CAHR continues to work on several different projects. Each of these initiatives is motivated by attempts to demonstrate a human-rights based approach (HRBA) in the design of the built environment. This is focused on the intersections between architecture and human rights. These projects are intended to demonstrate CAHR’s mission statement and to improve our understanding of the HRBA.
Some of these are contemplated or underway, some are ‘projects-in-waiting’ for approvals or funding and, finally, some have been completed.
At this point, considering the pandemic and travel restrictions, most of CAHR’s work is focused on research and writing. As a result, there are some current projects which are developing slowly.
Promoting Equity and Justice Advisory Committee to the RAIC (beginning January 2021)
In an effort to reposition itself on issues of equity and justice, the RAIC saw the need to establish this committee to advise on these
issues in order to (1) broaden participation in the RAIC, (2) expand access to the RAIC, and (3) integrate equity and justice into infrastructure, programs, and services.
Graeme Bristol has joined with other volunteer members of the RAIC to provide advice on supporting the development and implementation of the RAIC Promoting Equity and Justice Action Plan.
CAHR is actively engaged in this advisory committee with the intention of promoting equity and justice through the better understanding of the relationship to human rights- based approach in meeting our professional obligations to society.
UIA Work Programme proposal (beginning 2017)
In advance of the 2017 Seoul congress of the International Union of Architects (UIA), CAHR proposed to the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) – the Canadian organization having membership in the UIA – that it put forward a proposal to the UIA Council that a new Work Programme be established on architecture and human rights. The proposal to the RAIC is here and the draft UIA proposal is here. The RAIC approved the proposal in the spring of 2018 (RAIC Bulletin 25APR18). A meeting was held with then President of the UIA, Thomas Vonier, at the RAIC annual conference in St. John in June of 2018. The following April of 2019, the new UIA Work Programme, Community Architecture + Human Rights was established under the direction of Nadia Tromp of South Africa. We look forward to helping this new Work Programme develop.
UNESCO Chair proposal
This initiative began with a conversation with Darryl Macer, then the UNESCO Bangkok Regional Adviser for Social and Human Sciences in Asia and the Pacific. Together with KMUTT we developed a proposal to establish a UNESCO Chair in human rights and community architecture. After the approval of the proposal by KMUTT and by the Thai UNESCO Commission, it was sent to UNESCO Paris. It was approved by Paris in the spring of 2016.
KMUTT, the host university, was not able to fulfill the agreement with UNESCO. As a result, CAHR has been searching for a university partner since October of 2016.
There are criteria necessary for a host university (here) and, in conjunction with the host university, funds would have to be raised to implement the education, research and building programmes. The original proposal is available here.
At present, the main obstacle to implementing the proposed program is seed funding for it and an agreement with a host university
Mobile schools for construction camps
Since the ‘Bamboo school’ in Samut Prakan (see below in ‘completed projects’), CAHR has been developing a light-weight alternative for a more mobile school to use in construction camps. Working on correcting some of the weaknesses of the 2008 design, this preliminary design is meant to be an expandable trailer on wheels. Because there is access to utility vehicles in and around construction camps, the trailer can easily be moved to any required location where children reside in camps. Aside from the simple design of the project, there are two fundamental issues which go beyond design. These are the running costs of the school (Mercy Centre was spending about 500-600,000 baht/year or around 15,000USD for teachers, books, etc.) and the placement of the school where the children are. We must be able to find the children of migrant workers. So far, that has only been by blind luck. We need to better understand a number of issues concerning the movement of migrant construction workers and their families. We could use the help of students/academics in the fields of sociology or anthropology to collect and interpret data. There is much work to do here. There is much to be gained by partnerships with other organizations such as BWI, ILO, IOM, UNICEF and, at the local level in Thailand, the Mercy Centre.
Community planning/Pom Mahakan (2001-2018)
Since 2001 when we took KMUTT architecture students to the Pom Mahakan community to work with them on alternatives to eviction, CAHR has been supporting the Pom community in their struggle to stay in the city. The student work was part of an architecture design studio. A bilingual report was created for use by the community (Pom Mahakan report).
Though the community lost their fight in April of 2018, their long-standing resistance to eviction raised many issues concerning the urban planning process, both locally and internationally. They received a great deal of support from the Thai architectural schools (particularly Chulalongkorn, Silpakorn, and KMUTT), from Bangkok newspapers (see, for example, here, and here), and from the international community.
Bamboo school (2007-8)
In 2008, together with KMUTT architecture students, we began working with migrant construction workers in camps in and around Bangkok. It was out of this work that a design was developed for a community building to provide daycare for their children and to provide a place for adult education. The project was part of a design studio of the architecture program at KMUTT.
It was funded by the Canadian Embassy in Thailand, the Alberta Association of Architects, the Building and Woodworkers International and CAHR. Additional information is available in the Report to Funders.
The Mercy Centre is still operating it with the help of other organizations in Samut Prakan as the Prakkasamai PreSchool.
I understand from a LinkedIn post in the spring of 2021 from Gareth Hughes of RSM Thailand and the Lighthouse Club Bangkok that the owner of the land on which the school sits needs his land back after more than 11 years and the school is projected to be torn down. Will the materials be reused? Will the Mercy Centre continue the project elsewhere? More information, I hope, is to come.
Disaster recovery (2005-6)
CAHR worked with UN-Habitat on the tsunami recovery in Thailand. The case studies were focused on five communities: Koh Mook (Trang Province), Thachatchai (Phuket), Thungwa (Phang Nga), Saidam (Ranong), and Ko Surin (Phang Nga).
The report summarized the stories about the recovery process and the rebuilding of communities. While there is an outpouring of funds, volunteers, and materials in those early days after a disaster, that long, slow process of recovery is no longer in the news and so the resources available are much more limited. The lessons learned, though, in that recovery process are important to our understanding of development; how we use our available resources and how lives return, as best they can, to normal.
Symposium on Architecture and Human Rights (2006)
The first international symposium on Architecture and Human Rights was organized by CAHR and KMUTT in June of 2006. Presentations were made by:
- Farouk Tebbal (then of UN-Habitat)
- Scott Leckie (currently of Displacement Solutions)
- Koen de Wanderler (of KU Leuven)
- Joachim Theis (then of UNICEF Bangkok)
- Bill Rees (UBC SCARP)
- Sulak Sivaraksa (Sathirakoses Nagapradipa Foundation)
- William Chapman (UH Manoa)
- Arif Hasan (URC)
- Michael Herzfeld (Harvard)
(See also Symposium Programme)