Designing for disaster: transitioning from house to home
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Natural disasters are increasing in both number and severity, causing the number of people being displaced by disaster to rise as well. Hurricane Katrina provides a particularly poignant example of the human impact of disaster, and of inadequate disaster response, especially where housing is concerned. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans exposed a gap in the approach to housing survivors of natural disasters, especially at the interim housing level. The FEMA trailer - which was only intended to house survivors temporarily but, in many cases, became a long term housing solution, - provided shelter for survivors, but did not account for their psychological well-being. The loss of one’s home can be a traumatic experience, as people identify their sense of self with their home. Therefore, it is crucial to reinstate this sense of home, and in turn provide continuity to the sense of self, early on in the recovery process. Rebuilding after a natural disaster is a long process. Because of this, disaster housing needs to be able to evoke a sense of home and ownership so that inhabitants can connect with their environment and reinstate their daily routines. This helps them to rebuild their lives. The proposed project attempts to do this by allowing for flexibility and choice in both the design and daily use of the house. The house transitions from temporary to permanent housing, allowing for a dialogue between inhabitant and environment to begin early on in the recovery process, and to persist. The design is informed by theories on place making, elements of home, dwelling, as well as loss and the grieving process.