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Conference on Post-Disaster Reconstruction: THE PRESENCE OF PAST DISASTERS

Natural and human-caused disasters are, by their nature, unpredictable. Disasters are also all necessarily unique, because of how they differently affect people and place based on local, national, and regional pre- and post-disaster contexts. Regardless of temporal and geographic remove, there is a presence to past disasters. We can feel the panic of a pandemic; we can smell the smoke from a sprawling urban fire; and we can imagine the loss of identity attendant to a much-loved building or place being destroyed by an earthquake or a war.

Post-disaster reconstruction around the world has consistently highlighted both the strengths and shortcomings of design and planning. Over time, disasters have elicited varied responses, ranging from repeating past mistakes to pragmatic approaches seeking to balance change and continuity, as well as utopian visions aimed at starting anew.

The impact of decisions taken within days of a disaster can be felt for years. Conversely, the meticulous process of consultation, assessment, planning, and design integral to successful reconstruction efforts may miss critical windows of opportunity due to prolonged development timelines. This dynamic often underscores a tension between top-down approaches led by government and the international community, and grassroots efforts driven by affected communities seeking to rebuild using familiar and trusted building practices.

Many architects, developers, and international NGOs see these as ‘blank canvas’ opportunities to work at a large scale, without regard for the local vernacular either of building or of living patterns. Repeatedly, following disasters, we have witnessed the strength and resilience drawn from local materials, knowledge, and urban form. Post-disaster reconstruction remains an area where traditional building, architecture, and urbanism play crucial roles, contributing to a process of rebuilding that learns from and even enhances what has been lost.

Join INTBAU and the CSCA as we explore the complexities of post-disaster reconstruction by examining the historical precedent for recovering, rehabilitating, and rebuilding after catastrophic events. This two-day conference will explore, in detail, how cultures have reacted to destruction in the aftermath of terrible circumstances. Speakers will investigate how natural and human-caused disasters have shaped and continue to shape how we respond to critical changes in our built environment and, ultimately, will seek to locate new parallels between types of disasters through a series of chronologically and geographically diverse case studies. Papers are organised in four distinct sessions according to the four classical elements – fire, water, earth, and air –– with the additional critical human element: conflict.

Click 'Find Out More' for the full conference schedule and to register for your place.

  • Venue: Downing College, Cambridge
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