Iranian Earthquake Relief: Call for Architects, Engineers

On the morning of Dec. 26, an earthquake that registered 6.3 on the Richter scale leveled nearly 80% of Bam, a town located in southern Iran. Over 25,000 people were killed in the disaster, which further destroyed two hospitals and left tens of thousands homeless. To respond to this crisis, Architecture for Humanity has issued a call for help from architects, designers, and engineers. The New York-based nonprofit is asking these professionals to donate their services pro bono to help replenish Bam’s housing stock and rebuild the city, which is also a UNESCO world heritage site.

Crises relief efforts concentrate on immediate necessities, so many don’t include provisions for the future. For that reason, Architecture for Humanity founder and executive director Cameron Sinclair is concerned about what Bam’s housing situation will be like in a year or two, after the initial waves of international aid dry up. “The U.N. and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) do a great job,” he says. “But what happens after they leave? Those blue plastic tents they give out for temporary housing only last so long. After twelve months, they begin to disintegrate. What then?”

To that end, Sinclair is currently compiling design teams for housing projects, as well as communicating with NGOs to see what specific assistance is needed. He is especially interested in recruiting help from those who have experience working in the Middle East: folk who might already have the cultural ties and political connections to kick-start the rebuilding efforts. He also welcomes suppliers, construction firms, and contractors who are willing to donate building materials to the cause.

Those interested may contact Sinclair directly at csinclair@architectureforhumanity.org or at (646) 765-0906. Those unable to donate their time may contribute financially or in kind; see Architecture for Humanity’s web site for details. All proceeds gathered will go to the rebuilding of housing in Bam.

Sinclair stresses that his organization is not trying to compete with other relief efforts, but rather concentrate on the importance of transitional and permanent housing. “We’re trying to provide a long-term housing structure,” he says, “places where people can live, or at least where they can live until they rebuild their own homes.”

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