Designing For Disasters: A Brookes Architecture Collaboration for the Anniversary of Hurricane Sandy
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Designing For Disasters: A Brookes Architecture Collaboration for the Anniversary of Hurricane Sandy

In October 2013, a ‘Designing for Disasters: Flood Resilient Design’ collaboration took place in New York City, USA, between students from Oxford Brookes University and the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT).

Students from the Oxford Brookes MArchD in Applied Design in Architecture visited NYC, USA, in the week prior to the hurricane Sandy anniversary, to collaborate with students from NYIT’s BArch programme. The collaborating students were given just four days to develop flood resilient structures for Brooklyn Navel Yard, which was badly affected by flood waters caused by the 2012 storm.

The students designed a range of innovative models that ranged from industrial and practical, to playful and creative. Projects included an emergency mobilisation shelter with collapsible defences and an electrical rescue toolkit. Harriet Harriss said:

“Whilst the threat of flooding is a serious one, the ability to turn a threat into an asset is a highly sophisticated and resourceful response; arguably an essential competency for any architect aiming to succeed tomorrow’s construction market. As educators, we believe that schools should ensure students are given the opportunity to address pressing social, civic and environmental issues during their academic careers. It is our conviction that architects with expertise in designing for disaster resilience will be best placed to lead some of the most important strategic planning and implementation projects of the next 10-20 years. International collaborations that give students the opportunity to directly respond to this challenge is essential in enabling the next generation of architects to contribute to the flooding resilience solutions of tomorrow.”

Frank Mruk, Associate Dean and Professor at NYIT said:

“I want to thank the students at Oxford Brookes and NYIT for stepping up to the plate, and for rallying their fellow students, professors, and outside professionals. Your efforts have proven that resiliency is not only a local issue and that the ability to quickly crowd source creative ideas globally is extremely relevant in today’s fast moving world. After observing the efforts of these students in real time, I must say, I have great optimism for the future.”

The School of Architecture at Oxford Brookes University is one of the very first to recognise the importance of working in the field of development and emergency practice, and has been educating students in this field for over twenty years. It also values the exchange of ideas, and the collaboration between Oxford Brookes University and NYIT is one of many that engage staff and students on a meaningful, global level.

Matt Gaskin, Head of the School of Architecture, said:

“The addition of an Anglo-American collaboration, between Oxford Brookes and the New York Institute of Technology, adds a further cultural layer to both the teaching and delivery of the work. Together the staff and students have produced a body of work that is both high quality and eye opening. Our ambition is to encourage our students to engage in lives of meaning and impact on a global level.”

There has been an increase in the number of natural disasters taking place across the globe, which has risen to over 400% in the last year alone. In 2006 there were on average 240 weather related disasters, compared with 60 in 1980. Hurricane Sandy hit the New York Metropolitan area on October 29th 2012. The devastation was unprecedented in the New York area and the storm left dozens dead, thousands homeless and millions without power. The NYC hurricane, the Oklahoma tornado and the Cumbrian floods in the UK are all natural disasters that highlight an urgent need for action.

Two weeks after the catastrophic storm hit New York, students from the New York Institute of Technology organised ‘Operation Resilient Long Island’ (ORLI), which aimed to help the coastal community use the methods and means available to start to rebuild their lives. A result of ORLI was the ‘Designing for Disasters: Flood Resilient Design’ collaboration with Oxford Brookes University. The two universities developed a close relationship during the Live Project Symposium, a three day international conference hosted by Harriet Harriss, Senior Lecturer in Architecture at Oxford Brookes in 2012. The project initiative was then developed by Harriet Harriss and her design studio teaching partner and School of Architecture alumna, Lionel Real De Azua.

Find out more about the MArchD in Applied Design in Architecture program.

Find out more about the School of Architecture.