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Women's village in Afghanistan. The project of a Polish woman awarded in an international competition

Dobrawa Bies
17 of December '20

How can we help Afghan women affected by the war? This is the question Katarzyna Skibińska from the Silesian University of Technology is trying to answer. Her sustainable women's village project received an honorable mention in the international competition "Resile - Resilience Center for the widows of Afghanistan" organized by the UNI competitions platform .

The relentless war in Afghanistan has led the country to be called a "nation of widows." The lives of Afghan widows, now estimated at nearly 70,000 in Kabul alone and nearly 1.5 million across Afghanistan, are in limbo. Under Taliban decree, they have no access to any formal education, job opportunities or even adequate health care, making it impossible for them to lead a dignified life.

Osada kobiet
w Afganistanie

The featured work is a design for a center for one hundred widowed women with their children

© Katarzyna Skibinska

Zanabad - a settlement in the hills

Since the 1990s, nearly 500 Afghan widows, who survived despite all odds and constant discrimination, have resided in an informal settlement located in the hills southeast of Kabul. The settlement came to be known as "Zanabad," which freely translated means city of women. Despite being ignored, even by the authorities, for years women in Zanabad mobilized to form a community. However, some assistance from the government and non-governmental organizations, has not brought a lasting solution that could improve the lot of the settlement's widows, in the broader context in Afghanistan. Some of the women continue to beg or engage in prostitution to support their families.

Zabudowa nawiązuje do
tradycyjnych afgańskich domów

The development is reminiscent of traditional Afghan homes

© Katarzyna Skibinska

For this reason, the UNI competitions platform organized a competition entitled. "Resile - Resilience Center for the widows of Afghanistan", the goal of which was to design a safe village providing a place for widowed women with children to live, work and receive education. It was to be an establishment that would be seen as a symbol of strength, solidarity and hope for women. The designed complex was to respond to the needs of the users, fit in with the environment and at the same time be an example of sustainable, environmentally friendly architecture, as well as enabling self-sufficiency for the residents.

women's village a chance for a new life

The international jury composed of: Kevin Alter (AlterStudio, USA), Carlos Quevedo Rojas (Carquero Arquitectura, Spain), Saeed Reza Boreiri (Kalout Art Studio, Iran), Amos Goldreich (Amos Goldreich Architecture, UK), Mohammad Mehdi Saeidi (Cedrus Studio, Iran) decided to award an honorable mention to a project from Poland by Katarzyna Skibinska. The concept of a sustainable women's village in Afghanistan was made at the Faculty of Architecture of the Silesian University of Technology under the direction of Tomasz Wagner.

Rzut wioski kobiet

The village is divided, among other things, into six residential quarters

© Katarzyna Skibińska

The project is an attempt to create a center for one hundred widowed women with their children. War widows, having lost their husbands, have lost their previous home and even their identity, while their children have been deprived of opportunities for development and education. Katarzyna Skibinska's concept was developed as a result of numerous studies of the literature on architecture, culture, economy and climatic and geographic conditions in Afghanistan. Based on her analysis, the architect created a functional program for the village, including: six quarters of multi-family residential buildings, a school with a kindergarten, a community activity center that provides jobs (handicrafts) and a library, a market hall and its associated agricultural fields, recreation areas (a central square in the residential district, a school playground and a playground, a patio at the community activity center and market hall, walking alleys). The residential districts offer three types of facilities ranging from apartments for single women to widows with eight children. The buildings follow the form of traditional Afghan houses, and each has an interior courtyard.

Rzut dzielnicy

The residential quarters offer three types of facilities ranging from apartments for single women to widows with eight children

© Katarzyna Skibińska

self-sufficiency and ecology

The author assumed that both the village's facilities and life itself should be as sustainable as possible. This is possible through the use of simple construction technologies, based on locally available, ecological materials - earth, clay, wood, bamboo, wicker. The architect also proposed eco-friendly solutions, such as photovoltaic panels, rainwater tanks, hydroponic cultivation, passive air conditioning and ventilation technology for buildings. These solutions are also designed to ensure women's self-sufficiency.

Plac zabaw dla dzieci

The township has numerous spaces for recreation

© Katarzyna Skibinska

As the author concludes:

This work is at the same time proof of the thesis that architecture can have a therapeutic effect in people's lives. In the designed village, women are given a lost home, a place to work and, together with their children, an opportunity to educate and discover their talents. All this takes place in a safe, friendly environment, where numerous recreational spaces have been designed for the residents.


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