BEAUTY AS A POVERTY LINE
Architecture and Dignity in the Experience of Poverty
Dignity is commonly used as a guiding principle for organizations providing housing aid to people in need. The term, however, is ambiguous in meaning and inconsistent in its application.
After dissecting dignity to understand its multiple meanings, a working definition was used to analyze housing aid initiatives. This revealed that dignity, despite being an explicit policy objective, was not manifest in project outcomes. As an alternative, this paper suggests that architectural beauty, and specifically an irreducibly subjective understanding of beauty in architecture, can inform a design philosophy which produces dignity. Like dignity, beauty’s multiple meanings were analyzed to advance a notion of beauty defined as the the subjective experience generated when one’s values are embodied in architecture. The paper concludes with four brief but representative case studies that show the benefits of using a holistic notion of dignity to produce value-laden housing projects, and highlights the risks of dismissing beauty as hedonic while aiming for a minimum threshold of dignity. Ultimately, the paper calls for a new design philosophy that should inform the entire process of housing aid project design.
This paper was presented at the 2015 International Conference on Sustainable Development in NYC. Full text from talk available here.
RELIEF AND RECOVERY
The role of architecture and solidarity in the 2010 Chilean earthquake reconstruction
On 27 February 2010, the sixth most powerful earthquake ever recorded struck the central region of Chile.
The destruction was widespread and severe. The ensuing housing shortage prompted a massive relief effort. By studying the recovery process, we can develop more effective strategies for implementing emergency shelter, temporary housing, and permanent housing solutions in situations of dire need. Possible applications include housing shortages caused by future natural disasters as well as systemic issues such as poverty and forced migration.
This thesis analyzes the response in three parts. The first is the physical design of emergency housing units and encampments. Ingenuity in design, especially in the urban scale, affords the opportunity to drastically improve the quality of life for displaced people at a very low cost. Second, I investigate social structures and issues related to communication, leadership, and community, and assert that these social factors are as critical as physical considerations in the disaster recovery process. Finally, I examine permanent housing provided by the government and compare it to existing architecture and future growth of the communities they intend to reconstruct.