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DISASTER'S WAKE: THE ROLE OF ARCHITECTURE IN TRAUMA RECOVERY

by SADLER, HEIDI D.

Abstract (Summary)
Embodied within acts of destruction is the potential for creation. In one catastrophic event the human condition is reduced to its most primal state while being brought to the threshold of possibility. A study of historical precedents reveals that in the wake of disaster, conventional relief strategies are failing to meet this potential within the typology of domestic shelter, humanity’s most basic and personal building unit. Conventional, universally designed relief structures may economically shelter the body, but neglect to negotiate issues of the spirit. The argument of this thesis is not to abandon the modernist vision for the betterment of the human condition simply because its realizations are lacking. Indeed, such vision can be validated within the phenomenological and environmental science critiques, psychological practice, and theories of immanent time. There is potential within the seeming contradiction of ideas of dwelling and dynamic systems for victims to find peace and healing in a world of flux. Through synthesis of these bodies of thought in tandem with an exploratory design exercise questions are inspired and new solutions proffered. The key lies in carrying the victim through the various stages of emotional recovery with structures that develops with them towards a state of permanence. The usual series of relocations from emergency shelters to “temporary” structures to replacement homes leaves little energy for development of a potential for something greater than what existed prior to the disaster. The victim/dweller’s creative involvement plays a crucial role in the act of designing and rebuilding, both as a tool for recovery and to ensure cultural sensitivity. Integral with this are conceptions of the places and memories that define existence. There is also a goal to conceive, with home’s reclamation, a new mediation between society and the systems of nature that destroyed it. A more specific manifestation of ideas comes through design case studies focusing on the 1993 flooding along the Mississippi River system. Although not meant as a universal guide, this case study further bolsters the thesis’ arguments with the credibility of a comprehensively designed structure. Architecture has lost belief in a single objective truth, but in asking better questions lies the possibility for better answers.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:University of Cincinnati

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:disaster shelter dynamic systems emotional power of architecture trauma time flux place making creative act

ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2004

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