|Name:||Saad Bin Mostafa and Team|
|Location:||KTP Rohingya Refugee Camp ( Ext 4) , Cox’s Bazar|
|Client:||FDMN Women (supported by UNHCR-BRAC collaboration)|
The Rohingya refugee camp area is all dusty; and so dry and devoid of green that it hurts. People have destroyed all the beautiful hills and the trees to make spaces for the camps. The Rohingya refugees might be safe here, I mean their lives are safe; no one is going to shoot their babies or rape their little girls. But there is a great void of humane element here. I saw the blank eyes of kids with no hope. No beam of light that a nation can start walking towards.
Women and adolescent girls were subjected to the worst cases happened in the Rohingya Ethnic Cleansing. One witness told me the story of the first days of influx, he saw a very young woman getting down from the boat with one kid in her lap and another holding hand. Trembling and unable to speak because half an hour ago Burmese army cut open her husband’s throat in front of her. Not far away from that spot, a woman had just delivered her baby on the thick sticky muddy bank of Naaf river. My mother once closed my window as I was watching a cow giving birth. That day mother taught me that every living creature deserves dignity when giving birth. I don’t have the ability to imagine what that Rohingya women went through. Mothers and future mothers shape up a nation. The trauma is still there in their hearts. If the seeds of the violence do germinate in the Rohingya hearts, it is going to become havoc.
A well-built environment ‘can’ lift the spirit of the users up. From that point of view, the project Women Friendly Space (WFS) has a significant role to play. Rohingya women come here with kids and can be themselves. They can get legal aid, training, psychological concealing, etc. here. The protection office gives protection to the victims of gender-based violence.
The project has been completed within 60 days including design. The facility comprises a 4000 sft(370 sqm) building within a 7200 sft (670 sqm) compound was built mostly by the Rohingya men. A big challenge was to emotionally engage all these men in the process. But before that, we had to emotionally engage the engineers and the GBV (GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE) program focal persons.
The first design had a typical layout having a series of regular shape rooms around a courtyard. Thanks to Rizvi (my co-architect in the Technical team) who inspired the team to think differently. We develop a U- shape permeable layout with varied room sizes and shapes. The next day, a very simple model was done. And surprisingly everyone got very excited. The project engineer Mr. Biplop was almost jumping with excitement. Ms. Tahrima and Mr. Zahid from the GBV focal were among the most excited ones. They even went showing around the model to everyone in HCMP. We were lucky to be surrounded by good people.
The complex roof structure was left to the engineers and the laymen’s wisdom and their empirical knowledge. They have done it amazingly. The assistant engineers –Rumon and Jamshed who did the painstaking job of project, material and labour management have also done a lot of detailing which even I don’t know. Shahin Shikder a middle-aged foreman played vital role in the construction. Another one was Monir- the Rohingya bamboo craftsman. These two people gave a lot of design input. Only 5 drawings were done in the whole process.
The building materials are unique. The roof is made of Nipa palm (Nypa fruticans) leaves- only organic material which does not decay when exposed to rain or sun. The tarpaulin roofs of the shelters of 1 million refugee people degrade in sunlight within 6 months or a year. Where a Nipa palm leaf roof lasts up to 10 years with negligible maintenance. It keeps the house significantly comfortable. It is also resistant to storms. We badly needed to demonstrate what Nipa palm can do.
The Rohingya are very much familiar with this material. They call it (Oom pata or warm leaf). But they use a technique which is a bit primitive than the technique used in Sundarbans. There are Nipa palm groves in the camp areas. And all the waterways/canals inside the camps are very much suitable for Nipa palm plantation. Leaves can be harvested every year when the tree becomes 5 years old. However, we brought leaf and laymen from Sundarbans who made the roof. And in the process, trained a set of Rohingya workers about the advanced technique.
In the structure, Bamboo posts are not straight. Some are irritatingly tilted/off-centered – clearly an error (in “trained” architect’s eye), but not an error to the Rohingya laymen. The doors are also wired- the hatch bolts are reversed, and the doors open in all directions.
Architects often do a lot of demolition, remaking and altering to achieve a perfect sharp photograph. We often demean our co-creators: the laymen and subordinates in order to feed our own ego. In this project, we could make room for everyone to be creative. In other places, workers wouldn’t show up in time. Here, they wouldn’t leave for lunch.
Every heart has a craving for beauty and truth. Here is a very profound note probably on how human is designed:
“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.
The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp,
The lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star,
Lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree,
Neither of the east nor of the west,
Whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire.
Light upon light.
Allah guides to His light whom He wills.
And Allah presents examples for the people,
and Allah is Knowing of all things.”
-The Verse of Light
Only a fool wouldn’t want to harness this power of goodness in the human heart.
In the ending days of the project, neighbouring women would come to visit the W.F.S. with their kids or grandchildren. I have seen joy and sparkle in their eyes.
This project is bound to have a meaningful contribution. Because this structure is made with love. We (all of us who made this facility) mixed small pieces of our hearts, our pure prayer for goodness and all our good and sincere intentions with the bricks and plaster of this building. We are very much hopeful.
-SAAD BEN MOSTAFA
Sector Specialist, Technical support unit,
Humanitarian Crisis Management Programme, BRAC
| Image gallery |