Designing solutions to humanitarian needs
Rizvi grew up in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, where he studied to become an architect. He was inspired by architects Khondaker Hasibul Kabir and Eric Cesal, who address social issues in their design process. Kabir, for instance, focused on understanding the needs of people living in slums in order to design better solutions for them.
Rizvi started working with non-profit BRAC to design cyclone shelters in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp, which was home to hundreds of thousands of displaced Rohingya people who had fled violence and persecution in Myanmar. While there, Rizvi got to know different aid agencies, and he started sharing ideas about how architects could make a difference to the lives of camp dwellers. Aid workers involved in gender-based violence work in the camp reported that women and girls needed a safe space to receive counselling and skills training. So, Rizvi worked with a team at BRAC and UNICEF to design a safe space and a community centre for women and girls.
He explained: “Initially when we began the project, the local community and the refugees assumed we were building a football stadium, and our builders could not understand what we were trying to do. We would draw curious crowds. When the form began to take shape, people were excited; the men were keen to use the facility for themselves. But when we explained to them that this was for women and girls, they were quite responsive. The men informed their wives and daughters about the facility and encouraged them to enroll"."
“We decided to create a vibrant interior space and rooms off it, which separates it from the outside, creating a screen itself. The oval shape with series of columns are considered to withstand strong winds as it is a cyclone-prone area,” Rizvi added. “I wanted to make an impact on the lives of marginalized people, so I love doing this work. On this project, we received very positive feedback from the refugees, NGOs and the host population. The centre has become so popular that members of the local Bangladesh community are also using it.”