Creation from Catastrophe

How Architecture Rebuilds Communities

Creation From Catastrophe

The Exhibition

"A disaster zone where everything is lost offers the perfect opportunity for us to take a fresh look, from the ground up, at what architecture really is." Toyo Ito

The destruction of cities, whether man-made or natural, can present unique opportunities to radically rethink townscapes. Creation from Catastrophe: How architecture rebuilds communities explores the varying ways that cities and communities have been re-imagined in the aftermath of natural disasters. From masterplans to reconfigure London after the Great Fire of 1666 to contemporary responses to earthquakes and tsunamis, the exhibition considers the evolving relationship between man, architecture and nature and asks whether we are now facing a paradigm shift in how we live and build in the 21st century.

Take a journey from London in 1666, through to 18th century Lisbon, 19th century Chicago, 20th century Skopje, and ending in current day Nepal, Nigeria, Japan, Chile, Pakistan and USA. Illustrated by historical and contemporary with work by, among others, Yasmeen Lari, ELEMENTAL, OMA, Shigeru Ban, NLÉ, Toyo Ito, Metabolism (Kenzo Tange and Kurokawa Kisho) and Sir Christopher Wren.

Free Entry

27 January 2016 to 24 April 2016


Easter weekend (Good Friday, Saturday,
Easter Sunday and Easter Monday)

10am to 5pm


Monday - Sunday 10am to 5pm

Tuesdays 10am to 8pm


The Architecture Gallery,

RIBA, 66 Portland Place,

London, W1B 1AD


Join the conversation


Sponsored by

Ruskin Air Management

With additional support from

the Japan Foundation

and the Embassy of the

Kingdom of the Netherlands

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Highlights - Talks & Events

Highlights - Talks & Events

International Dialogues: Yasmeen Lari

Tuesday 29 March, 7pm

In conversation with BBC correspondent Razia Iqbal, Yasmeen Lari highlights the importance of vernacular architecture in rebuilding communities.

Reinier de Graaf, Richard Coutts and Amy Chester

Tuesday 12 April, 7pm

What are the challenges that architects face in the built environment with relation to flooding? Join us for a discussion, chaired by Ricky Burdett, on this very question.

International Dialogues – Kunlé Adeyemi

Tuesday 19 April, 7pm

Architect, urbanist and designer Kunlé Adeyemi presents a global approach to living and building with water.

Easter Holiday Workshops

29 March to 7 April, 11am to 4pm

Inspired by the 'Creation from Catastrophe' exhibition, join us for an exciting selection of workshops – there's something for all ages!

Architectural Responses

  1. London after the Great Fire

    The Great Fire of London started just after midnight at a bakery on Pudding Lane on Sunday 2 September, lasting four days. Five sixths of the medieval part of the city of London was destroyed, including 13,000 houses and 84 churches. King Charles II invited architects, surveyors and engineers to present alternative plans. Visitors can explore the differing ideas for rebuilding the city through original drawings for some of these plans in the exhibition.

  2. Great Lisbon Earthquake

    The Great Lisbon Earthquake caused subsequent fires and a tsunami; a combination which almost entirely destroyed Lisbon and surrounding areas. Four options were considered for rebuilding the city - a ‘clean slate’ approach was opted for. The medieval street pattern was replaced by large squares, avenues and a grid pattern. A model of the pioneering wooden Pomboline building frame, among the earliest seismically protected constructions in Europe, is featured in the exhibition.

  3. Chicago after the Great Fire

    The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was one of the largest US disasters of the nineteenth century and destroyed nine square kilometres of the city centre, including much of the city’s central business district. Discover the new high-rise buildings which arose after the fire, through original photographs from the 1880s and 1890s from the RIBA Collections on display in the exhibition. Learn how Chicago was the perfect melting pot of architectural talent, capitalism, new technology and a city centre in need of a rebuild.

  4. Metabolism

    Metabolism was Japan’s most influential architectural movement, which emerged in the aftermath of WWII. The group’s founding members were teenagers in 1945, their work imagines cities as living, moving and evolving entities. Proposals for Hiroshima, Tokyo and Ise Bay in Japan as well as Skopje, Macedonia all feature in the exhibition.

  5. Earthquake and Tsunami, Chile

    A major earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit this coastal city in 2010. In the exhibition, discover how Alejandro Aravena, 2016 Pritzker Prize winner, and his architectural practice ELEMENTAL worked with the citizens and local government in a community-based approach that worked with nature rather than against it.

  6. Pakistan Floods

    In 2010, one fifth of Pakistan was submerged by floods which affected approximately 20 million people, mostly due to loss of property property and infrastructure. Architect Yasmeen Lari developed a unique approach to providing facilities in areas of natural disaster. Lari worked with architecture students to train local residents to build their own bamboo homes, that were significantly more resilient to natural disasters and which didn’t rely on outside building supplies.

  7. 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami

    The Tohoku earthquake in 2011 was the world’s fourth most powerful earthquake since records began. The resulting tsunami caused the release of radioactive materials, leading to the evacuation of 100,000 people from their homes. The exhibition highlights the Homes-for-All initiative set up by five Japanese architects: Toyo Ito, Riken Yamamoto, Hiroshi Naito, Kengo Kuma and Kazuyo Sejima.

  8. Nigeria Flooding

    The 2012 flooding affected 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states. This large scale extent and storm surges was due to erosion, deforestation and subsidence in the areas hit. The exhibition features Makoko Floating School and Chicoco Radio, two different ecological buildings by architecture practice NLÈ, which can accommodate varying sea levels and waterfront settlements.

  9. Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey, USA

    In 2012, Hurricane Sandy resulted in eighty percent of Hoboken, New Jersey being submerged underwater. A competition was launched to ‘Rebuild by Design’, which was won by Dutch architectural practice OMA. Discover their plans in the exhibition, which includes a greenbelt of parkland to soak up excess water and the transformation of parks into water-containment basins.

    New Jersey
  10. Nepal Earthquake

    In the response to the 2015 earthquake, architect Shigeru Ban and his humanitarian relief organisation Voluntary Architects’ Network (VAN) provided housing for local residents. The exhibition includes a model which showcases the type of structure which could be built using cardboard tubes and rubble from building debris.