Post A: The Importance of Contextual Design: The Aceh Tsunami Museum

According to David (2014) context allows designers to predict the needs of the audience before those needs are needed. It identifies the settings and circumstances and designs arise from the need to solve a problem in these certain circumstances (Farris: 2014). These contexts vary widely from bespoke; local responses, to further reaching; global solutions. Contexts provide frameworks for designs to be viewed within, they show relevance, and direct the intentions of designs and designers. Contexts, particularly local contexts help to narrow the focus of designs, and clarify issues for designers. A design which is logical and useful in one place, could be so out of place in another that its use be completely unrecognisable.

The Aceh Tsunami museum in Banda Aceh
The Interior of The Aceh Tsunami museum in Banda Aceh

For example, The Aceh Tsunami Museum in Banda Aceh stands out as a valuable piece of design in both a global and local context. Lauded for its ambitious design and successful implementation (Williamson: 2009), the museum serves as a reminder of the devastating tsunami which hit Indonesia on Boxing Day in 2004 which claimed the lives of roughly 230 000 people, two thirds of which resided in the Aceh province (World Architecture News: 2009). In a global context such a museum is considered a great success; aesthetically, the museum holds great value but locally the museum holds far greater importance. As both a place of reflection and healing the Aceh Tsunami Museum holds one very practical use on apparent in a local context: inspired by local housing which has proven particularly resistant to flooding, the museum can also function as a emergency shelter should locals ever need to find higher ground during future natural disasters. Indonesian architect, Ridwan Kamil has framed his design not to remember the Tsunami in a wasteful manner, but as a gentle reminder of the force of natural disasters and with a sensibility and practicality to acknowledge the likelihood of another such event.

Design is and always will be inherently responsive. It responds to its surroundings, and the needs and desires of those in the areas directly around them. Designers create solutions for problems and context provides  a frameworks for them to work within. Without context designers are working in a vacuum with no problems to respond to and nothing to inspire work. As shown by the Aceh Tsunami Museum a design can show value in a global context and then a more specific value in a local context.

David, B. 2014. Context Design: How to Anticipate Users’ Needs Before They’re Needed. The Next Web. Viewed 25 April 2015 <>

Farris, J. 2014. What is Context? New Product Development. Viewed 27 April 2015 <>

Williamson, L. 2009. Tsunami Museum Opens in Indonesia. BBC News. Viewed 26 April 2015 <>

World Architecture News. 2009. Reflection in the Water. Viewed 27 April 2015 <>


 Investasi Daerah 2015. The Aceh Tsunami Museum.Viewed: 25 April 2015 <;

Vimeo 2014, Aceh Tsunami Museum, videorecording, Vimeo, viewed 21 April 2015.

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