CRISIS > a condition of instability or danger, as in social, economic, environmental, political, or international affairs, leading to a decisive change

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

CS02__eMi Tsunami Village [Ongole, Andhra Pradesh, India]

Engineering Ministries International [eMi], based out of Colorado Springs, was asked to partner with Indian Christian Ministries [ICM] in an effort to address the needs of one of thousands of communities affected by the tsunami of late 2004. Using a week of time on the ground in India, the eMi’s volunteer designers went to work on a village community aimed at housing 50 families that had lost their homes in the devastation.

The eMi team had approximately three acres to work with, a plot of land purchased by the villagers. The houses were designed in a fashion to reflect the existing typologies of the area, consisting of a sizeable living+sleeping quarter accompanied by a porch and kitchen area as well. These houses also were equipped with concrete roofs, separate bathing and toilet facilities, and access to clean drinking water, unlike majority of the surrounding region. The house occupies about 300 SF on each of the 1550 SF lots. Each lot is also contains a garden that is fed by a grey water system supplied from wash areas.

The entire village is arranged and focused on a grouping of buildings containing a medical facility, a village administrative office, a school, and a church space.

>>Questions and Responses with Glenn Woodruff, eMi CEO + Project Leader + Architect

CCD>> Generally speaking, where are design professionals failing and succeeding in combating crisis with design?
Woodruff>> CCD suggests preemptive measures. In my experience opportunity to apply design that helps mitigate crisis comes as a response to an already, or sudden, crisis. Hopefully application of design in such settings does combat future crisis. For example several designers responded to the Tsunami of 2004 with design proposals of homes that might allow the force of a wave to travel through a structure without destroying it. The home allowed for structurally secure areas for the storage of valuables. However, such a design would likely not hold up through an event equal in magnitude to the waves that inspired the design.

CCD>> What do you see as an overlooked crisis currently in the world that could benefit from the attention + talents of creative designers?
Woodruff>> Most any refugee camp. Guidelines for designing such are minimal. I do not have the numbers at hand, but the number of people living in refugee status, or specifically in refugee camps is staggering. Designers should better respond to such situations. This is could be seen as preemptive only if the design of shelter in such settings allows for transition to more perminate structures. For example, materials used for constructing temporary structures can be recycled for use in permanent structure. The idea being that design encourages development.

CCD>> Does function or beauty plan a more important role of combating crisis with design?
Woodruff>> Both are important. Most would weigh in on function only. And it is true that function must be accommodated. But doing such not negate the option of beauty. Problems in implementing such do arise when we apply our western interpretation of beauty to another culture. We did the structural design for a series of habitat houses in Haiti . The houses were good solid masonry two room homes. The roof was a thin shell concrete roof, wave like in form. It was quite nice, beautiful, and a great design that combated the horrors of housing for the poor. The Haitian people would not move out of their mud floor grass huts into the new homes…reason…”the are not Haitian.”

CCD>> How do you educate and encourage design professionals about becoming more involved with projects of the nature that you typically undertake?
Woodruff>> Exposure of the opportunity to serve is key for us. We find that almost everyone wants to help the poor. They just do not know how. The unknowing is based in an accurate understanding (even fear). You don’t just walk into a slum and say I am here to help. That might get you killed. eMi provides an avenue to serve the poorest of poor. The network of relationships that empowers a design professional to go from his desk to a slum in India is an extensive network. If we can better expose the network (eMi) we find that people are excited and want to know more. In short, they want to be involved if we can just get word out to them.


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