Creative Thinking is a Powerful Weapon
Displacement caused by war and civil unrest needs to be addressed urgently and thoughtfully, says AIA President Elizabeth Chu Richter.
PHOTO: Dag Oršić
Elizabeth Chu Richter, president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), wrote a text for the Architect magazine about the challenges faced by architecture in the time of the refugee crisis. "One of the most striking disasters of our time is not an act of nature. It’s a result of political upheaval—hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war in Africa, the Middle East, and Afghanistan", begins Chu Richter. In her text she refers to the Architects Foundation, an organisation that responds to natural disasters by offering initial help and rebuilding the infrastructure of the affected communities. They are also working on perfecting their system to enable more efficient help, as well as fast and safe rebuilding that meets the needs of the community.
Their education and creative thinking equip architects to give specific solutions to problems caused by natural disasters, but it is still unclear how to approach destruction caused by human strife. What role can architects play in helping organizations and countries trying to house the refugees, and how can they help repair the communities and the very land that has been damaged by war are questions that still need answering.
"For one," says Chu Richter, "architects can continue to create prototype shelters, in cooperation with governments, relief organizations, and the private sector, to house those who have been displaced. We can design transitional education facilities and community gathering places to normalize life quickly. The goal is to avoid creating refugee ghettos imbued with hopelessness and infected by criminal activities, and aim, instead, to integrate refugees into the communities that have accepted them."
The Architects Foundation is also responsible for the National Resilience Initiative, which is made up of a network of regional design studios, and its actions are inspired by climate change’s impact on housing issues and accelerating urbanization. Chu Richter believes that, using research conducted by their regional partners, the Initiative has great potential to address displacement caused by war and civil unrest. "It’s work that needs to be done urgently, but it is also work that needs to be done thoughtfully. Human lives, after all, are at stake", wrote Chu Richter, calling on architects to be "agents of compassion and healing wherever there is a need. In a world torn by strife, design thinking is a powerful balm."
Translated from Croatian by Lana Pukanić.