How humanitarian architecture works

Humanitarian architecture is the process of designing buildings for those in severe need. It is finding architectural solutions to human crises.

Leading architects are used to providing inventive structures for high end clients. Humanitarian architecture is the opposite, constructing buildings for people who may not have much money, but who are in urgent need.

The two crisis areas

There are two main crisis areas where humanitarian architects can help. The first is the provision of basic shelter and infrastructure for millions of poor people living in poor accommodation, sometimes with no easy access to fresh water. The second area is in response to disasters such as earthquakes and severe storms.

How the projects operate

Humanitarian architecture projects range from building rainwater collection systems, to rebuilding whole town and city areas after earthquakes or severe storms.

The non-profit organisation, Architecture for Humanity was founded in 1999. Over 50,000 architects and developers belong to the Architecture for Humanity network, dedicated to providing communities in need with essential buildings such as houses, schools and medical facilities.

After the construction phase, the next stage is centered on the training of local builders and designers so that the community can construct additional buildings themselves.

Another area in which humanitarian architects work is in establishing building standards. In many countries there are no building regulations, and this has led to unsafe buildings that can easily be destroyed by storms or earthquakes. By establishing sound building practices, humanitarian architects ensure the long term safety of the occupants.

Humanitarian architects have to understand the local population. Architects like to produce innovative modern buildings, but many communities prefer more traditional styles and their views are taken into account.

Whilst architecture is not the whole solution to the world’s crises, it is indisputably a crucial part of the solution.

Posted by Adam Lloyd
September 15, 2015

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