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The Humanitarian Side of Architecture
In 2011, 42 million people had to abandon their homes due to natural disasters – that’s more than the number of people affected by wars and armed conflicts. But sadly, the number of architects prepared to participate in the rebuilding of the areas destroyed by floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons is comparatively almost non-existent.
According to Architecture For Humanity, there are many reasons why you’d want to make your work as an architect more humanitarian.
Firstly, getting involved with NGOs or other organizations abroad will provide you with a lot of new opportunities to innovate. The circumstances that lead to humanitarian aid often give rise to some interesting challenges. That innovative spark that you’ve been taming for so many years can finally run free, and improve others’ lives.
Getting bored of the office or studio? Get stuck into a design project that engages local people creatively in your chosen region. Humanitarian work usually also means you’ll get involved with the communities that will use the buildings you designed for them to use regularly and you’ll study their specific, complex needs and participate with them during the process.
It may seem obvious, but humanitarian work will often allow you to gain some valuable international experience. This is great for more mature, experienced architects as well as young architects, offering up a rich array of different cultural, social and political contexts for your resume and making you into a flexible, dynamic, versatile designer.
Feeling like you want to be stretched and gain some new skills? Work with an NGO on humanitarian projects and you could find yourself learning a lot about development, nonprofit finance, program management, teaching and team building, as well as communication, other cultures, languages and ways of life.
The Humanitarian Architecture Research Bureau commented on their website harbureau.org in 2016 that the demand for architects and build environment professionals to work on the design and planning challenges of rebuilding post-disaster sites has never been so urgent. Their current research projects include “Architecture on the Edge Building Sustainable Housing for Vulnerable communities”, “The Evaluation of Shelter Projects in the Asia Pacific Region after Disaster” and the “Building Resilience of Urban Slum Settlements in Dhaka project”. They also publish some excellent books on humanitarian architecture.
Amazon.com boasts a range of books to inspire architects just like you. “Humanitarian Architecture: 15 stories of architects working after disaster”, by Esther Charlesworth, is sure to whet your appetite. It documents and analyzes the role of architects in designing projects using spatial sensibility and integrated problem-solving to humanitarian ends in Australia, Switzerland, Japan, Thailand, Haiti, India, Taiwan and many others.
Whether you fancy assisting governments, working with the UN, International Red Cross or Red Crescent Movement, for NGOs or regional intergovernmental organizations, the options are many and the world is wide open.
Oxford Brookes University offers a part-time, 1-year postgraduate certificate in Humanitarian Action and Conflict beginning in September and January, allowing you to study while you earn and prepare yourself well for an adventure helping some of least privileged people on the planet live a safer, more stable life inside and outside dwellings of your design.
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