by Jerry ElengicalMar 29, 2022
For centuries, architecture has been mostly discussed as a tool to archive history, power and the tangible presence of time. The tangible proofs of historical moments can be traced back to the architecture of that particular period. Cave paintings, ruins of the first settlements, Greek agoras, Roman temples, French monuments, war memorials and many more architectural embodiments are an example of the earlier observation. Therefore, architecture, over the years, developed an elite and scholarly personification. One that contributes to determining, defining and directing the course of world history. However, over the past few decades, architects have been vocalising for a redirection of the practice to stand for the needs of society, rather than the wants of a few. Entailing this revolution that the industry is witnessing, projects and interventions that help uplift the communities in need are arising.
Margaret J. Wheatley quotes, “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” In the 21st century, architects and designers discovered a renewed interest in the cause, where their role would provide a much-needed radical change. Going beyond the defined principles of humanitarian architecture, a few projects redefined the normalcy of how architecture caters to its users, those looking for an identity in it. The past year witnessed wars, natural calamities, pandemics, and riots in close proximity, like no other year in recent history, resulting in a rise in refugees, and unrest in peaceful communities. Along with the NGOs, the UN and many governmental and non-governmental organisations providing relief to many unprecedented situations were the selected of the architecture community, deriving solutions and providing care. Among the interventions were immediate relief tents, community centres aiding post-traumatic relief, community programmes bringing together a diversity of people for a cause, monuments in the memory of the lost and spaces that help the refugees and victims reinvent themselves and their identities.
As more architectural interventions that uplift communities emerged this year, STIR rounds up five projects which brought about a quantitative and qualitative change in the society thereby shaping an architecture for the community, by the community and of the community.
1. The Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre by Rizvi Hassan
Location: Ukhia, Bangladesh
In 2019, the researchers at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, conducted a study in which three-quarters of the Rohingya refugees named 'identity crisis' as a key factor in their loss of well-being. For a group of people whose entire life revolved around a rich cultural heritage, Rohingyas in addition to having been forced out of the land that raised them, helplessly witnessed their language, culture and tradition disappear in front of them. In an attempt to address this issue and provide a platform for the Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar—to feel at home, and to hold to their roots and transfer their learnings to the younger generations, IOM and the Rohingya community jointly launched the Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre (RCMC). Bangladesh-based architect, Rizvi Hassan, who is no stranger to participatory proposals for minority and community projects in the country, was at the helm of this project and completed it in a span of two years.
Talking about the community building project, Hassan shares with STIR, “Identity was an issue around the camps. IOM had discussions with the Rohingya community where they tried to connect with their past and present stories, of what makes them happy and feel good about themselves. The conversations led to the collection of tangible things that connect to the community’s history and even serve as a knowledge resource that the counsellors can relate and show as objects with memories surrounding it. The Rohingya refugees had a distinct identity back in Myanmar, but probably they didn’t get a platform to express it. This project lets them voice themselves with dignity.”
The Community Spaces in Rohingya Refugee Response, Bangladesh, was also one of the winners for Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2022 for being an example of how architecture can help communities regain identities and find a safe haven in a new land.
2. Kamwokya Community Centre by Kéré Architecture
Location: Kampala, Uganda
Translating every design journey and building into a social process, Diébédo Francis Kéré and his projects have always held a relevant presence within the realm of ‘architecture for people.’ Keeping these ideas in mind, Kéré Architecture unwinds their latest project which follows the humanitarian principles of design, in a densely populated region of Kampala in Uganda. The Kamwokya Community Centre takes shape as an embodiment of the relationship between the built environment and the city.
In what seems to be the largest and probably the last, buildable area in the immediate context, Kéré Architecture’s community centre builds on the character and familiarity of the structures surrounding it. With a multipurpose building, community hall, gathering space, multisports field, raised play space, changing room, toilets, water tower, and rainwater harvesting area, the project uplifts the local community by providing them with necessary functional spaces. With this project, the Burkinabé-German architect’s studio employs architecture as a device to deliver their social commitment and stays true to the ethos of their previous work.
3. Bruz Utopia Housing by Champenois Architectes
Location: Bruz, France
Realised under the supervision of Champenois Architectes—led by architect Pierre Champenois, based out of Montreuil on the outskirts of Paris—the Bruz Utopia Housing complex resembles a self-contained ecosystem of community living. Accommodating 87 rent-to-own flats within an imposing, geometric design, the residential building in the town of Bruz in northwestern France might develop into a coveted new address with accessibility to the city’s core.
Despite the severity and uncompromising form of its stone-clad façade design, the structure exerts a relatively silent presence when viewed from a distance. As the French architects mention in a press statement, “It is a quiet building set on the slope of the land, a large vessel whose bow, open to the public garden, invites residents to enter an interior world sheltered by a glass roof.” From one angle, the entire structure could be perceived as a collection of living units arranged around a greenhouse-like atrium, surmounted by an assortment of gardens and additional glass sheds along its uppermost level. Straddling the boundaries between vibrant and steely, as well as the utopian and dystopian, the Bruz Utopia Housing complex depicts a complementary ensemble of contradictions in its materiality, design language, and scale. Yet, in doing so, its scheme truly embodies the need to harness contrasting perspectives in the next phase of urban development across the world.
4. Sporta Pils Dārzi by Renāte Lagzdiņa
Location: Riga, Latvia
One of the five finalists for the 2022 edition of the European Prize for Urban Public Space, a biennial initiative of the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB), the urban community garden Sporta Pils Dārzi, translated as the 'Garden of Sporta Pils,' is an example of how community participation can revive an abandoned plot into an open green area.
Since 2008, when the plans for the construction of a residential block fell through due to the financial crisis, the site owned by a private company remained unused and abandoned. Almost 13 years later, in light of the pandemic, the site was envisioned to take up a new function. Founder and project director of Sporta Pils Dārzi, Renāte Lagzdiņa, came across the lack of spacious open areas in the urban neighbourhood during the lockdown and initiated the idea of a community garden in the vacant plot of Sporta Pils. Developing that thought, in the fall of 2020, the nearby residents and local community came together to clean up the site. Encouraging the citizens of Riga to take an active part in the city's development and improvement, the site was then developed into an urban garden. In the brownfield, where the complex of Sporta Pils once stood, is a recreation public space with allotted areas for gathering and gardening. Consisting of a system of seedling distributions and interstitial spaces that will be occupied during events and encounters, the project reflects a new system of urban space. One that integrates productive, cultural and social logic, and incorporates emerging natural elements as part of the community design.
5. The Victorian Pride Centre by Brearley Architects + Urbanists and Grant Amon Architects
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Australia welcomed its first (and only) purpose-built LGBTQIA centre within the busy neighbourhood of St. Kilda in Victoria, Melbourne. Conceived as a series of interconnected tubes wrapped in a concrete skin, the Victorian Pride Centre has been designed by two Australian architecture firms, Brearley Architects and Urbanists (BAU) and Grant Amon Architects (GAA) as a place to invent new futures while honouring and celebrating the brave—and at times difficult—past of the Australian queer community at large.
The Australian architects' ambitions consisted of creating a welcoming and safe place, as an appropriate landmark of Australia’s cultural progress, and a flexible workshop for driving campaigns of equality, liberty, and inclusion further. “Spirit of place, concepts of becoming, and the notion of building the unfinished, drive the design,” relays BAU. The project reinforces an atmosphere of a work in progress, much like the stories and ongoing advocation worldwide, for—the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex, asexual and queer communities. Built for this community and beyond, the building also stands as a symbol of inclusivity, pain and loss, struggle and small victories, and it becomes so by setting the course for a future filled with hope, where inclusion and equality need not be fought for.
- Australian Architect
- Australian Architecture
- Bangladesh Architecture
- Best of 2022
- Community Building
- Community Centre
- Community Design
- Façade Design
- Francis Kere
- French Architects
- Geometric Design
- kere architecture
- Public Space
- Residential Architecture
- Residential Building
- Rizvi Hassan
- Rohingya Refugees
- Urban Development
- Urban Space