12 December 2010

Last presentation in Phnom Penh

The last presentation of our second trip to Phnom Penh took place on Wednesday Dec 8th in a cultural center called Meta House. This open presentation was aimed for local architects, NGO-workers and others interested in our project. A delightful amount of people showed up for the presentation that was held in an outdoor auditorium and consisted of a presentation of the project combined with some information about bamboo.

The occasion turned out to be very fruitful. The audience became inspired enough to ask numerous questions and give us several useful comments. That is exactly what we were looking for, so thank you Meta House and thank you everyone who attended and contributed in our project.

08 December 2010

Presentation at Limkokwing University

On Monday, on Finland's independence day, KOMITU and CVS gave a lecture together at Limkokwing University to local students of architecture. Our presentation was a part of a lecture series called A Right to the City organized by Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT). Earlier in the lecture series the students had had the opportunity to for example visit relocation sites and hear a lecture from a Thai architect Patama Roonrakwit. Due to our lecture, KOMITU was again mentioned in Lumhor magazine.

The goal of our presentation was to encourage the local students to consider socially sustainable and participatory architecture as a possibility for their future and to appreciate local materials such as bamboo. It seems that we achieved this goal; the students were enthusiastic about the possibilites of bamboo and also were very interested in our youth center design.

Our lecture consisted of three parts. First Mr Som Monorum gave a presentation about CVS and what the organization does. Then Elina presented the youth center design and the design process and lastly Maiju gave a lecture about bamboo as a building material and its use in modern architecture through examples. Both the youth center design and an info package about the bamboo presentation can be found on the right side of this blog.

05 December 2010

Yesterday we held a workshop for the local youth in Kork Kleang. It was very fruitful and interesting. Mr Som Monorum from CVS did a great job translating our presentations and the opinions of the youth from english to khmer and back. We started at 8:30 am after getting lost on the way and some technical challenges and finished around 12:00 pm with Elina and Mr Pen Somony from CVS giving the youngsters a certificate of participation that had an image of the facade printed on it.

The workshop was planned to be in two parts. First Maiju held a general presentation about modern bamboo architecture with plenty of pictures of interesting buildings. Then we gave the youngsters papers asking their opinion with pictures of the buildings, different roof types, local buildings and colors. The papers were mostly filled out in khmer and are now with CVS so that they can translate them.

After a snack of local fruit and finnish candy Elina presented the design process and our current design using mostly the scale model. Then the youth divided in three groups and were given the task to design their own plan of the youth center with cut out rooms from our plan. They were also asked to write five good things and five things that should be changed in our design. They had a big paper and free hands so the results were diverse and informative. Two groups wished for a big garden which just couldn't fit into our current plot of land - unfortunately. There was a lot of discussion about the roof shape and they told us that in Khmer culture a building is considered more beautiful if the roof shows to the street.

Many other things will also be changed with the design after hearing all these great comments and opinions. After the workshop we all had a delicious lunch together in a local home.

We had a great time and are very greatful for all the wonderful people who attended our workshop! Thank you Mr Son Chumchuon and Kork Kleang youth!

03 December 2010

Busy days in Phnom Penh

Even though we promised to update this blog daily, this is our first update from here. Hopefully we will have some more time the following days. Everything has gone extremely well. We have had very fruitful meetings with CVS on bothdays where we have gone through the design, talked about the site and talked about the future of the project which looks bright. The process of confirming a site here in Phnom Penh takes approximately 6 months so our schedule of building the youth center in December 2011 sounds reasonable. The scale model was an important tool in talking about the design.

Yesterday we also met with Nora Lindström from STT who has been a vital help to us with her amazing social network and endless knowledge about Phnom Penh social situation. Today we met architect Sara Hultén who has been working here for a long time. She also gave us some extremely useful contacts of engineers and contractors who we are going to meet next week. We also went to see Meta House - the venue of our next weeks presentation that has been advertised in lumhor.com, Meta House newsletter and STT:s contact network. Meta House seemed like a perfect place for our presentation and we're looking forward to it a lot.

Tomorrow we will have the workshop with the future users of the youth center so we have used all our spare time putting together materials for it and putting some finishing touches on the model. Tomorrow morning at 8am we will start the workshop in Kork Kleang community where we had the workshops also last spring.

Cambodia is as beautiful and intresting as ever and tomorrow after the workshop we will have more to tell!

01 December 2010

Komitu has landed in Phnom Penh!

Three Komitu members, Elina, Maiju and Tuuli have happily reached Phnom Penh. After some delays on the way we made it and will begin a busy week working with CVS to take the design forward. We are really excited and will be posting news on what is happening along the week!

Also see Komitu featured on Lumhor Magazine!

29 November 2010

Welcome to our presentations in Phnom Penh!

Back to Cambodia

The time has come for KOMITU to go back to Cambodia. Three KOMITU-members; Elina, Maiju and Tuuli will fly to Phnom Penh tomorrow for a little more than a week to work closely together with CVS, to have workshops with the future users of the youth center, confirm a building site, present the project for local students, professionals and NGOs and research building materials and technologies.

We will be updating this blog daily during our trip. Enjoy!

28 October 2010

Another grant awarded to KOMITU

KOMITU team is happy to announce that another grant was awarded for the youth center project! The Alfred Kordelin Foundation has decided to support "--the design and building process of a youth center of functionally and architecturally high-quality for CVS organization in Phnom Penh Cambodia."

Thank you Alfred Kordelin Foundation!

KOMITU receives its first grant

KOMITU was awarded with a grant from Viljo Revell fund by The Finnish Association of Architects. The grant was directed to travelling expenses to Phnom Penh. Three members of the KOMITU team will travel back to Cambodia in December to continue the design process in close collaboration with CVS and the Cambodian youth.

Thank you Revell fund and SAFA!

02 October 2010

Unicef Innovation Unit

Last thursday 30.9.2010 Inari Virkkala from KOMITU attended a lecture by the manager of the UNICEF innovation Christopher Fabian organised by voluntary group Aalto Social Impact. As Unicef is a huge organisation it was very lightening to hear how you can work fast, effectively and in a innovative way within "the world's largest purchaser of pencils".

Here are some highlights of the lecture

  • Unicef has a concept of "School in the box" a travelling school for 40 children that fits into a suitcase to carry with as airplain luggage. They try to get the schools up and running on emergency areas within two weeks after a disaster - eg. earthquake, flooding or a tornado - has striken for four main reasons: to give people hope, to slowly start getting back to normal life routines, have a safe place for children to be during days to give their parents more time and to have a place for meetings and gatherings.

  • Their rapid SMS system has helped to be able to provide emergency food to the right locations. In an emergency situation they might have enough food in the country but no knowledge on where the hunger is worst and how to transport the supplies.

  • Concept of "Failure Fridays". Every friday the innovation unit (8 people in NY, 3 people in Uganda) sit down for a coffee break to discuss previous failures and ideas that did not work in the end. This helps them to deliberate used tactics and learn from the mistakes made.
More info on the Unicef Innovation can be found on


13 September 2010

Painting a bamboo forest to a fence of a construction site

Jay!! Komitu's first realized project!
When there is no snow in Helsinki, there are construction sites everywhere. Wherever you go you will run into these dusty, grey, noisy sites and the untidy, depressing fences around them. Therefore we were excited when we heard about Multicoloured Dreams.

"Multicoloured Dreams is a voice for developing creative visual culture in public space, but not illegally and by damaging property", it says on their website. The idea is to give anyone, who is willing, an opportunity to design and realize a legal street art piece to a construction site wall.

Our painting brought a slice of bamboo forest into the centre of Helsinki. It added some color and sunshine to the cityscape and it also worked as a prototype for the painted facade of the youth centre. There will be one facade in the youth center which the youth can paint themselves and it can be an evolving process. With the Multicolored Dreams project we were able to practice the participatory painting process by involving the people passing by. All the feedback we got was great and surely we managed to bring some smiles to the streets of Helsinki - at least our own ones. ;)

Many thanks for all of you who participated!
See all the paintings and more info about Multicoloured Dreams here http://mcdreams.wordpress.com/

03 September 2010

Carin Smuts workshop at Habitare fair

I will write this post in English, as all my notes from the workshop are in English and I do believe these methods will be very useful for us with the KOMITU project in Cambodia.

On thursday 2.9.2010 two KOMITU members, Inari and Maiju, had a very exclusive opportunity to attend a workshop on participative design methods run by architect Carin Smuts from South-Africa. Among with only two other participants we had a fruitful two-hour discussion with Caren. Below are some methods she has used in her work with different communities.

First of all, how to get the people to participate? You will need to set up
A community meeting/gathering/workshop
where you will invite the people from the community/ future user group.
You are advised to use creativity in the forms of getting the people to come, you can for example drive around with a megaphone. It's also a good idea to offer the people something fun at first; theater, bands, football, games, circus etc. Other ways of gathering information from the people include e.g. household interviews which are very practical especially if the people are illiterate.

When you have gathered a group of people, how to run a workshop successfully?

Most of the time you will be working with people who come from a completely different culture from your own. It is important to try to learn as much as possible about the culture you're working in. This way you will also know e.g. how to dress correctly, and communication will go smoother. If you need to use an interpreter do so but keep in mind that the message you're getting might be different from the original one. It is always usefull to learn at least a little bit of the language of the the people you're working with.

Work towards an attitude of equality, you are neither superior nor inferior to the people you're working with.

STAGE 1 - Getting started

1. Get everybody to introduce themeselves, who they are, what they do, and also to name an animal that they see themselves to be (usually this animal really represents the person quite correctly).

2.Ask the attending people why are they there. This way you''ll find out who is already committed to the project and who you especially have to work with.

3. Setting the right mood for interaction. The people you are working with might be living in very hard reality so it is a good idea to first do something to lift the spirits of the group up. You can for example show the people beautiful and interesting pictures of something inspiring and somehow linked to the theme. This stage will prepare them to give the situation a chance.

4. Games will help in the beginning to set the mood and break the ice. Carin introduced a ´please, climb through this piece of paper ´excercise where you literally ask the people to climb through a 1/2 of an A4 sheet. Sounds impossible at first, just as the project you're trying to realize, but can be done (with some tricks you need to learn) and shows that nothing really is impossible!

5. Before the actual tasks of the workshop you should set up working groups. If people have clearly formed groups that might be opposing each other, get them to form a row of birthdays without talking. Then divide the row by 5 or 6 and you'll get mixed working groups. Groups of seven are already too big for working.

STAGE 2 - Then comes the part where you actually gather information from the community.

6. Identify the project.

7. Helicopter excercise. Ask people to draw a bird's eye view of what the site will look like in 10 years. "If you would fly above the site on a helicopter, how would it look like?"

8. Draw networks. Ask people to draw all the people, organisations, municipalities etc. related to the project. Good relationships with a straight line and complicated ones with a curvy one.

9. Draw resources. Ask people to draw all the resources that could benefit the project.

Now go trough the drawings with the people, try to get different group memebers to explain so it's not only one person talking all the time. Fill in the information the people tell you "Can you write/draw this too or Can I fill it in for you?"

STAGE 3 Then with the information the community has given you

10.Make a strategic plan. What will happen time-wise in 6 months? What has been accomplished in a year? Make a time-plan.

11. Make a real business plan of the project.

General goals to keep in mind:

Empowerment. Make your customers so strong that they can really have a dialogue with you and the funders, and later on take care of their own building.

How are the gender roles in the current society and culture? What kind of events are ok for both sexes to attend? For example a lecture or film about bambu could be enough neutral.

Time-management. If a meeting is supposed to start at 18, start sharply and close the doors after you start.

Drawing. In societies where people are often illeterate, they can always draw. If you don't have paper, draw to the sand. You can't lie in pictures and drawings. Ask for example the children to draw their dreams and you'll get to see and understand the related emotions. Drawing big is also a means of empowering. Draw so big that everyone in the meeting can follow your presentation.

What do the stakeholders really need and want in their community? Listen to the cleaner and the cook, they might know a buildings functions better than the official spokesperson. Funders can also be bullies. Security and cleaning are often fundamental in the success of a project.

Secure the land. According to internetional law you should either have a lease or an "entitled deed(?)" Never, ever build anything if the land is not secured!

Total accountability. Always if you pay someone a salary, get then to sign that they have recieved it. Keep alist of everybody involved, also for the funder to see. Have a community liaison officer that you pay a regular salary. He/she can save you a lot of time by finding the right people, workers, materials, officials etc.

Nabeel Hamdie
(Oxford Brookes University) has written a good book about participatory excercises.

26 August 2010

Kesällä 2010 perustetun KOMITU työryhmän, Noora Aaltonen, Sisko Hovila, Tuuli Kassi, Maiju Suomi, Elina Tenho ja Inari Virkkala tavoitteena on nuorisokeskuksen toteuttaminen Phnom Penhiin, Kambodzaan CVS (Cambodian Volunteers for Society) järjestölle.

Cambodian Volunteers for Society järjestön tavoitteena on tarjota paikallisille nuorille mahdollisuuksia opiskella ja kouluttautua ja täten toimia tulevaisuudessa Kambodzan yhteiskunnan hyväksi.

Tietoa aiemmasta projektistamme Kambodzassa löytyy sivulta http://www.urbanmurmur.blogspot.com/ sekä täältä voit lukea yhdyskuntasuunnittelun City in Crisis-kurssilla tekemäämme Cambodia2009-kirjaa.