Casting an architectural lens on disaster reconstruction

Alexandra-Jayeun Lee (School of Architecture and Planning, NICAI, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Publication date: 11 November 2013

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to serve two main purposes: first, casting an architectural lens over the disaster context propagates deeper understanding of affected communities who depend on, and can benefit from, better understanding of rebuilding processes; second, by reframing architecture as a “social equaliser” we can make sustainable buildings more accessible to a society that is undergoing massive post-disaster change.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper presents the findings of my doctoral research on the role of architects in humanitarian endeavours. Based on empirical research and fieldwork conducted on professional responses to three recent disasters: the 2010 Canterbury earthquake; the 2010 Haiti earthquake; and the 2004 Hurricane Katrina, the author has used Horst Rittel's design methods paradigm as a conceptual framework to reconstruct and re-evaluate our understanding of disasters. Drawing from 49 semi-structured interviews with key architectural-design practitioners in the three case sites, this study proposes a re-conceptualisation of urban reconstruction that prioritises community empowerment through design processes rather than through architectural symbolism.

Findings

Drawing from 49 semi-structured interviews with key architectural-design practitioners in the three case sites, this study proposes a re-conceptualisation of urban reconstruction that prioritises community empowerment through design processes rather than through architectural symbolism.

Practical implications

This study is an attempt to reconcile the contentious views that exist across multiple sectors by offering design as an ultimately renewable resource and a source of community empowerment.

Originality/value

The main value proposition of this research paper is that, while many studies acknowledge disasters as truly “wicked problems” (resistant to resolution and riddled with complexities), few attempts to integrate the multi-disciplinary perspectives that can advance our understanding of disasters.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The William Chick Doctoral Scholarship in 2010/2011 gave the author supplementary economic support to undertake fieldwork for this research.

Citation

Lee, A. (2013), "Casting an architectural lens on disaster reconstruction", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 22 No. 5, pp. 480-490. https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-10-2013-0178

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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