There was a three week bombardment of the Gaza strip over the new year period where 1300 people were killed and 4000 homes were destroyed which displaced hundreds of thousands of people. My initial site was Zeitoun, a small neighbourhood just south of Gaza city but due to the nature of my design, site specificity became unimportant. The Gaza strip is quite small as it is, one third the size of Auckland with 1.4 million residents, this project had to shift its focus from the site to its people.
I’m designing a system for building housing and my response to the brief, when I took into consideration things like climate and my aesthetic judgement in terms of the nature of the situation, was not to use the container as a home. It’s just not feasible in that climatic zone or aesthetically empathetic to that situation. The middleeast is a desert region and the vernacular building tradition is to build thermal mass walls, traditionally from adobe or mud, also with the use of gypsum.
My response to the brief is to use both the container walls and plywood sheets to design boxing for materials to be cast into. The standard sizes of the container and plywood, coupled with a modular system of cutting them, results in pieces that can be put together to form virtually any footprint within the size of a standard six metre long container wall. This also means that all these pieces can be shipped together in ONE container, rather than shipping over a hundred container homes. The container that is used for transportation can be disassembled to play its part in casting the homes and reassembled to transport again. The boxing of course can also be reused.
The main ideas that were really driving my design and were my reference point to which I made all my decisions from, are twofold. The first is to remove any external design, external to the region. A lot of the time in these disaster situations, more so natural disasters, external design that is sent over never really works due to insufficient research into the region or designing what we think they might need rather than them designing what they know they need. The second is for family and local community to come together and build these homes themselves.
The boxing is easily put together, rubble from the destroyed homes can be reused to make aggregate or ground down to be mixed with the binder. Israeli forces, who have control of the borders, are not allowing any cement into the strip so mud and straw will be used as the main building material. Local labourers can gain jobs though this and so can electricians and plumbers who can service these homes. Finally family come together to add more local materials like gypsum for finishing and detailing and designing exteriors using paint.
There is a strong historical and vernacular precedent in the region for the expression of family and people through homes and the idea of this project is to uplift the spirit and empower the family and community through the process of building these homes. It’s about creating an escape for them through something that they can imagine, but something that is feasible and cheap. This problem is not going away anytime soon; homes are being constantly destroyed and have to be constantly rebuilt.
The last photos are from a two week old article about families that are fed up with not being able to rebuild because of the cement, they’ve built their own homes using local materials, mud and straw.