Communities across the Bay of Bengal have experienced some of the deadliest weather disasters recorded in human history. Situated on the eastern side of India, bordering the southern coastal plains of Bangladesh, the unique funnel shape of the Bay of Bengal and the flat, low-lying land areas that borders it, magnifies not only the storm surge, but also moves far inland, impacting approximately 40 million people every year along the 710 km-wide coastal plain of Bangladesh.

The Bhola cyclone in 1971 is one of the deadliest ever recorded in Bangladesh’s history resulting in severe damages and over 300,000 deaths. Followed by the 1991 cyclone Gorky that killed an estimated 140,000 people. In the last 5 decades Bangladesh has built more than 14,000 cyclone shelters, which have the capacity to accommodate 2.4 million people. As a result, over the years, the number of fatalities has reduced by 75%. The Government of Bangladesh estimates that over 7,000 new multipurpose shelters will be needed by 2025 to improve disaster resilience across a total of 19 coastal districts.

Locally known as cyclone shelters, these multipurpose disaster shelters serve dual purposes. Built on high stilts, these buildings primarily serve as refuge to thousands of people at the advent of deadly cyclonic storms and consequent flooding. Ramps ensure universal access including protection to live stocks. The cyclone affected communities seek shelter until the storm water subsides and they are ready to return home. All year round these shelters are given secondary usage as schools, community centers and mosques. Poor design, lack of attention to details and above all the disconnect between planning and use call for better understanding of the communities needs and priorities during crisis to rethink the structures for better performance.


The studio will focus on the typology of multipurpose disaster shelters in Bangladesh. Investigation and analysis of the existing cyclone shelters and their use will provide understanding of the typology and its multiple uses. The studio will formulate programs that responds to the requirements of the communities in pre and post disaster situations. The studio will also focus on the structural requirements of cyclone shelters that can withstand 200 mph wind and 20 feet storm surge as required by the Government of Bangladesh. The studio will look into multiple use of the typology keeping in mind the sea-level rise in the coastal areas of Bangladesh that is threatening livelihood, food and water security of the region.


The project will focus on the coastal areas of Cox’s Bazar district in the Chittagong division of Bangladesh. The studio will visit some of the existing cyclone shelters in various locations along the coastal areas and will interact with the local communities. The design process will take into account community engagement in order to have in depth understanding of the challenges encountered by the communities during the cyclonic storms and the aftermath of rebuilding.


Being hybrid in nature, the multifunctional disaster shelters have immense possibilities as a typology that has not been explored in its entirety. The prototypical design of the existing structures do not take into account experiences, needs and aspirations of the communities affected by the cyclones in the coastal regions. Through research of the existing structures, the studio will reevaluate the typology and will have the freedom to rethink and propose the next generation shelters by exploring material, structural design and functionality by engaging with the communities and listening to their experiences and needs.

The scale and extent of the program will remain flexible for each group in the studio based on their research and site visit.


Prior to site visit the studio will work in groups to gain knowledge on geographical, climatic, cultural, socio-economic structure of the communities and the impact of climate crisis in the site location. The studio will try to formulate program based on the existing multipurpose disaster shelters and research on the various functional typologies that are in use. The studio will also study the impact of wind and

storm surge on structures, locally available materials, passive means of climate control for the structures to perform without technological means.

Site Visit:

The students will visit various locations in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh. Workshop with local community will be arranged for the studio to engage in dialogue in order to understand the impacts of cyclonic storms and measures for disaster response that are practiced locally. The studio will also visit the Rohingya Refugee Camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar. The one million Rohingya refugees in Ukhiya do not have access to disaster shelters and are vulnerable to all forms of climate extremes. The studio will also look into the potential of designing multifunctional disaster shelters for the refugees.

Studio intent:

The impact of rising temperature is causing intense extreme weather all around the world. For Bangladesh, climatic challenges are not unknown as the country faces cyclonic storms and flooding every year. In addition to the resilience against extreme climate catastrophes, there are lessons the world can learn from this disaster-prone region. The multifunctional disaster shelters have reduced the number of deaths but these relatively new form of buildings have immense design possibilities that need to be explored and appropriated according to the context, community and culture. At the end of the semester, a student will have exposure to the extremities of climate induced crises and architecture’s response to combat the crisis through research and process driven methodology.

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