Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thoughts About Urban Reconstruction

Sichuan earthquake, China. Web download

New Orleans, Katrina. Internet download.

China, earthquake of may 2008, web download.

With such a disaster in Haiti, I cannot leave aside the topic of the reconstruction and it is necessary to question us if it would be useful the application of the fractal geometry in the study of the new coming forms. In general, the antecedents show the creation of streets, avenues and public spaces in a rational and “practical” way that provide a (future) solution in a big scale. Under these circumstances, people in absolute poverty, cannot wait plans of years’ term that are prolonged years beyond -considering that the authorities would be also in economic crisis - and it could happen, like in the reconstruction of Tokyo, that the vernacular, precarious houses, arise as dispersed mushrooms, ruining the plans of the reconstruction, too idealistic, perhaps, to be implemented in an era of austerity. If the consideration arises of keeping, at least temporarily, these settlements, the urban analyses would be more appropriate -at first- applying tools of fractal geometry to collaborate in the restoration of the daily life of the survivors that have chosen a seemingly disordered, disorganized cluster.

Not all the drastic urban changes are for spontaneous settlements. In Japan, the materials of waste of the air bombings have been used to stuff rivers and to obtain new quick tract maps for sale that obviously affected the closest neighbourhoods. Another issue is that to open streets and parks, lands were expropriated from their owners, in the places where the works were implemented. For further reading, see Takashi Yasuda, Peter Larkham and Junichi Hasegawa. Reconstruction, replanning and the future of cities in Japan and the UK. In Faculty working paper series Not 1, UCE Birmingham. Faculty of Law, Humanities, Development and Society. 2006
But experience tells me that more Brad Pitt’s sponsoring ecological proposals will be accepted, and the starchitects’ studios will be busy to captivate the public’s attention. I have kept lots of newspapers cut sheets from Katrina’s disaster, and many people wanted to come back to the old houses where they kept their memories, they don’t understand about modern ecological, beautiful designs, and they don’t care, they only want to come back and not to be a burden for relatives and friends. It is also a matter of their lives' reconstruction.
Will there be any students, open architects’ competitions? I don’t think so.
The backstage is even worst. In moments like these, one feels like theory is not enough and it’s better to be immediately effective. If I were a reader of this blog, I’d be wondering, what does this architect do after so much speaking about earthquakes and so on? At my age, 47, I decided that it was time to have some “action”, or “real practice” immersing in the real world problems. So, a couple of months ago, I looked for telephone numbers in Craig’s list job applications, those belonging to officers in the USA Army. I made tow telephone calls, and plainly explained my profile and my intention to work in reconstruction design, -never in destruction- based on my research. The answers were “Sorry, you are out of the required age” (It sounded to me, hey, you old woman!..). Insisting, I sent two or three emails to Army officers, they never answered. There was also an available position in the Red Cross, filial of Santa Ana, California. A position to organize, to train people for disasters, to move boxes, etc. I applied, I left four messages (to different people at the Red Cross), sent two emails to the person in human resources, and the only answer I received was a recorded message, they would be considering the profiles and maybe I would be contacted. Nobody called me or emailed me to say “thank you for your interest”, the minimum words you could expect. Based on this story, I’ll keep on adding my little sand grain to the resolution of these urban and social problems, from my rented apartment. By the way, I’ve never get a cent for my research, except for a small grant at my University.

My screen shot from the movie Aftershock. Here, the dragon flies that provide the first clue of the earthquake

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