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Humanitarian Architecture

15 stories of architects working after disaster

Esther Charlesworth

Never has the demand been so urgent for architects to respond to the design and planning challenges of rebuilding post-disaster sites and cities. In 2011, more people were displaced by natural disasters (42 million) than by wars and armed conflicts. And yet the number of architects equipped to deal with rebuilding the aftermath of these floods, fires, earthquake, typhoons and tsunamis is chronically short.

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Sustainable Housing Reconstruction

Designing Resilient Housing after Disasters

By Esther Charlesworth and Ifte Ahmed

Through case studies from Australia, Bangladesh, Haiti, Sri Lanka, the USA and Vietnam, this new book by Esther Charlesworth and Ifte Ahmed, Sustainable Housing Reconstruction focuses on the housing reconstruction process after natural disasters. Post-disaster housing is shown to be not only about rebuilding destroyed houses, but also building safer homes and a resilient community; the book highlights community involvement and integration with community infrastructure and livelihoods as key elements of effective reconstruction.

According to a reviewer, Brett Moore, who has extensive experience in the field as World Vision's Shelter and Reconstruction Advisor, "This detailed and colourful book is essential reading for those involved, covering a range of disasters, typologies and program approaches, putting the interests of affected people at the centre of the debate."

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Architects without Frontiers

War, Reconstruction and Design Responsibility

Esther Charlesworth

From the targeted demolition of Mostar’s Stari-Most Bridge in 1993 to the physical and social havoc caused by the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, the history of cities is often a history of destruction and reconstruction. But what political and aesthetic criteria should guide us in the rebuilding of cities devastated by war and natural calamities? The title of this timely and inspiring book, Architects Without Frontiers, points to the potential for architects to play important roles in post-war relief and reconstruction. By working “sans frontières”, Charlesworth suggests that architects and design professionals have a significant opportunity to assist peace-making and reconstruction efforts in the period immediately after conflict or disaster, when much of the housing, hospital, educational, transport, civic and business infrastructure has been destroyed or badly damaged. Through selected case studies, Charlesworth examines the role of architects, planners, urban designers and landscape architects in three cities following conflict - Beirut, Nicosia and Mostar - three cities where the mental and physical scars of violent conflict still remain. This book expands the traditional role of the architect from 'hero' to 'peacemaker' and discusses how design educators can stretch their wings to encompass the proliferating agendas and sites of civil unrest.

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Divided Cities

Belfast, Beirut, Jerusalem, Mostar, and Nicosia

By Jon Calame and Esther Charlesworth, with foreword by Lebbeus Woods

In Jerusalem, Israeli and Jordanian militias patrolled a fortified, impassable Green Line from 1948 until 1967. In Nicosia, two walls and a buffer zone have segregated Turkish and Greek Cypriots since 1963. In Belfast, "peaceline" barricades have separated working-class Catholics and Protestants since 1969. In Beirut, civil war from 1974 until 1990 turned a cosmopolitan city into a lethal patchwork of ethnic enclaves. In Mostar, the Croatian and Bosniak communities have occupied two autonomous sectors since 1993. These cities were not destined for partition by their social or political histories. They were partitioned by politicians, citizens, and engineers according to limited information, short-range plans, and often dubious motives. How did it happen? How can it be avoided?

Divided Cities explores the logic of violent urban partition along ethnic lines--when it occurs, who supports it, what it costs, and why seemingly healthy cities succumb to it. Planning and conservation experts Jon Calame and Esther Charlesworth offer a warning beacon to a growing class of cities torn apart by ethnic rivals. Field-based investigations in Beirut, Belfast, Jerusalem, Mostar, and Nicosia are coupled with scholarly research to illuminate the history of urban dividing lines, the social impacts of physical partition, and the assorted professional responses to "self-imposed apartheid." Through interviews with people on both sides of a divide--residents, politicians, taxi drivers, built-environment professionals, cultural critics, and journalists--they compare the evolution of each urban partition along with its social impacts. The patterns that emerge support an assertion that division is a gradual, predictable, and avoidable occurrence that ultimately impedes intercommunal cooperation. With the voices of divided-city residents, updated partition maps, and previously unpublished photographs, Divided Cities illuminates the enormous costs of physical segregation.

Jon Calame is a founding partner of Minerva Partners, a preservation and planning firm in New York. Esther Charlesworth is founding director of Architects Without Frontiers (Australia) and Senior Research Fellow at RMIT University, Melbourne.

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