Susi Platt and Architecture for Humanity Shortlisted for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture

Susi Platt and Architecture for Humanity Shortlisted for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture

  • by Architecture for Humanity
  • May 25, 2010
  • comments

Congratulations to former Design Fellow Susi Jane Platt (2005-2007), UN Habitat and the Pinsara Federation of Community Development Councils whose project, The Yodakandiya Community Complex* in Sri Lanka, is one of nineteen buildings been short-listed for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, one of the highest honors in the architectural world.

This project truly represents the community led collaborative design process that lies at the heart of our work. This is the first time Architecture for Humanity has been nominated and shortlisted. More importantly this is the first shortlisted project with a Creative Commons license (dev nat) and 'open sourced' on the Open Architecture Network.

The complex includes gathering hall, elementary level school, IT center, library, health center and sports facilities. The health center, library and school were entirely funded by young donors through hot chocolate and bake sales. The funding health clinic and library was initiated by Do Something and a majority of the school construction funds were collected by students of Pace Academy in Atlanta, Georgia.

We are honored to work alongside the dozens of designers and community partners whose projects represent the strength and integrity of our organization. We are humbled by their commitment to seeing projects through to completion.

Read the recent article on Susi and Yodakandiya in the Four Seasons Magazine.

*The Yodakandiya Community Complex has also been known as the Yodakandyia Community Center

About the site
The new settlement is called Yodakandiya and it is situated between the small fishing village of Kirinda and Yodawewa reservoir. The new village is also very close to Yala Wildlife Sanctuary, which is known for having one of the largest densities of leopards as well as many monkeys, elephants and peacocks.

Careful planning went into the layout of this settlement. The alleviate the ongoing human-elephant conflict an elephant migration expert, Minori, joined the planning team to make sure that structures were not situated in the route of the elephants daily walk to the watering holes. Homes that are built in the direct path of the elephants are problematic. When elephants get tired on route they tend to rest on whatever seems to be a nice sized object. However if the elephant falls asleep the pressure from all that weight can cause the buildings to collapse.

The village sits on the brow of a hill and is situated in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. The North East Monsoon brings the bulk of rain to the area. Maha, the main cultivation season is from October to January to coincide with the rain. The weather is dry during the rest of the year with occasional showers. The complex will use rainwater harvesting to capture the rain so it can be used for drinking water and irrigation in the dryer months.

About the Process
The entire program engaged the villagers directly in all aspects of their individual and communal rehabilitation by assigning the responsibility of decision-making upon them. This strategy creates strong empowerment and real ownership by the end users and to help reconstitute local social support networks that existed prior to the tsunami, binding communities together and addressing their welfare needs. Through this process Architecture for Humanity were able to develop a design with the community that responds directly to their requirements. From this process a number of interesting things came up including the desire for organic gardening, which was integrated into the landscaping.

A series of design workshops took place in January and February 2006, where a criteria was established and concept designs were developed. Workshops continued throughout March and April to establish the detail design, materials and methods of construction. The final design drawings were prepared and formally signed-off by community members on 27 April 2006.

By May 2006 a Community Federation was formed as an official Government recognized organization. This Federation, comprised of the beneficiaries, bid on the construction of the buildings. All Contract documents were prepared and assembled, i.e. Drawings (Architectural, Structural, Services), Specification, a Community Contract, together with the relevant forms of tender. All drawings were developed with a Creative Commons Developing Nations license.

In June 2006 community based training programs were arranged for community members in the administration and operation of Construction Contracts. Practical Training programs in skills such as masonry and carpentry also began. This would mean that community members would learn new trades while constructing the building. Many community members expressed the desire to turn newly found skills into small businesses. Through the reconstruction process new industries and small businesses emerged.

By the summer the buildings broke ground. The ceremony was a magical affair with the entire community coming out to celebrate at the auspicious time of 5.30am. Local officials and monks from the nearby Buddhist temple joined the community during the laying of the foundation stone. The monks chanted blessings and a string was then tied around the stone before it was placed in the ground. In early 2007 the building finished construction and was opened by all the stakeholders.

The total cost of construction was $104,000 including landscaping, furniture and equipment.