arch-peace editorials

21 April 2012

Hauswin 2010

by Allison G. Stout and Dr. David O’Brien, University of Melbourne.

Children helping finish the Bumbu Hauswin
This Bower Studio project in Papua New Guinea, titled Hauswin after an informal type of public building, occurred in December 2010. It built on our previous studio experiences working alongside community groups and residents in rural Thailand, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland. In our projects the staff and students join local teams to build full-scale buildings to improve community infrastructure and test ideas about sustainability and development.

The Hauswin 2010 project developed into a ten-day building project, after a six month preparation period with guidance and organisation by the local University of Technology in Lae. This project was the initial phase of what we hope to be continued investigations on the changing use of materials in the housing sector of both rural and urban Papua New Guinea and how this may or may not relate to the ever changing aspirations of the people of Papua New Guinea.

Cross bracing being applied for the Bumbu Hauswin.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) has many of the world’s last remaining communities unchallenged by globalisation. Its dense geography harbours the world’s greatest concentration of distinct tribes living close to subsistence levels. PNG’s variety of housing types is unprecedented. However in the squatter settlements of the second biggest city, Lae, and in many of the remote communities, engagement with mass produced consumables, new technologies, ideologies, finances and opportunities has begun a marked shift in the aspirations held by individuals and the community as a whole.

The Hauswin project occurred in two settlements: one a squatter settlement in Lae and the other a remote community about an hour northwest of Finschaffen. In both locations the people are economically disadvantaged but retain strong cultural links and family ties. The houses in Serongko are basic with timber frames and thatched roofs. In Bumbu they are built from salvaged scrap. Most importantly the residents of both communities access poor water sources that makes many of them quite ill. Much effort is also spent trying to keep dry and houses require a lot of maintenance.

Serongoko Village Home
Bumbu Settlement Home

While the team understands the benefits of quality housing, particularly in shantytowns, the issue of clean water supplies was important. We decided to build ‘hauswins’ - the traditional name for simple public shelters - using corrugated iron roofs, gutters and adding a water tank. The ‘hauswin’ we constructed in each community provides shelter and a source of fresh drinking water.

"We wished to test if the rural communities could export their own sustainably harvested timber to urban communities and at the same time see if the income this created could be used to purchase industrialised materials such as corrugated roofing and water tanks." 
Once we established the type of building to be constructed in both villages the construction process was considered and adapted from previous studios. Because Papua New Guinea is an exporter of timber, though much of the wealth this creates is lost to local communities, we wished to test if the rural communities could export their own sustainably harvested timber to urban communities and at the same time see if the income this created could be used to purchase industrialised materials such as corrugated roofing and water tanks.

In order to test this process we directed the construction process. We provided the Serongko villagers with a drawing outlining the pieces required for a Hauswin pavilion (seen below). The community then worked together to manufacture the pieces required so that upon arrival the students from Australia and Lae were able to fabricate each Hauswin structure within 2 days.

Pre-fabrication sheet for Serongko Community.

During the design-build phase of this project the team also took the time to consult with and analyse the two communities to identify new projects and possibilities for sustainable practices that would be coherent with their daily living patterns.

The now year-old ‘hauswin’ pavilions’ are still testing ideas about sustainability, improving health outcomes, community development and future housing models as each village adapts and changes the structures to suit their needs. We know that the cost of generating housing is significant for all communities, thus there are great disparities between the quality of housing (and quality of life) in the studied squatter settlement as compared with the remote community. Through our continued design-build investigations we are planning to expand our project and identify new initiatives that improve the health and housing outcomes in the most affected squatter settlements in Lae. These initiatives would include locally-sourced timber, carefully selected prefabricated components, and community-based labour teams. They would be funded by micro-credit schemes initiated (and guaranteed) by government.

The intent in all of our engagement projects has been to use the design and construction process as a way to stimulate further discussions with the community groups involved. Marginalised communities are not used to making decisions about their environments and their shelter. In many circumstances they have had few or no choices. The process of talking, designing and then building together opens up many opportunities for a more useful dialogue which then enriches the ideas, processes and outcomes for the next project, and so on.

Successes and failures become more ‘real’ when viewed from a more level playing field and methods to improve outcomes are more easily understood. More broadly speaking the outcomes from the projects are used to contribute to wider discussions about sustainable housing and shelter for groups living in tropical climates.

Final Gathering for Serongko Hauswin and of


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