In the District of Hambantota situated on Sri Lanka's south coast, Architecture for Humanity worked in partnership with UN Habitat and the local community to build three community buildings comprising a Community Center, a Library & Medical Centre and a Preschool. A new landscaped sports and recreation area was created as part of the community complex.
The buildings occupy a spectacular site located on the edge of Yala National Park, overlooking tropical forested mountains and Yoda Wewa, a vast reservoir constructed by the ancient Kings over 2000 years ago.
This project forms part of a larger program implemented by the UN and funded by the Italian Government, which involves the resettlement of 218 families affected by the tsunami. The Hambantota District was severely affected by the tsunami of December 2004 where there were a reported 1,342 deaths, 6,652 people injured and 12,028 people displaced. In total 2,374 houses were either partially or completely destroyed, representing 45% of the total housing stock. Many of the beneficiaries were involved in the fishing industry at nearby Kirinda.
The resettlement program engaged the beneficiaries directly in all aspects of their individual and communal rehabilitation by assigning the responsibility of program decision making upon them. This has been done by establishing "Community Development Councils" through democratic election, and these councils met regularly to articulate their needs and priorities with assistance from the UN.
Such a development strategy has been adopted partly to ensure satisfaction of the end user and partly to help reconstitute those local social support networks existing prior to the tsunami that bound communities together and addressed their welfare needs. Through this process Architecture For Humanity has been able to develop a design with the community that responds directly to their requirements.
Always a problem in the hot and humid tropics is the concern of creating a comfortable environment. As the project has neither the budget nor agenda to provide air conditioning, methods of passive cooling are being incorporated as follows:
Design workshops focused on the actual processes of construction and procurement, as the community members themselves were responsible for the construction of the buildings. This was critical to achieving the development aims of a participatory methodology and involved the awarding of grants in the form of Community Contracts.
In this way the affected Community not only retained control and ownership of their own buildings and facilities but also benefited directly from the funding by carrying out the physical works themselves. Other benefits of this system were that the construction quality was higher than that of commercial contractors and local entrepreneurship was encouraged within the community, regenerating the local economy and promoting skills transfers.
The campus was completed in 2007. The design fellow has been in touch with community members since. Raising additional funds as possible. The project has had a post-occupancy review where remediations were be addressed and funds were used for adaptation and repair.