Sunday July 24, 2011
Building hope around the world
Story by LEONG SIOK HUI
Architecture is not about buildings, it’s where ‘life happens’, says the co-founder of a grassroots volunteer network that helps rebuild shattered communities.
THE Asian tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in the United States in 2005, Haiti’s earthquake last year, and this year in March, Japan’s devasting earthquake and tsunami: Picture a sea of makeshift tents, blue tarps propped up by sticks, or gymnasiums and halls jammed with anguished survivors.
“But how do we create dignified shelters and structures that empower people?”
It’s a rhetorical question posed by Cameron Sinclair, the co-founder and “Chief Eternal Optimist” of Architecture for Humanity (AFH), a grassroots non-profit organisation that seeks design solutions to humanitarian crises. Sinclair was one of the speakers at the Now Conference, organised earlier this month by PAM (Pertubuhan Arkitek Malaysia, or Malaysian Association of Architects) in conjunction with the ongoing Datum: KL Kuala Lumpur Architecture Festival 2011.
In post-disaster areas, relief agencies and governments mobilise to provide temporary shelter, food, fresh water and medical care while folks like AFH gear up for longer-term rebuilding and reconstruction projects.
But cobbling together funds for housing reconstruction is often impeded by bureaucratic foot-dragging, donor fatigue and fading media attention. This is where an ingenious outfit like AFH can do wonders.
* Full report in The Star today