Self-Initiatives and Transformations: Post-Tsunami Housing in Aceh, Indonesia

By Iftekhar Ahmed and David O’Brien.

Published by The International Journal of the Constructed Environment

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami witnessed extensive housing reconstruction programs by humanitarian agencies in the affected countries. In the most impacted country, Indonesia, in Aceh province more than 140,000 houses were built by more than 120 agencies. Within a few years it became evident that residents found it necessary to extend, remodel and renovate and thus transform the houses to suit their own and broader social needs; a self-initiated construction process proliferated beyond the investments by agencies. Key questions arise in such a context: Why must the beneficiaries transform their houses? What needs are not met through the standardised houses? Can particular types improve the capacity for residents to transform their house? Perhaps most significantly, what lessons does such transformation offer that can inform future policy and practice in the field of post-disaster housing reconstruction?
This paper addresses such questions and is derived from an in-depth study of the self-initiated transformation process of post-tsunami housing in Aceh, supported by Raphael Vinoly Architects, New York. It outlines the background and context of the process and provides examples of housing that have been and are undergoing transformation, by way of illustrating the nature of and reasons for such initiatives. Drawing on the lessons gained from the examples, the paper underscores key implications for future housing reconstruction programs in a context of climate change and increasing frequency and intensity of disaster events.

Keywords: Reconstruction, Aceh, Tsunami, Self-Initiated Process, Housing Transformation

The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.73-86. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.267MB).

Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed

Research Fellow, Climate Change Adaptation Programme, Global Cities Research Institute, RMIT University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Iftekhar Ahmed is a Research Fellow at the Global Cities Research Institute at RMIT University, Melbourne and works on climate change, disasters and the built environment. He has a doctorate from Oxford Brookes University and a Master of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has taught at the Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology and worked as consultant on building and disaster related projects for several international agencies including the UNDP, UNESCAP, UN-Habitat, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center and the European Commission Humanitarian Assistance Office.

Dr. David O’Brien

Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Architecture, Building & Planning, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

David O’Brien is a design and construction lecturer at the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne. He has worked as an architect in Australia and South-East Asia and has extensive experience investigating rural housing. He has assisted NGO groups addressing housing needs and advised on policy, design and technical issues.