Master of Urban Design now at RMIT
RMIT postgrad program fuses digital technologies and design

RMIT has announced a new postgraduate degree for the study of humanitarian design to build critical skills in design-led disaster recovery.

The new postgraduate course, Master of Disaster, Design and Development has been developed in partnership with the International Federation of the Red Cross and UN-Habitat, and aims to foster the next generation of humanitarian designers. The course will explore how design can be used as a strategic tool to help resolve complex global challenges including poverty, natural disasters and climate change.

The postgraduate degree was officially launched along with a new book on designing resilient housing by RMIT Vice-Chancellor and President, Martin Bean CBE, on Tuesday 6 October. 

Associate Professor Esther Charlesworth, Director of the Humanitarian Architecture Research Bureau (HARB) at RMIT, explains that an average of 27 million people around the world have lost their homes to natural disasters every year over the past decade. This has increased demand for architects, engineers and various design professionals to contribute to meaningful planning and rebuilding in post-disaster recovery initiatives.

Observing that emergency shelter and infrastructure solutions are usually prioritised in the aftermath of a disaster, she said the need to provide broad strategic support for the rebuilding of devastated cities and landscapes represented the bigger picture. Charlesworth added that humanitarian design was about redefining design problems and solutions by engaging communities directly and allowing them to participate meaningfully in the rebuilding of their homes, villages and lives.

Dan Lewis, Chief of the Urban Risk Reduction Unit for UN-Habitat, and a senior contributor to the development of the degree, will present the keynote at the official launch. According to Lewis, the Master of Disaster, Design and Development starts from the premise that post-disaster housing is nearly always doomed to failure unless community and social infrastructure is built around it. By engaging with local communities during the rebuilding phase, it is possible to enable new housing to also generate local employment by using local labour and supply systems.