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Page history last edited by Kristina Farber 10 years, 6 months ago

Remote Architecture: Examples + Challenges

Page Editor is Kristina Farber. Please email me with suggestions, comments, or compliments!







Children from the dalit communities in the villages of Thiagavalli, Ambedkar Nagar, Lenin Nagar and Periyar Nagar attend high school across the river.  

Due to how unreliability and length of bus service, most students wade across the river with their bags on their heads - but during high tide or bad weather, their journey becomes dangerous, and their bags (and books) become wet. 




2 piers to enable boat service, one on either side of the river Uppanaru, at Poondiyakuppam and Lenin Nagar. 

Each pier consists of a waiting platform 3.5mX5m, and 3m wide multi-level boarding platforms. The levels allow for boarding the boats despite varying tide levels. The structure is constructed from reinforced cement concrete piles, beams and slabs.




The project was not executed per the final approved design. Listed below are some of the challenges faced:


1. Inadequate understanding of design concept by building team

2. Poor communications, partially due to lack of common language, between engineer/ building team and architect. Major on-site decisions impacting design were made by the engineer/building team without consultation with architect. 

3. The pile foundations for the platforms were mis-located, resulting in deviation from design intent. Re-locating the piles was not an option as it was cost prohibitive. 

4. Eucalyptus posts supporting platform formwork were inadequate, resulting in concrete sagging. The supporting posts eventually floated away during heavy rainfall and flooding, causing materials loss and delays.

5. The east pier platforms were not constructed at the elevation levels intended. 

6. General quality of construction is not up the desirable standards, and can be partially attributed to remote site location. 

7. Weather related delays were experienced.

8. Simultaneous government road construction project adjacent to west pier caused delays due to restriction of vehicular access. 

9. Frequent site visits to ensure accuracy and quality in construction were not feasible due the site’s remote location (4-5 hours from Chennai). Also, as construction here can progress very slowly, it can be drain on the budget to visit the site too often. 


The piers are being actively used and appreciated by the communities, rendering insignificant the design deviations and delays.



“On each pier, also existed a shade structure, built with eucalyptus posts and coconut leaf thatch. However these were anonymously burnt down...”







“A considerable amount of money was lost as the primary contractor walked off the project at 75% completion.”




The village of Pillaichavadykuppam was devastated by the December 2004 tsunami.  While the village experienced no loss of life, there was extensive damage to housing and property, and a significant loss of livelihood. 40 houses and public toilets (8 stalls) were destroyed, 




2 buildings, a Multi-Purpose Community Hall; and a building housing the WHSG office and a Youth/Children’s room; and the renovated public toilet block about a 100 meters from the Community Center. 

As the first public building for the community, the center serves as a focal point of celebration and learning for the community.  




1) Project delays due to inclement weather

2) High inflation

3) Shortage of materials (bricks,cement) 

4) Shortage of labor 

5) Unreliability of labor and the contractor 

6) Non-local contractors could not ensure continuous work delivery. 

7) The construction team lacked the ability to accurately interpret the drawings.  

8) The primary contractor tended to make on-site design decisions without consultation with the architect 

9) As a result, there were several design deviations, especially in the details. 


However, overall, the built project reflects the central design concepts.


source: http://openarchitecturenetwork.org/node/477









After the tsunami of December 2004, affected countries needed new permanent dwellings capable of resisting flooding or a potential tsunami. 




MIT and Harvard investigated technological strategies and designs for low-cost permanent dwellings that would resist flooding and a potential tsunamis.  They focused on the use of indigenous technology and materials, so that locals could build and replicate the unit.

The house consists of four main elements; a raised platform to facilitate water drainage, concrete core structures that provide higher resistance without blocking the flow of water in case of incoming tsunami, bamboo or traditional woven partitions to create a porous or ventilated skin and a traditional roof structure made from coconut wood rafters and either tin roofing materials or tiles. The scheme was found to be five times more resistant than that of traditional structures. The team also used the system to create a series of options for community buildings that can be expanded from a basic house. Alternatively through different configurations, core units can create a free-standing unit that can be built for larger public meetings and events.


source: http://openarchitecturenetwork.org/node/375  



Comments (3)

Matt Mochizuki said

at 6:53 pm on Jan 31, 2011

I like the MIT/Harvard project where they utilize vernacular modes of construction to create a modern building. Seems like the way to go.

Pranay Mowji said

at 10:29 am on Feb 2, 2011

I also like the strategy used by MIT/Harvard. I think it is interesting to consider the need vs. want scenario when thinking about the pre-fab architecture that is to be installed in the Bijagos Islands. While a modern pre-fab structure seems out of context, there is probably a desire by the people for something new and advanced. I think the MIT/Harvard strategy is a good one in that something new and modern was created using traditional methods, so that it could be maintained by the people, but it would be interesting to know how the people reacted to the strategy versus the installation of something made of modern materials and construction.

blam@cca.edu said

at 10:42 am on Feb 2, 2011

Some of the problems many of the projects face are redundant. It seems that realistically, these challenges will continue to be persistent throughout new projects (such as ours) no matter what steps are taken to try to mitigate them (e.g. inclement weather, miscommunication), so it'll definitely be on the forefront of our minds!

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