November 22, 2005
Images Courtesy Studio Daniel
While experts debate how to rebuild the
U.S. Gulf coast, plans for restoring the site of an even bigger
disasterlast Decembers tsunami, which wiped out
significant portions of several Southeast Asian countries
almost a year agoare moving forward.
Perhaps the most well-known contributor
to this effort is Studio Daniel Libeskind, which shortly after
the storm, began designing new developments for a badly-damaged
fishing village in the southwest corner of Sri Lanka called
Unawatuna. The firm got involved via a request from Oxford,
England-based entrepeneur Orde Levinson, who had been staying
in Unawatuna during the tsunami, and has developed a foundation,
Unawatuna 2612, to help rebuild it.
Studio Libeskinds pro bono work
includes a comprehensive master plan, including mixed and
single-use neighborhoods, and designs for several buildings,
including houses, craft and work centers, shops, restaurants,
and guest houses. The first building, a community center,
located on the site of a destroyed school, received the green
light in mid-November. Dutch-based Urban Solutions, which
has been involved with disaster construction projects worldwide,
has consulted on the project. Unawatuna 2612 has also helped
raise money to cover the firms costs.
Most of the firms designs, which
project manager Wendy James refers to as contemporary
interpretations of vernacular buildings, combine traditional
elements like courtyards, overbays, verandas, timber-slat
windows, and masonry walls, with the firms recognizable,
highly-angular, design aesthetic. At least 70 buildings, including
about 50 houses, are now planned. Local craftspeople and workers
will help design and build the structures, says James.
Most construction will take place at
least 115 feet from the shore, with housing standing at least
330 feet away, to ensure safety in case of another tsunami.
If approved, developments would be placed on sites like quarries
and a mangrove forest, which are now either privately or government-owned.
Sales of property are still pending, and determining whether
sales are valid is not easy, points out project architect
Kevin Teague, because public records on land and building
ownership in the area are very unclear. Fortunately, says
Teague, the local and regional governments are supportive
of the plan. The firm must be sure to merge the scheme with
existing regional master plans.
Barring setbacks, ground should be broken
on the new community center by December 26, the tsunamis
one year anniversary, and construction should begin in about
three to four months, says James.
The project, with its emphasis on affordable,
long-term solutions, points out Studio Libeskind COO Nina
Libeskind, could serve as an example not only to plans in
the tsunami-hit area, where reconstruction projects are often
hastily, and poorly built, but also in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Its an effort to make neighborhoods, not trailer
parks, says Libeskind. She adds that one charity has
already approached the firm about doing work on the Gulf Coast.