Our guest professor Gonzalo Lizarralde from the University of Montreal returned this month to teach the workshop “Unnatural Disasters – Controversies in Low-Cost Housing and Post-Disaster Reconstruction”, exploring the connections between social injustices, environmental degradation, low-cost housing, and disasters. In this workshop, the students look at the role of low-cost housing and environmental degradation in the creation of risk and vulnerabilities and examine design professionals’ role in post-disaster recovery and reconstruction, challenging common notions about sustainability, resilience, community participation, and innovation.

Any idea can be put to the test and challenged, from the notion of sustainable development, to resilience and technological innovation.

  • Do we really have to embrace sustainable development?
  • Isn’t resilience too confusing?
  • Should low-income people receive houses?
  • Isn’t innovation another way of consuming more and more, damaging the planet in the process?
  • Should architects and planners try to solve environmental and social problems?
  • Are we all actually responsible for environmental degradation?
  • By building buildings, aren’t we, builders, responsible for climate change and environmental degradation?

The workshop is based on discussions and the exploration of (not so) common controversies in urban planning, design and architecture. In four different debates, much-necessary discussions in scholarship and policymaking are explored. The objective of the debates is to develop more nuanced, sophisticated and elaborated arguments regarding common dilemmas and controversies. By adopting a discursive approach, the students are encouraged to challenge language and use narratives as ways of understanding phenomena. Language and discourse are here not only tools to communicate but also to understand, to reflect, and to learn. This is about communicating ideas, but also about listening and learning to listen.

If you want to find out more about this workshop and Gonzalo Lizarralde’s research, check out this interview we conducted with him last year, or listen to this episode of the Disasters:Deconstructed Podcast, where Gonzalo Lizarralde talks about how colonisation not only historically created risk in so many ways, but how neoliberalism has in fact continued the work of building empire.

Feature Image: Makeshift Home in Bacolod City, Philippines; by Brian Evans, Common Creative Licensed

Other Images: Flood affected areas in Sagaing Region after the 2015 Myanmar Floods; by Asian Development Bank, Common Creative Licensed



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