Connections to disaster : rebuilding a city with its own debris

Gerber, Joshua
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Leitão, Carla
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Banda Aceh, Indonesia was completely obliterated by the 2004 Tsunami, an event that categorically altered the city's economic output, as well as the general psychological well-being of its citizens. Because much of the destruction was caused by the city's architecture, it is imperative for architecture to perform to the extent that lives are saved. This is particularly significant as Banda Aceh sits at the edge of the Sumatran fault, where seismic activity and tsunamis are a constant threat.
Connections to Disaster investigates the behavior of two competing network typologies (decentralized and distributed), in an effort to remap the relationship between architecture and disaster, specifically the tsunami. Fundamentally, the concept of cloud architecture is one of mobility, and disassembly - qualities which to this point have not been applied in instances of natural disaster relief. Furthermore the discipline of architecture, as applied to disaster relief, serves to benefit firsthand from an exploration in the behavior of networks. Precisely because architecture and the built environment have proven deadly in the event of a tsunami, this thesis proposes a solution to status ofarchitecture as destroyer.
The purpose of this thesis is to apply cloud architectural performance to the real-lifeaftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. In addressing the failures of Banda Aceh and Indonesian government to adequately respond to the needs of its citizens in this scenario, this project seeks to enhance the existing relief network. The design proposal situates itself immediately following the tsunami's occurrence, retroactively implementing a new relief network. Additionally, it proposes a system that diminishes the catastrophic effects of future tsunamis. In this way, the system is an active participant in the daily lives of its constituents, providing both awareness and safety.
It should be understood that even though Banda Aceh, and each tsunami-prone zone, contain unique cultural and social institutions and ways of life - this proposal serves to indicate the potential for a paradigm shift in relief architecture. There is a global need for architecture to serve as a preventative measure, as opposed to a fatal one. The hope is that financial factors which dictate proper tsunami-resistant construction will no longer determine which cities survive, and which succumb to calamity. Instead, architecture will circumvent economics, providing a universal means of livelihood in areas where tsunamis are most foreboding.
May 2013
School of Architecture
School of Architecture
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
Rensselaer Theses and Dissertations Online Collection
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