Post-Tsunami Resettlement Programme, Sri LANKA

Location: Uddakandahara, Yodakandiya, Tissamaharama, Sri Lanka
Client: Pinsara Federation of Community Development Councils

Susi Wellings, director of SJW Architects, has been involved with pro-bono development work overseas for over a decade, working on a skills-based training and construction project in Burundi on behalf of a well-known group of architectural benefactors with partners Development Workshop Français and Children in Crisis, and between 2005 and 2007 as country director in Sri Lanka for US-based non-profit organisation Architecture for Humanity.

In her role at Architecture for Humanity, Susi designed and oversaw the implementation of several post-tsunami reconstruction projects, one of which was shortlisted for the Aga Khan Awards in 2010. She also received the Observer Ethical Award for her work in Sri Lanka.

One tsunami reconstruction project funded by Architecture For Humanity (a not-for-profit organisation) and implemented jointly by Susi Wellings for AFH and UN Habitat saw the design and construction of buildings and facilities at the heart of a new village for people affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, comprising a community centre, a pre-school, a library and medical centre, as well as a cricket pitch and a volley ball court.

The project was carried out through a Community Contract System whereby all funding collected by Architecture For Humanity from private donations for tsunami relief was given directly to the beneficiary community. A social programme was implemented by the UN that mobilised the community into making decisions about their own rehabilitation. Through the formation of a democratically elected representative council, the community was empowered to decide how the money raised on their behalf was spent. In this way the beneficiary community became the client, setting the initial brief for the community facilities and participating fully in the design development process in collaboration with the Architecture For Humanity country representative and architect.

The Community determined to appoint a commercial contractor to undertake the construction works but when that contractor reneged on his obligations approximately one-quarter of the way through, the community took over all site operations and completed the works themselves. Practical training workshops were organised to enhance and expand the existing skill set in the locality.