Aloon Lar Shay Pha la: Come and see us | Khwaja Fatmi

Display and production center for Rohingya women of locally made craft, Uhkiya, Refugee camp

SAVE Aloon Lar Shay Pha la: Come and see us | Khwaja Fatmi

Project Name: Aloon Lar Shay Pha la: Come and see us

Practice:

Project Location: Rohingya Refugee Camp no – 11 , Ukhiya

Clients: Funded by WFP (World Food Program) , Implemented by ActionAid Bangladesh

Structural Consultants: Abid Ibna A. Rahman

Contractors: Md. Nur Nobi (Site Engineer)

Others: Md. Mahmud Hossen (Head Mason), Md. Ismail (Mason), Md. Rafiq (Majhi), Md. Kabir (Majhi)

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Description

Text submitted by the Architect

Aloon Lar shay pha la, a Rohingya dialect, which means “Come and see us”. A group of Rohingya youth wrote this on the wall of the display center, to invite the world to know about their Identity, which is more than a group of refugee, a community of creative individuals.

Because after two years of the major influx, the emergency situation has gradually begun to stabilize. It has reached its development stage, and they are being given their basic assistance and services. Bangladesh Government and other humanitarian agencies are now focusing on women empowerment through livelihood generation programs. The Display center and tailoring zone funded by WFP (World food program) and implemented by ActionAid Bangladesh, was created with such vision. The center was designed to represent the culture and Craftsmanship of communal artisans.

The main function of this structure has a production space, where the women can create their craft products, And a Display center where those can be displayed and sold. The two spaces are connected with a large open to sky courtyard, which is designed to be more adaptive according to different uses like any general rural household courtyard of this region. The total area is 2800sft, and built area is 1100sft.

Majorly used building materials by Rohingya people is bamboo and thatch, and so those materials were chosen to represent their crafts. A group of 21 including civil engineer, architect, masons, craftspersons and painters, took 63 days to make this entire structure. The process had to be very flexible and adaptive towards different opinions and decision of the users and makers. As Rohingya craftsmen are extremely skilled with bamboo crafts, a lot of structural decisions were discussed with them before hand, and then taken.

The construction and the space coming to life was a journey of a lot of people entwining their stories together like a big quilt. The challenge was to bring all the stories and expression together in one single ground. As the workers have little understanding of formal architectural and structural drawings, Different tools such as scaled models, hand drawn sketches were frequently made and discussed with. The formal technical team had to spend with the local masons to understand their perspective, and take spontaneous decisions. In such cases, problems were solved much faster by a small meeting and drawing with a stick of the earth, than sitting in front of a screen and drawing lines.

Gradually for such involvement, the craftsmen were coming up with new ideas themselves and were discussing with the entire team to make the structure and spaces better and more environment friendly and even cost effective. It became less of typical working construction site, rather a phenomenon which became a delightful source of learning for everyone.

Each individual was contributing with their ingenuity. A group of painters were asked to paint the walls and courtyard with given colors. They started with a long curve line, which they called the representation of Arakaan Mountain, their home. They inscribed auspicious words and wishes to bless the display center, and the visitors who would come and see their artworks. On the entry gate of display center, they wrote  “Istegbal” (meaning welcome) and on the other side “Aloon Lar Shay Pha la” (meaning Come and see us) as the tittle says.

The landscape was also conceived from local knowledge. A small group had the daily task to forage for plants from the locality and plant them. As a result, the most unpopular plants which no one but native eyes could find, made their way in to the premise. They were mostly chosen based on their medicinal values, ability to provide thermal comfort and survive nature in this harsh environment.

The ending of the construction came with a heartwarming story as well. The last day before hand over of the project, the group had to depart. They all were saying goodbye to each other. One of the craftsperson came with a small black packet filled with 200 grams of lentils and a small soap that he got from the relief. It was a “Hadiya” (gift) for the architect. What better payment an architect could ever get?

 

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