Ian Hazard, Construction Coordinator:

Ian Hazard is an Architect from Arup Associates who spent six months with us as a volunteer. Why not find out more about volunteer opportunities in Ladakh?.

Ian's Transcript:

"Since being a child I’ve loved to draw the world around me and from an early age I dreamt of being an architect. When I finally left university having fulfilled my ambition I realised that the skills I had learned with respect to architecture could be a very powerful tool, not only to share my wonder for the world with others, but also as a means to work very directly with people in a manner that my help them improve the conditions of their surroundings and the quality of their lives.

I joined Arup soon after graduating and found within the company a shared aspiration to shape a better world, not only in the forefront of design in the western developed context, but also in developing countries where our expertise can make a real difference and the Druk White Lotus School in Ladakh is one of several projects I have become involved in that seek to bring all that good design has to offer to people who have nothing to offer in return other than their gratitude.

Each year a member of the design team travels to Ladak to take up the post of resident architect or resident engineer with the purpose of ensuring what is designed and drawn in London gets built in Ladak.

Having been asked to be the resident architect for 2006, I arrived on site and soon realised the most significant hurdle of my job was not one of construction or design but that of working successfully between people of different cultures. Although the differences between places and people are sometimes barely perceptible, the differences in the way that actions and gestures are perceived by people of different cultures is very significant and working in Ladak I found that I needed to be extremely sensitive to the way that people lead their lives and to the things that are important to them in order to work effectively with them and sometimes it would be the most simple of problems that cause me the most headaches to solve; such as making sure the school had water on a day to day basis or that making sure light bulbs worked when they were switched on.

"the heart of the project is ... the children and not the buildings."

But of course at the heart of the project is the school and that being the children and not the buildings. To me it is the children that make the project worthwhile, providing for their education and for their future in life.

With that in mind from day 1 there is the understanding within the design team that this is not a 9 to 5 job. Often, being involved in the project requires working long hours and in unexpected circumstances and for me this is one of the job’s pleasures such as helping organise school activities, taking part in fund-raising events, such as climbing Stok Kangri, a 6,500 metre peak, was one of the most demanding experiences of my life but because of its purpose to raise money for the children, it was one of the most rewarding.

"I have very fond memories of the time I shared with the children and the staff at the school."

Obviously I have very fond memories of the time I shared with the children and the staff at the school which I am sure I’ll treasure for some time to come. However the moments that moved me the most and that filled me with such hope for the future were often born from something so simple as a wave from one person to another. Although quite often I would have very little in common with some of the people that I had met there is something very beautiful in a gesture so small as a wave. Maybe it’s a recognition that beneath all the differences that culture time and place would put between us we’re all just human and the world’s not such a big place."