Building Dignity in War-Torn Sudan: Part 4

This is the  final post of a four-part installment of my article on Studio TAMassociati and their Pediatric Center in Port Sudan for the new PUBLIC Journal, the first publication dedicated solely to public interest design and architecture. Read the first part on the studio here, the second part on the design of the building here, and the third part on the systems design here.

In the final part, tamassociati shares what’s up next for the studio in the years ahead.

A FUTURE WITH LOW COST, HIGH VALUE DESIGN

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Since the completion of the Pediatric Center, tamassociati’s methodologies and projects are receiving increased recognition among the international design community, most recently being bestowed with an Aga Khan Award for Architecture and a Curry Stone Design Prize in 2013. With the award prize money, the studio, which operates as a “research team,” is focusing their efforts for 2014 around the theme “Low Cost, High Value.”

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Deciding on the annual theme is an essential piece in driving the firm’s efforts. Each year, the entire office meets with a different partner or collaborator and develops a statement of research to frame each individual’s upcoming work. “It’s a way of putting together the research for the group. You have ten people trying to think in the same direction yet in total independence,” explains Pantaleo. Last year, the team focused on “Taking Care” as, “a precise will for architectural design rooted in mutual respect towards human beings and environmental tasks, as architecture concerns both of them.”

This year, “Low Cost, High Value” will heavily involve developing guidelines for low-cost hospitals in Africa based on the eight successfully operating health care facilities and four new projects upcoming in 2014. Team members will be relocating to Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, and the Central African Republic to design and build four additional health care facilities, which will serve as ‘live’ case studies to test the guidelines as they are developed.

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Along with health care, the studio’s roots in civic engagement and social issues has led them to examine new ways of living, how public spaces act as a collective identity, and what traditional economic metrics analyze. Two new co-housing developments will be realized in 2014, further expanding their diverse portfolio of built work, along with a new study into social profit metrics for industrial areas.

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All of these upcoming built projects are capped with a dedication to building awareness about architecture’s importance to each person’s life, which the firm is exploring with print communications. Pantaleo and partner Massimo Lepore, who co-edited the European publication Utopica for three years while studying architecture at university, have returned to their roots in writing and publishing to create graphic novels that reflect on their 15 years of built work and the larger impact architecture has on communities around the globe. In collaboration with a journalist and photographer, the studio is embarking on their second graphic novel to capture tools that communicate architecture’s impact on the landscape. Pantaleo explains how the “simple,” graphical format creates “a positive way to understand the value of architecture and shift the idea that architecture is not only about the big events but things that deal with daily life.”

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Let’s return to your cobbled-together home in the dusty, baking desert. A strange man is approaching your shelter. He has soft eyes and a smile on his face. He wants to ask you a few questions about your living conditions, your family, and what you need the most. For some reason he makes you feel comfortable. Communicating with more hand signals than words, you tell him that you moved here to find better work so you can feed your family. The dust has been bothering your throat and your children are constantly coughing. He leaves after spending a few hours speaking with you and each of your neighbors, promising that the new site across the way will be a place for you and your family to get the treatment you need.

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This is the impact tamassociati and their collaborators are making around the globe. From healthcare buildings, to economic metrics, to graphic communications, tamassociati’s range of poignant designs and commitment to ethical issues puts them at the top of leading international humanitarian firms of our generation.

We hope you enjoyed this series on Studio TAMassociati and the Pediatric Center in Port Sudan. The full article–along with a great lineup of other in-depth articles–can be found at PUBLIC Journal in both digital and print formats.

Image sources: Massimo Grimaldi for Emergency NGO and Studio TAMassociati

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