2 Oct 2023
In recognition of World Architecture Day, we have been exploring this year’s theme of Architecture for Resilient Communities.
Resilience in terms of architecture encompasses some of the most pressing issues facing our societies and is defining term of our generation. It is crucial now more than ever that architecture becomes resilient to the socio-economic, cultural, climate and political issues, acting as a catalyst for transformative social change.
As architects, we are in a unique position to be able to create places and spaces that not only respond to the specific needs of their context and communities, but more importantly engage with the people that are ultimately going to be inhabiting them. It is within our ability to address the issues of climate emergency, resource depletion, cultural, social and economic unrest through resilient and sensitive architectural design.
Below are several projects that we feel are outstanding examples of resilient architecture and design that make transformative contributions on a human scale.
The Woodlands Family Shelter by Kadre Architects
As response to the state’s ever growing problem of homelessness and as part of the larger initiative of Project Homekey, Kadre Architects and a local non-profit Hope the Mission were selected to refurbish a rundown motel into a family shelter providing a safe haven for those in need.
The previous Woodland Hills Motel now provides 100 units amounting 400 beds for societies’ most vulnerable. In line with their ethos to end hunger, poverty, and homelessness, Hope the Mission provides three hot meals a day, job training and placements, after-school tutoring, behavioural health support, life skill classes and many more services and programs when families move in.
On the other hand the architects through careful and considered design have succeeded in creating a place that makes what is often a very difficult time in the occupants lives easier, by allowing a smoother transition and acclimation into society by facilitating the right environment for change.
“Shades of bright green are complemented with touches of yellow, pink, ochre, and cobalt blue to create a playful, welcoming, and uplifting campus environment, contrasting with the airy and bright white exterior of the building,” says the architect. In addition, doors to each of the units are painted in pink to add the sense of safety.
Workers Pavilion – NO Architects, Designers and Social Artists
Beyond typical architectural projects, the Workers Pavilion was a scheme designed by NO Architects, Designers and Social Artists to provide basic human dignities in the most severe of situations.
The underlining principle that has informed the design of the pavilion is the notion that an “entire structure can be transported in a truck or a boat, in case of an emergency, like a natural calamity or a refugee crisis. The design aims to provide a shelter, where the dignity of the human being and the basic amenities are not compromised, even in such situations. The same holds true for construction sites as well. It provides spaces for leisure, sleeping cubicles and adequate toilet facilities.”
The programme demonstrates a deep dedication to understanding societal issues and has developed the technical solutions that are compatible with the situation, climate, and human needs.
In terms of sustainability, the structure uses friction piles to eliminate the use of concrete reducing the cost and carbon footprint which in turn allows the use of vernacular materials like bamboo and wood.
Huebergass – GWJ Architektur, ORT Landscape architects and social partner Martin Beutler
The Huebergass development is the result of a competition design set out by the city of Bern and investor backing to address the problem of insufficient affordable housing. Many of our cities face the same problems and this development serves as an example of how creative, sensitive and responsive design can help alleviate the pressures of an ever growing urban population.
The truly innovating aspect of the scheme is the way it is run and how it utilises all the available resources at its disposal. Examples of this are the ‘at cost rent’ (decoupling of rent levels from the market and instead charge rents that cover the costs of constructing and maintaining the homes), principle, the ‘mobility concept’ (“the Huebergass is car-free – the residents agree not to own a car. Exceptions are granted to residents with mobility issues, those that need a car for work or large families. Residents of the Huebergass can avail of a carsharing offer by mobility@home, through which a vehicle and subscription are provided. This is financed through a monthly charge of CHF 20.- per household. The cooperative participates through reimbursements by mobility from the income generated by the vehicle.”) as well as operating on the basis of a 2000-watt society (three strategies exist to meet the goals of the 2000-Watt Society: efficiency (use less energy for the same purpose), consistency (use renewable instead of non-renewable energy resources) uses environmentally friendly technologies (reuse and recycle).
“The Holligen quarter was conceived to deliver new affordable housing while upholding social, sociological, and economic sustainability principles and accommodating various lifestyles while fostering community and neighbourly living. “
Primary School, Gando: Diébédo Francis Kéré Kéré Architecture
The Primary School in Gando, Burkina Faso (country in West Africa) is a well know project which has received many awards since its construction in 2001. Designed by Francis Kere who was born and raised in the village of Gando, the social is the architects’ tribute to the culture and beliefs of the community. “I was born in a village called Gando in Burkina Faso. In my culture everyone has to put his path to push the community forward so I started to build a school. My very first building.”
The architect describes his work as modern building that responds to the climate and the needs of the people, using relevant materials (i.e. local clay). Furthermore, the greatest success of this project is how it engaged and continues to engage the entire community. That is to say that the locals had to be trained in the construction process so that this school could be built by the community “creating something big with less financial means”.
The initial design made provisions for around 200 children, however, not long after its opening, more children wanted to attend which resulted in the schools extension including the provision of staff housing. This groundbreaking project truly served as a catalyst for change as it led to more schools being built in villages throughout Burkina Faso.
Floating Schools of Bangladesh Mohammed Rezwan
For the last entry of this post, we chose Mohammed Rezwan’s Floating Schools of Bangladesh as we believe that this project demonstrates truly resilient architecture.
The scheme was conceived in response to the pressing issue of climate change and the dangers it poses to the communities of Bangladesh. It is estimated that 10-20% of land in Bangladesh will be under water in the next couple of years due to rising sea levels. Schools are only able to operate for 3 to 4 months of the year as result of the ever more frequent floods during monsoon season, as many as 300 schools can be destroyed in a single year depriving their students of basic education.
It is this problem that led Mohammed Rezwan to create the floating schools bringing the school to the students. The school boats are essentially a hybrid between a school bus and a school house as many of the children, especially those in north Bangladesh, are unable to travel due to the lack of paved roads. Once the school boat collects the children it will find an appropriate place to dock, and the classes can begin. Each boat is equipped with solar panels, batteries, chargers and converters, that provide the power on board as well as hundreds of books and computers, providing a well of information to the students.
In an area of the world which is referred to as “ground zero for the effects of climate change” the floating schools make a tremendous impact on the communities of Bangladesh. With an ever increasing pressure on land (i.e. a population density of 1,115.62 people per square kilometre) and rise of sea levels people are finding more and more ways to live on the water.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading through our top picks of projects that we believe demonstrate projects that have embraced this year's World Architecture Day theme. We believe that by sharing more projects such as the small selection we have compiled, helps raise awareness and encourage transformative, careful and most importantly resilient architecture on a human scale.