My purposes in Ulaanbaatar (2007-2008) were mainly to train architectural teachers, to teach students, to encourage the use of English, and to support the development of the Mongolian association of architects. My experience of professional development in Mongolia was very slow and incremental compared to my experience elsewhere.
I was often approached to work with community and activist groups in Ulaanbaatar,
and the college’s entrepreneurial approach created interesting architectural projects, despite needing to work within difficult constraints. Two ‘live’ studio projects – for Eco-Houses and a Childrens Camp – presented opportunities to study architectural processes of site analysis and brief development.
Over the year I was there, I believe the teachers enhanced their understanding about accessible and energy-efficient construction, about principles of project management, like time management and team planning, about site analysis and project planning, about organising client meetings and briefings, and about researching and writing architectural programme briefs for projects.
It will be a real challenge for these teachers - and for the association of architects in Mongolia - to continue to develop these processes.
In two live projects – ‘Sanzai Eco-houses’ and ‘Yarmag Children’s Camp’- newly trained
architects (like Mr, Lhkagvaa and Mr. Gursed) and architecture students aimed to incorporate participatory practice in their design projects, consulting with clients, and exploring options for site analysis.
Questions raised in an outside analysis of these processes by students at Sheffield University
included, for example;
How is traditional architecture valued by clients and designers of such projects, in the development of these peri-urban areas?
Can traditional Mongolian Gers still be considered an effective option for rapid-deployment, sustainable, informal settlement?
These researches are now being pursued locally by Purev-Erdene Ershuu at MUST and by Michael Fuerst, with the technical support of the international agency GTZ.
There are many lessons to be learned from the issues of peri-urban settlement in Mongolia, and further suggestions could be made on which issues could be further explored in future work on architecture in development being undertaken in Mongolia.