Architect uses PhD to help rebuild devastated Aceh

Izziah Hasan

Izziah Hasan
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Thursday, 18 March 2010

It took a tsunami to stop Indonesian scholar Izziah Hasan from completing her PhD in Architecture and Urban Design at the University of Adelaide back in 2005.

The 47-year-old was undertaking her thesis on the architectural identity of Aceh when a massive earthquake in the Indian Ocean in late December 2004 triggered a tidal wave which devastated her home town, killing more than 350,000 people.

Izziah returned to Indonesia and her teaching role at the University of Syiah Kuala in Banda Aceh. Her research experience abroad as a PhD student helped secure her a job with the Asian Development Bank, helping to rebuild the shattered communities of Aceh and Nias.

"My main tasks were supervising consultants in terms of land acquisition and resettlement in the wake of the tsunami," Izziah says.

"I was involved in helping to assess replacement costs, compensation payments for householders and the whole consultation process around land agreements. In order to achieve this, I had to bridge the gap between the local governments, Indonesian Government and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

"I was also tasked with looking at the different implications of the rebuilding process for men and women in any policies that were implemented in the process."

The Earthquake and Tsunami Emergency Support Project, funded by the ADB, covered houses, roads, bridges, schools, water, sanitation and power supplies among other services and involved the largest reconstruction effort in Indonesia's history, costed at US$294 million.

Izziah's PhD thesis at the University of Adelaide, which focused on Aceh's architectural identity, proved a major advantage in her role in the rebuilding program.

"In my thesis I explored the cultural history of Aceh to reveal the role it has played in shaping the contemporary history of Indonesia. I also examined the influence of political developments in post-independent Indonesia on the shaping of Aceh's cultural, urban and architectural identity," Izziah says. "Being an Acehnese was a great advantage as I knew the customs and it was relatively easy for me to communicate with both local people and the Government."

Izziah submitted her completed thesis in 2009 and will graduate from the University of Adelaide with a PhD in Architecture and Urban Design at a ceremony in Singapore this Saturday 20 March at the Ngee Ann Polytechnic Convention Centre.

 

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