually bamboo that had weaved to make roof and side barriers to protect from the monsoon.
4. Projects by Warka water
Locations- Ethiopia, Cameroon, Haiti, Togo
Warka Water is a non-profit organisation led by Ar. Arturo Vittari who has devoted his life to ensure safe drinking water, sanitation and empowerment for some of the world’s most isolated communities. Warka Water has designed Warka tower, W-garden, W-kitchen, W-house, W-sanitation that infuses local knowledge, materials, ancient traditions and thoughtful designs.
Warka Tower is an alternative for communities that face problems with harnessing potable water. It is lightweight, and easy to construct a tower that uses local resources which are environment friendly and biodegradable. Inspired from the storing capacity of insects and plants, Warka tower works on a similar principle by harvesting water through foggy or humid air which is then stored. It is designed to be fully maintained by the villagers. The tower will not only provide potable water but also create an active social space for the community, making it an integral part of their lifestyle.
Warka village is developed to transform the comprehensive human development, utilising low cost, locally sourced material, community driver, high impact solutions tailored to the needs and sociocultural expectations of the community.
To address the issues of sanitation in isolated communities, Warka Water designed Warka sanitation which is a composting dry toilet which operates without water. The compost material is used in Warka gardens for farming. This toilet has two sides one for male and female made from local indigenous building techniques knowledge which used wood structure and palm leaves for roofing. The projects help improve sanitation, save water, prevent diseases and induce good hygiene habits among communities.
5. Primary school by BMDesign Studios
Designed for the arid climates of Iran, where increasing temperature and low rainfall are turning many areas parched, BMDesign studio came up with the solution of a double roof system with the outer concave shell will collect every drop of water and will be stored in tanks built between building walls. This would help to keep buildings cool and reduce the energy consumptions of school.
Architects will have to empathize with the user to understand them and design a better solution that would be a driver for change in society. Now more than ever, in the post covid era we would need an architecture that would induce a social change in the way we use public spaces.