Bayanihan as a model for community participation in Post Disaster Reconstruction

alexander furunes, NTNU, Faculty of Architecture and Fine Art

In a world with increasing intensity of natural and man-made disasters,
understanding the role of an architect in a post-disaster scenario is of big importance.
While there is an argument that architects are the last people needed in disaster
reconstruction, the process of planning, designing and building have the potential to
challenge pre-existing socio-economic hierarchies. Yet, the role of an architect in
reconstructing social structures has not been thoroughly examined.

My encounter with the culture of bayanihan, a tradition deeply rooted in the
Filipino culture, when building the Study Center in 2010 opened doors to investigating
cultural platforms that bring communities together. They stimulate collective efforts
towards a common goal to achieve particular objectives. Dugnad in Norway could be
seen as a similar tradition. Upon returning to Tacloban, the Philippines after super
typhoon Haiyan devastated the city in 2013, I am convinced that bayanihan exemplifies
important elements of participatory placemaking. It is of great importance to build a better
understanding and identify key performance indicators for a successful participatory
process, and my research will pursue this goal by addressing the following questions:

  1. How can bayanihan/dugnad be a platform for collaboration?
  2. How can the design process reveal the ambitions and dreams of the community?
  3. How can the process of building strengthen existing knowledge and skills within the
  4. How do you facilitate dialogues between different stakeholders within a project?
  5. How can trust, ownership, pride, responsibility or a sense of belonging determine
    the success of participatory placemaking?
  6. How do you balance between bringing added values as an architect and enhancing
    community ownership for a design process?
  7. Are there ways to mediate power balances within the community in order to avoid
    the loudest voice to dictate?
  8. Who should hold the budget?
  9. What is the role of a participatory architect?
  10. At what point do you leave the project?

The research will undertake both theoretical and empirical approaches to
answer these research questions. The theoretical analysis will contextualize my work and
research with the historical and contemporary work of other professionals, their strategies
and approaches to participatory placemaking in a post-disaster reconstruction scenario.
This will be the focus for the first, third an fifth semesters of my artistic research. I intend
to test these theoretical frameworks through a series of small-scale catalyst projects
(second and fourth term) with communities in the Philippines and Norway.