Natural disasters are unpredictable, terrible events that can change people’s lives in less than a minute, like the 7.3 earthquake that shook Western Iran in November 2017. Sarpol Zahab, a small Kurdish city sited near historic petroglyphs from 2300 BCE suffered the greatest damage and adversity in this earthquake.
Although men and women can have difficulties adjusting to new and harsh living conditions, the wounds of such a catastrophe can be healed through time if people feel that their physical and psychological needs are acknowledged and fulfilled.
But in this case, those women who lost the man of their family endured a particularly severe mental and physical distress. In the entrenched patriarchal social structure, women are always taught to be identified with a man, and not to consider their own needs or desires as a priority. So the earthquake not only took their loved ones away, leaving them vulnerable and unprotected, but also affected their perception of their identity and place in society.
As an architect and a woman raised in the same culture, my main challenge was to design a space where the women of this community could heal from their trauma. Working on the project, interviewing and reading various resources related to the feminine journey through life, and thinking of architecture as an essential means of conveying feelings, I concluded that what these women need the most is to have a peaceful place of respite, where they can gather, talk to each other, and share their stories.
The project is a community centre where these women can do different cultural activities, with a small guest house attached to it as an income resource for those who do not have a job. The project’s main focus was to create a variety of healing spaces with different qualities where they can spend time together, reclaiming their identity and enjoying the region’s breathtaking natural phenomena, including the mountains, the river, and the shade of a beautiful old oak tree.