Carmen Mendoza Arroyo
Associate professor and Assistant Director of the School of Architecture at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (UIC Barcelona)
Director Master of International Cooperation Sustainable Emergency Architecture
An academic reflection on urban reconstruction and resilience in the field of Emergency Architecture
How can academia, and specific programs training professionals from the built environment, prepare them to face and work in post-disaster contexts? Firstly, we must take into consideration that families and local builders do the vast majority of reconstruction after a natural disaster. Therefore, it is this capacity that needs to be developed to achieve safer buildings. Architecture and urbanism must aim to promote the uniqueness of a place and, by doing this, keep its culture alive. With this perspective, our drivers to create resilience and adapt to disaster are to work with the causes, history, and cultures in which we intervene. The local culture will facilitate work, or on the contrary, will inhibit it if our work is counter-cultural. When a sense of place is reinforced in the efforts to reduce disaster risk and in recovery, the possibility for autonomy will emerge, despite the implementation of top-down technical concepts. Secondly, we must establish a relationship that is not of dominance or imposition. In other words, the first and utmost requirement is that local communities in affected regions be seen as active collaborators rather than ‘helpless aid relief beneficiaries.’ Hence, our work must create opportunities for capacity building so that local professionals can assume complex processes as a priority to be addressed before disasters occur. Finally, we must accept that our field is changing substantially, as the disaster field is merging with other areas such as climate change adaptation as well as increasing displacement and migration; which constitutes a working field, which is more and more complex and requires working on different scales of the built and natural environment; much more resources, as well as expertise.
Carmen Mendoza Arroyo is director of the Master in International Cooperation Sustainable Emergency Architecture at UIC. An Architect with a Ph.D. in Urban Design and Planning, she combines teaching and research on the development of integrated approaches in urban regeneration projects. She applies a comprehensive methodology, with special attention to the physical and social characteristics of settlements, in order to mitigate the social and spatial schism in our understanding of space, place, and social order. Her research explores design processes for a comprehensive regeneration of degraded and informal settlements, which delve into the recognition and mapping of voids and places of urban significance through community participation. Related to this line, she has developed plans, projects, and research in the Metropolitan Region of Barcelona, and informal settlements in Latin America. Her current research encompasses urban reconstruction and resilience in the field of emergency architecture, and systemic approaches for the urban integration of refugees and internally displaced people. In the fields of urban design, urban regeneration, emergency, and development she has developed knowledge transfer projects published articles, chapters, and edited books.