‘Local partners are important if you come from another culture, otherwise they won’t take you seriously’

Jasmin Oldenburg, a senior in architecture, came up with a renovation plan that she wants to help impoverished neighborhoods around the world. ‘In Bali I studied how people live and what they need. I thought it was very important to get to know the culture better, because then I could make better decisions when I first got home’.

‘For my graduation project, I wanted to write a humanitarian renovation plan. Something that allowed me to apply bioclimatic architecture, which takes nature and climate into account, in third world countries. And I also wanted it to be autarkic, so self-sufficient. I am convinced that these two factors have a much greater influence in third world countries than here in the western world. I think it is important to help people who are less fortunate. Not necessarily by bringing money that runs out and disappears, but in the form of knowledge that we can transfer.

‘I think it’s important to help people who are less fortunate.’

“What I have come up with is a renovation method in the form of a database of architectural knowledge that can be used to filter both problem type and location characteristics. Think about the local climate and what raw materials are available. The user follows a very simple yes/no question and at the end a sort of poster appears with a solution. In this way, I will collect and categorize the large amount of knowledge we have here and make it easy to use. I won a big competition with this idea and got a budget to develop it further. I have now been able to set up a foundation, Climate House, which I will continue with after graduating.

“Southeast Asia seemed to me to be an interesting area for bioclimatic design because the climate there is quite harsh. I emailed organizations in that region to see who would help me. Based on the reactions, I finally chose SOS Bali because it was the best contact.

‘In Bali I studied how people live and what they need. I thought it was very important to get to know the culture better because then I could make better decisions once I got home. I stayed twice with a Balinese family for a few days, did a lot of interviews and went out with SOS Bali every day. That’s how I got to the poorest areas of Bali, where people were being fed and taught. I helped and asked my questions at the same time.

‘I stayed twice with a Balinese family for a few days, did a lot of interviews and went out with SOS Bali every day.’

‘I didn’t know anything about it then, I think afterwards. You can still read so much, but if you’ve never been there, you don’t understand what people actually encounter. For example, we have buildings to protect us, but there things work a little differently. In Bali there is no such thing as outside or inside, it all flows together. Also, don’t try to get a divorce because they like to live that way. You use the architectural knowledge from here, but you look at it from a different perspective.

“Renovation is a broad concept: you may want to improve sanitary facilities, but the lack of clean drinking water is also a problem that can be solved with the method. People from northern Bali have to travel 65 kilometers to get water in Denpasar, the center of the island, where almost everything comes from. It takes them two days on a scooter. They drive back and forth with large water tanks. Not ideal at all. Therefore, they often only get drinking water from ditches, and this causes diseases.

‘I found out that you can make a helophyte filter from rice.’

‘One solution could be a helophyte filter, a natural filter for purifying water. I found out that you can make a helophyte filter from rice. The rice fields are already an irrigation system, with minimal intervention you can turn it into a helophyte filter and you have a water purification system. It is important that you make agreements with everyone who lives there that you do not throw dirt into it, because if the filter becomes contaminated halfway through, the process will be disrupted.

‘A water filter is one of the examples. The method is now complete for Bali and I would like to take it printed out with me to test there. I will do it again with SOS Bali because they have the right contacts and people who speak Bahasa. Local partners are important if you come from a different culture and don’t speak the language, otherwise they won’t take you seriously. Governments don’t take them seriously either, so you have to know how to reach the right people in a society. An influential family, for example, which also wants the best for the community. I whisper it in and they bring it out into the world, it works best.

‘For the second test case, I will go to other climate zones because Climate House is designed to be able to do it all over the world.’

‘I will go and see and analyze what is happening. I want to know if people can use the method independently and what works and what doesn’t. For the second test case, I will go to other climate zones, because Climate House was designed to be able to do it anywhere in the world. The ultimate goal is to create a platform where organizations, such as SOS Bali, can download step-by-step plans and set them up independently in their communities.

“It took quite a long time to set up the foundation, so I can’t start a follow-up study right after graduating. Therefore, I will focus entirely on Climate House for a year and finish the entire test case. I want to continue my studies the following year. I hope to get Climate House to such a level that maybe someone else can partially take it over while I study.

“By doing this, I notice that I have also grown as a person.”

‘By doing this I feel that I have also grown as a person. You learn very quickly what it’s like to have a lot of responsibility. You also encounter many stumbling blocks, things threaten to go wrong and you feel insecure because you sometimes think that everything might not be as good as you thought. You learn that from always having to keep going. And in the end you find out each time that it was just a hole, that’s all.’

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Text and photo: Wietse Pottjewijd

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