Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights refers to the right of all human beings to adequate shelter. As engineers in the construction sector, our expertise is uniquely valuable for addressing this global human need, and it is in recognition of this that Ramboll financially supports employees to donate their skills to charity construction projects around the world.
I’m one such lucky employee, and in the next year I, along with my fellow grad Ana Nicusan, will be designing and constructing a carpentry work facility for the Romanian village of Zizin, providing jobs for the Roma community and supporting the work of the charity FAST (Foundation for Social Assistance and Youth).
The Roma (Romany gypsy) population in Romania has suffered from racial discrimination for centuries and many Roma still suffer from extreme poverty, living in makeshift settlements on the outskirts of existing towns. FAST, the charity we’re working with, have already made a huge difference to the lives of Roma people through their music, education and housebuilding schemes. The carpentry workshop is their latest initiative, with the mission of providing employment, helping the Roma to reach self-sufficiency.
We kicked off the project in September 2012 with a two week visit to the village, to survey the site and discuss designs with the charity. During the days we played manual labourers on some of FAST’s other projects, which was a wonderful opportunity to get our hands dirty and comprehend the reality of building the ideas we dream up in the office. Working in the village was hilarious and we made great friends with the children despite the language barrier – it’s amazing how far pointing, gurning, and Beyoncé songs will get you. I also discovered that I will probably never successfully wield a pickaxe.
Now back in London, we’re getting stuck into what we’re actually good at – the structural design. Ana has been absolutely amazing, researching Romanian vernacular timber frame designs and translating obscure seismic codes. At this early stage, we’re producing some simple computer analysis models to test out a few frame options before we discuss further with the charity and settle on a design.
It’s a fascinating process as the design concerns are so different to our normal work; simplicity/repetition of connections and limitation of available materials are the primary drivers to our design. We both work on small parts of very large schemes in our normal working lives (Ana on Fitzroy place, a commercial new build, and I on the extension of Tate Modern) so it’s amazing to get our teeth into every aspect of the project. The greatest part is having a close relationship with our client (FAST), and knowing how well-loved by the community our creation will be.
If you’d like to see how the project goes, please follow us on workshopzizin.tumblr.com, and you can find out more about FAST’s excellent work at http://www.fastcharity.ro.