Year 2022 had been a very challenging year for Pakistan with “torrential rain on the steroid” submerging one-third of the country and forcing homelessness on large scale. More than 33 million people faced the brunt of the inundation, out of this number, around 8 millions had no option but to leave their abodes in order to save their lives. While the calamity is huge, the need to rehabilitate the victims is even more urgent. Despite this urgency, limited steps were taken to foresee the long term requirements of the victims of the deluge, plunging many into oblivion. Though, people and organizations, both, internal and internationals, did their part of duty by providing immediate shelter and ration, many areas were too damaged for the help to reach the victims on time. Keeping these scenarios in mind, the co-founders of WM Creative Studio, being the academicians decided to initiate a cause whereby architecture students can propose viable designs to rehabilitate the flood victims. Their conduction of workshop at Architecture Programme of University of Karachi and the enthusiasm of people to serve those affected resulted in them taking the initiative further with an aid of the native NGO, Baitussalam Welfare Trust, which has already initiated a “Bahaal Pakistan” programme to curb the trauma of the victims and wanted to engage a design team in their project. Thus, Tranquil Abode: The Disaster Resilient Dwelling was initiated as one of the projects of “Bahaal Pakistan Programme” by Baitussalam Welfare Trust.
Generally, when the disaster strikes, the immediate action is to provide the victims with a shelter. Although tragedy makes such swift actions a necessity, one often neglects the fact that the victims can feel alienated as not only their homes but the whole surrounding get altered. Ensuring that the victims do not feel isolated, the team of WM Creative Studio and Baitussalam Welfare Trust makes it a priority to keep the social and cultural values of the affectees intact.
Uthal, Balochistan is the first destination whereby the prototype for Tranquil Abode is built. Baitussalam Welfare Trust opted for this destination as Balochistan, one of the most affected provinces and the one with the least available resources, is prone to natural disasters1 . With climate change being the new reality, the design team focuses on the fact that not only for floods but the dwelling serves as a refuge for other forms of natural catastrophes, incase the unfortunate incidents hit Balochistan in future as well. Vernacularity of the region celebrates the ragged contours, therefore the materials chosen are stones, mud, lime and bamboo; materials that are not costly and are readily available.
The region experiences extreme weather conditions, therefore, the walls made of mud and stone keep the thermal comfort intact. Plastered with lime and mud, the abode remains mold free as the plaster keeps the humidity in check. The fact that indigenous, biodegradable materials are utilized makes it a very sustainable residence.
With a strong foundation of stone, mud, sand and gravel, layered with lime plaster, the sturdy construction ensures longevity. The thick stone walls, infilled with lime plaster gives the dwelling a subtle yet raw texture. The layered bamboo roof keeps the harsh sunrays or cold at bay during extreme climatic conditions.
As stated earlier, in order to make the internally displaced comfortable with their surroundings and allay their trauma, the team has designed the spaces respecting their social norms and cultures. Privacy is one of the most imperative cultural norm of the area as most of the women of the houses observe “Pardah”. One can observe that the planning of the whole dwelling is internal, with the social space having a wide window to keep the spaces well ventilated.
“People feel more connected with the dwelling”
Amalgamation of traditional vernacular construction techniques and current material exploration sets an example that the relevancy of the vernacular craftsmanship cannot be neglected therefore neo-vernacularity is the need of an hour. The home does not only ensure a safe haven but the construction phase is made simpler to encourage community participation.
The engagement of those who will eventually be inhabiting the spaces is pertinent, as not only will it polish their skills related to the traits of construction, but they will feel more connected with the dwelling. The cultural significance is catered to such an extent that even the design of the small, intimate openings and fenestration have their connotations from the surroundings.
The roof, made with bamboo, though sturdy, is light. It has been stated that the cataclysmic scenarios will occur from time to time as climatic changes are constant. The team keeps this in regards while designing as one can see that a light roof top is provided as a mean of refuge in case the flood hits the region again.
Tranquil Abode is one of the empathetic ways to provide an immediate shelter to those affected as the need to rehabilitate is acute. When one talks about community participation, it cannot be limited to those affected, every member of the society has to put forth their efforts, no matter how small. This is one of the reasons why volunteers of Baitussalam Welfare Trust and students of University of Karachi and Sir Syed University participated as well in the construction process. The construction of the shelter is one of the examples that the collective efforts on the part of the community and people are very much a relevancy in order to make a positive change. Climate Change is the only thing constant, and unless, collectively, worldwide a change is not observed, such catastrophes cannot be avoided.
Location: Uthal, Balochistan-Pakistan
Project Founder/s: WM Creative Studio & Baitussalam Welfare Trust
Project Completion Date: On-going
1. Balochistan being one of the most affected province, is prone to natural disasters. PDMA BALOCHISTAN, Provincial Disaster Management Authority. Retrieved 2 March 2023 from (http://www.pdma.gob.pk/natural-hazards/) Copy-paste into your browser.
All images © WM Creative Studio and Baitussalam Welfare Trust.
> via WM Creative Studio Re-Lab and Baitussalam Welfare Trust
Balochistan building techniques