This paper which was recently published in an international publication: Disaster Prevention and Management, provides an introduction to the key findings of my PhD research on the role of architects in humanitarian endeavors. It is based on empirical research conducted on professional responses to three recent disasters: the 2010 Canterbury earthquake; the 2010 Haiti earthquake; and the 2004 Hurricane Katrina.

I have used Horst Rittel’s design methods paradigm (as discussed in Protzen and Harris, 2010) as a conceptual framework to reconstruct and re-evaluate our understanding of disasters. Drawing on the experiences of architectural-design practitioners in post-disaster contexts, this study proposes, via attitudinal interviews with architectural actors, a re-conceptualization of urban reconstruction that prioritizes community empowerment through design processes rather than through architectural symbolism, and proposes a re-conceptualization of architecture as a by-product of community-driven activities rather than as an end-goal.

The research serves two main purposes: one, casting an architectural lens over the disaster context propagates deeper understanding of affected communities who depend on, and can benefit from, better understanding of rebuilding processes; two, by reframing architecture as a ‘social equalizer’ we can make sustainable buildings more accessible to a society that is undergoing massive post-disaster change.

The main value proposition of this research paper is that, while many studies acknowledge disasters as truly ‘wicked problems’, (resistant to resolution and riddled with complexities), few attempt to integrate the multi-disciplinary perspectives that can advance our understanding of disasters. This study is an attempt to reconcile the contentious views that exist across multiple sectors by offering design as an ultimately renewable resource and a source of community empowerment.

Here is the direct link to the full article:

Casting an architectural lens on disaster reconstruction


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