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Extending architecture’s humanitarian role

Extending architecture’s humanitarian role

A student whose goal is to extend architecture’s humanitarian role was awarded a PhD in Architecture at the University of Auckland’s Spring Graduation this week.

Alexandra (Alex) Lee’s doctoral thesis examined the changing role of architecture and design professionals in the context of recent urban disasters, including the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. As societies become more urbanised, the risk of human exposure to disasters rises. Alex’s research focused on the best ways to apply architectural principles to help communities recover from natural disasters.

“Any large-scale urban crisis can test the resilience of a city’s built environment. Such crises may be triggered by natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis. To mitigate the devastating impacts, architects and other design professionals should work towards reducing societal vulnerabilities in our cities,” says Alex.

While in Auckland to be capped, she is also establishing a postgraduate scholarship at the School of Architecture and Planning, with her sister Jennis Lee, an architect at Jasmax. The award is to encourage students interested in social and humanitarian design. Both sisters founded the New Zealand chapter of Architecture for Humanity in 2007 with the aim of assisting local communities.

“Promoting design for under-privileged communities is a passion of mine. I want to really understand how architecture affects the built environment,” says Alex.

The Korean-born, Auckland-raised, and now California-based New Zealander is currently extending her expertise into the role of architects in humanitarian endeavours as a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. She is writing a book on the subject due to be published next year.


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