4.154
Architecture Design Option Studio — Puerto Rico Safe School (Mazereeuw/Moses)

Prerequisites: 
4.145 or 4.153
Enrollment: 
Mandatory lottery process
Open only to: 
MArch
Required of: 
MArch

“The Humanitarian Charter is concerned with the most basic requirements for sustaining the lives and dignity of those affected by calamity or conflict, as reflected in the body of international human rights.”

Sphere Standards 

Civic architecture that meets the needs of everyday community life is designed to dignify its purpose. Schools, libraries, and sports arenas are spaces for public institutions, anchors and social hubs that signify long-term stability and the proper functioning of the institutions they house. However, in a disaster, by default, rather than design, these buildings become shelters of last resort, to protect people during some of their most difficult moments. As shelters, these public buildings fail the public they are designed to serve, leading to overcrowding, a loss of privacy, a lack of safety, and inability to accommodate the wide-ranging needs of a diverse population.  

Traditionally, public architecture has been conceived with an idealized vision of the “normal,” designed to operate within a narrow band of increasingly inadequate averages. As climate change accelerates, and disasters such as Irma and Maria, become increasingly common and severe, architects need to develop new tools to design public buildings to meet the needs not just for a future of averages, but a future of extremes.

This studio therefore takes on the challenge of a specific place, Puerto Rico, in a specific time, still recovering from the devastation of fiscal crisis and Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The studio will reconceive a common public architecture, the high school, to meet all the “everyday” needs of a community while at the same time exploring how it can transform by design into a safe haven for evacuation from the surrounding territory in extreme, disaster times. Puerto Rico needs both new models for education that encourages economic dynamism and training for the global economy, and shelters that can support people before, during, and after extreme disruptive events. By merging these two programs, the studio will be developing architecture for a wide range of future use scenarios, not just the ones for which we might naively hope. 

The studio will develop strategies, tools, and methods to find synergies between these drastically different use scenarios, between classroom and shelter, between traditional infrastructure and resilient local networks, between the routine, important work of the school day and the most intense events most people will ever live through. These strategies will be applied across scales, from the analysis and design of the town-sized territory, including how a school / shelter should be embedded in it, all the way down to the human scale of transformable architectural details and furniture.