This project was undertaken with the intent of solving the problems of today and tomorrow. As per the Global Risks Landscape Survey 2018 issued by the World Economic Forum, Natural Disasters fare as a problem with the 2nd Highest Odds of Likelihood and Impact; right after extreme weather events due to climate change.
We conducted a Design + Build Resilience Workshop in May 2018. Through this initiative, we built a full-scale resilient architectural model that responds to the local context of floods, soil erosion and high intensity earthquakes, in the river-island of Majuli, Assam in India.
The place serves as a government school during most of the year, and as a community shelter during annual floods. To foster a sense of spatial familiarity for 30 children in the school, cues were taken from the Mishing Tribe’s traditional homes. We synthesised a novel pedagogy which catalysed an interaction between students, the village community and craftsmen – a hands-on approach to learning that nurtures the free flow of ideas and techniques. This model of operation is based on Ecology Theory, the cornerstone of which is that ‘external disturbances are a necessary requisite to adapting and evolution’.
Inspired by the story of Steven Spielberg’s ET, wherein cameras were placed at children’s height to portray the entire story from their perspective, we laid emphasis on depth of user insight. All architectural elements - doors, roof, stairs - are designed to be harmonious with the anthropometric proportions of children. The space underneath the structure innately serves as an interactive, play and recreational interface for the children, where the underlying structural tie-beams double up as a jungle gym.
The model is built with bamboo, cane, timber, concrete, burnt bricks and steel, all constituting a locally-sourced, regenerative material palette, that facilitates sustainability through principles of circular economics. More importantly, the tectonics and processes evolved feed-back into conventional design pedagogy – material know-how, assembly techniques and resilience. The island’s local architectural systems adapt to enhanced structural response, increased shelf-life and add to the community’s loci of relief and retreat, while also providing seamless education for the children there.