Sanitation Studio - student reflections

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Architecture student from University of Newcastle, Emma Gaal, shares her reflections on her experience of the Sanitation Studio Nepal, working with real clients, local materials and offers insights into a process of design.

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Words and photos by Emma Gaal

As an Architecture student it was satisfying to finally to be doing something real, not something that was a theoretical brief and has no resolve or effect. Being out where it matters, where buildings are precious and not indispensable. The materials are what you have, not what you can source from far and beyond. The solution was a process of understanding people, place and systems.

Nepal was a new destination for all of us. The journeys from Kathmandu and between the villages were an adventure in themselves. Viewing the change of landscape, busy cities to massive mountains. The bumpy narrow roads and negotiating the traffic on the edge of sheer cliffs. The people were always so lovely and welcoming. Wanting to share the little they had and include us guests in activities. Lots of food and dancing.

Working on site with Healthabitat O/S we were able to witness first hand their methodology of engaging with the local communities. Language barriers had to be overcome and some tricky questions had to be asked. We were able to talk to the families, students and teaches that the buildings were for. Trying to determine ways which would suit them best for how they use the spaces but also allow for the construction and longevity of the building. 

Using Healthabitat's principles and facts on how things work and spacing made the process a lot easier as it was logical and efficient. A lot of us hadn't dealt with some of those types of details before, focusing just on toilet blocks. How important tap placement is, what kind of locks, drainage etc. Then having to use the site without any given information to determine unknown methodologies such as where is the water coming from, where will the waste water go after, etc.

This experience has encouraged me to continue with designs that help life quality of the individual and have a purposeful affect on humanity. I think it's important for all students to experience hands on projects like these in the course of their studies so they can reflect on their direction.

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For more information and images about the trip visit University of Newcastle's website

 https://architecture.gradschool.edu.au/projects/travel-opportunities-that-make-a-difference