Twelve international practices including T&V, Shigeru Ban, Rintala Eggertsson, Obra, Productora and Sou Fujimoto participated in this project which set out to develop new strategies to address the need of temporary structures following natural disasters.
T&V propose a view on Emergency Architecture that is inspired by the potential transformation of a temporary camp into a future urban environment. The idea is to integrate public spaces with an urban strategy so that the result is operative from day one and can also function as a guide, encouraging successive development over time.
Emergency Nodes: Urban Strategy.
Architecture: Structure and Generator.
This proposal addresses the catastrophic situations which follow natural disasters. It is based on some surprising observations that arose when the concept of Emergency Architecture was discussed with Swedish organisations for international support and development.
Urban strategy is needed during the first decisive moments of a rescue operation, too often the reconstruction of damaged towns and the development of future settlements is hindered by hasty, uninformed decisions taken in the midst of positioning and structuring temporary camps.
Time is a key consideration. Temporary camps often stand for years, even decades, resulting in many families bringing up children in tents or poor-quality shelter. For this reason it is particularly important to cater for semi-permanent common places and institutions for education, communal meetings, health and so on.
Aside from primary physical needs, there is also the question of psychological well-being. After the initial rescue operation, and aid workers leave, feelings of despondency, hopelessness and frustration can occur in response to the camps’ poor conditions that often pose a permanent solution. When there is nothing else, architecture should instead act as a tool to generate hope, and provide a structure and a framework in which to live.
T&V propose a view on Emergency Architecture that is inspired by the potential transformation of a temporary camp into a future urban environment. The idea is to integrate public spaces with an urban strategy, to generate a result which is operative from day one and can also function as a guide, encouraging successive development over time.
The sun and rain tent
An inverted pyramid. The light structures rise above the low repetitive mass of the camp, offering nodes of orientation which highlight the most important social and communal centres. In a warm climate the Pyramid Tent will provide a large outdoor space protected from the heat of the sun. In bad weather it will offer a dry meeting place. It will also symbolically collect a natural resource; rain water. Each Pyramid Tent will mark a specific place; a school, a market, a meeting place, a hospital.
Erected after the initial rush of housing units, the contruction of the Pyramid Tents will reassure the camp-residents of continued support. Within weeks the first flying pyramids will be visible and in use.
The textile roof appears to float thanks to its minimal structure. Four beams stem from one central joint and are secured to the ground with steel cables, whilst a structural fabric stabilizes the geometry. The use of different colored fabrics will assist direct recognition of different Pyramid Tents without the risk of language confusion.
In keeping with an urban planning perspective, we envisage that the places designated for Pyramid Tents will have the subsequent potential to become the forecourts of public buildings, open plazas, or green parks.
A comparison of scales between well known urban structures and the UNHCR standard rescue camps, clearly show that these operations are being carried out on an urban scale. This represents both a challenge and an opportunity. If initial decisions can include an informed long-term urban strategy, then those in need will benefit from a better environment from the outset right through to the development of a new permanent habitat.
Architectural and planning expertise, as a complement to military efficiency, will help to minimize future difficulties when reconstruction begins.
As the illustrations show, this proposal has a general approach to the specific challenges of Emergency Architecture and is not fixed to one cultural or climatic context.
Installation at NAMOC, Beijing, May 2009.