MORE THAN A ROOF :: Housing cannot only be viewed as ‘product’, but needs to be understood as ‘process’.
For the last two and half years, I have been working for as Housing Advisor for UNOPS (the operational branch for the UN) in the first and largest government lead housing reconstruction and urban rehabilitation project in Haiti.
In the next series of posts, I will share some of the overall principles around our approach to housing and habitat, seeking to address context, local conditions (history, demography, geography/topography, geology and climate), understand and respond to cultural norms and values, engage in the necessary financing and legal frameworks and strategies, link to the multiple scales and city development, and so on.
Although these discussions and the lessons learnt focus on particular context, linked to Haiti, they still provide key questions that are relevant in other context linked to humanitarian aid and reconstruction, as well as in projects linked to long-term development.
To begin, the first two principles:
1. [THINK] INTEGRAL
Housing needs to engage the multiple socio-cultural, economic, and political dynamics surrounding the livelihood of residents and the politics of place, addressing the diversity in realities and necessities of communities, and the need to integrate aspects of infrastructure, urban design and urban amenities into projects.
2. DESIGN [PLACE]
Addressing internal logic: Understanding both the product and process dynamics of communities, households, the dwelling and how they are used, the processes through which they are shaped by residents, as well as the context or setting in which these actions take place.
Question the transferability of project and the manner in which challenges are addressed, as they needs to be very specific to context.
Respond to the Politics of Place: the cultural specificities: socio-economic dynamics set up very different conditions and value systems that are embedded within the urban fabric.