Islamabad,10/11/2002 (IRIN) - An Afghan-American architect living in the
United States has called on the international community to support a major
shelter initiative in his native Afghanistan. Supported by the US-based
NGO Afghan Rescue Effort, his project, aptly named Village of Hope, comes
at a time when government officials and international agencies are
struggling with the problems of housing thousands of recently returned
"I invite anyone from the donor community to look at my plans," Masum
Azizi, president of Azizi Architects told IRIN on Friday from Newport
Beach, California. "The Village of Hope project isn't just about shelter -
it will create thousands of jobs, impacting [on] the whole economic and
political stability of the country."
Eager to help restore his homeland, devastated by over two decades of
conflict, over the past 11 months Azizi and his associates - who include
planners, as well as structural, civil and environmental engineers - have
developed a series of flexible plans for houses, and entire villages and
towns, complete with community facilities such as schools, clinics, shops
and mosques. Moreover, the plans can be adapted to the widely varied
traditional styles, lifestyles and environments of Afghanistan's rugged
landscape and multicultural society.
"We want to start on the basis of architecture that is compatible with
Afghan traditions, giving people back what they had lost," he said.
Building with adobe using modern techniques, the project would provide
jobs and training for thousands of Afghan builders and craftsmen who could
take pride in rebuilding their country with their own hands, he noted.
"Adobe is a wonderful material when it comes to insulation - cool in the
summer and warm in the winter," Azizi said, adding temperature changes
between day and night can be quite significant in the country.
While it is premature to assess the viability of the project's costing -
the plans are indeed impressive. Designed for nationwide implementation,
the 46-year-old architect, educated in both Afghanistan and Denmark, would
start by building the first village as a pilot project to substantiate the
According to the plans, the village of 500 houses for 6,000 people,
including the supporting facilities, would cost some US $3.5 million. To
build a larger village, with 2,500 houses and supporting facilities for
30,000 people, would take six months using a labour force of 10,000 and a
budget of $20 million (labour, material architectural and engineering cost
is estimated), excluding the underdetermined cost of building
infrastructure such as roads, water and utility systems.
In an effort to provide houses for as many homeless Afghans as possible,
properly resourced, Azizi envisions they could build up to 100,000 houses
per year nationwide.
"This would create significant economic growth as well as 200,000
construction jobs, not counting suppliers of materials and other related
businesses, every year for the next 10 to 15 years," he asserted.
"Further, the Village of Hope will create tremendous opportunities for
many other business investments in Afghanistan."
Using the initial village as a model, the plans call for refresher courses
for local builders with step-by-step instructions for building these
villages. "We intend to build durable buildings that are weatherproof,
earthquake resistant, sustainable, energy efficient, environmentally safe
and with a healthy sanitation system," he said, adding his company has
already enlisted 2,000 skilled Afghan builders who would immediately be av
ailable to start building these homes and to train others on the job.
on the initiative, Neamat Nojumi, one of the founders of the
Afghanistan Rescue Effort (ARE), a US-based humanitarian organisation,
told IRIN from Boston that the project was already being well received,
but funding would be a challenge. "Shelter is a critical issue in
Afghanistan, and these are the types of projects we need to be seriously
looking at," he said.
As for current shelter activities being undertaken in his country, Azizi
maintained that existing efforts were concentrating on providing emergency
shelter, as opposed to permanent, sustainable construction. "They are not
building for long periods of time, but rather rebuilding with what little
was there," he said.
Emphasising the need for support, he called for the endorsement of the
project by the United Nations, as well as the government of Afghanistan,
which he believed would effectively encourage international funding. "We
believe that implementation of this undertaking will pave the way for
millions of Afghans to rebuild their houses and regain their normal
living. Further, this will also spare the lives of many homeless children
from the harsh winter climate," he added.
But with the cost of constructing a typical home for a family of eight to
12 people estimated at $5,500 (labour and material) for three rooms, a
kitchen and a bathroom - the price far exceeds what most donors might find
palatable at the moment.
Indeed, as the humanitarian community struggles with the recent return of
close to two million refugees from Pakistan and Iran, the onslaught of
winter and a major dearth of resources just to provide emergency shelter,
the project's time may not yet have come.
Nonetheless, Afghanistan's road to recovery will undeniably prove a long
one - and such ambitious projects could very well feature in the country's
future reconstruction plans.
From a newspaper article submitted to ArchNet by Lucien Steil