Our project is trying to creatively and progressively solve the problems of the slums, basing its solution on social assistance and the education of the inhabitants. The first part of our intervention starts at a small, human scale and tries to respond to the most urgent issue of a slum – housing – through architectural means.
Our intervention takes place in Dharavi, India. As the main occupation of the people in the area is plastic recycling, we decided to use this material to improve their livelihood: we aim to create housing made entirely out of plastic. The system used for the making of the construction materials is cold-pressing of plastic, so as to avoid the release of toxic substances; the procedure will be done with the help of a solar- powered press and for this purpose solar panels will be built.
The pieces built by means of this system will be 3, 5 meter long and 50cm high beams which will form the construction module of the houses. The joint system will be a traditional Romanian system known as the dovetail joint. These beams will be stacked one on top of the other in order to create self-sustaining walls. This method will create a series of modular chambers that will eliminate the necessity of columns. In this way, we will have a quick, simple and ecological means to build a large number of houses. Due to its simplicity, this solution will also give the people living in the slums jobs opportunities as they can build the houses themselves. The production of plastic beams need not only be exclusively done within the slums. It is our hope that people outside this area will start buying the products made by the inhabitants of the slum.
As a slum is a complex issue on a large scale, a simple proposal based on a housing type is not sufficient. Therefore, an intervention on an extensive scale is also necessary, thus bringing up for discussion the problem of a solution on an urban scale as well. One of the biggest problems of this slum is the lack of infrastructure. This shortcoming prevents any kind of coherent construction plans as well as hindering the access for the intervention of emergency units such as ambulances or fire trucks. In response to this, we propose the tracing of a street network. Firstly, we will draw a map of the existing roads and streets of the slums; then, we will overlap our proposal of the new street network for both vehicles and pedestrians. By means of this intervention, the houses that overlap in relation to our newly-created network will disappear and will be replaced with the new modular houses will be built overhead, on pressed plastic pillars with a steel core, on top of the remaining houses. Firstly, the new houses will be built and afterwards the demolition of the old houses and the construction of the new street network can occur. In doing so, the inhabitants will not lose their homes and will not have to be relocated far. In accordance with the new street network there will be new allotments for the new houses and the people will receive ownership titles. Another issue that we want to tackle is the water supply and sewage system. We want to ensure that every house will have a sewage and clean water supply.
Perhaps the most important aspect of our urban intervention is the introduction of easily accessible social centers where people can gather and interact. We plan to do this by building day centers in these locations. This is an important step because here is where the education of the people’s mindset will occur. Here is where the inhabitants will be able to learn how to rework the recycled plastic for the production of the pressed plastic beams. We believe that in time the people will learn how to manipulate recycled plastic in different ways and will naturally start do diversify their production line. In parallel with the facilities dedicated to the plastic production, these places will also have daycare centers so that the children can be close to their parents but in a safe environment. Also, the fact that these centers are situated in close vicinity to the working facilities will enable the children to learn from an early age on how to use plastic, through safe and controlled visits. Social assistance centers will be present in the area to provide help for the locals by distributing food, medical supplies and clothing.
These centers are a means of education, not only for the slum inhabitants, through the implementation of an infrastructure, the creation of workplaces and sanitization; they are also meant to change the perception of the people living outside the slums in the hope of the social inclusion of this community.
What is our slum?
Our studied slum is called Craica and is situated near the city of Baia Mare in Romania. It had appeared like any other slum, after the people lost their jobs and could no longer afford the city life, not even in the cheapest social apartments given by the government. They slowly faded into extreme poverty and left their rented places taking into their own hands a piece of land situated in the outskirts of the city and built with their own means temporary housing which slowly turned into a permanent solution for most of them, along with the growth of marginalization and social exclusion.
This feeling of insecurity and living from day to day have led to changes in the way the individual relates to the habitat: he does not seek to improve his condition and he does not appropriate the land surrounding the house to benefit from its qualities. Also, in the larger perspective, the space has slowly become insanitary because of the lack of involvement and turned into a slum.
The objectives of an upgrade in this kind of situation must aim to integrate the slum in the city by implementing a viable urban infrastructure, improving the living conditions and the socio-professional integration chances. But what is most important is fighting the marginalization and social exclusion, and improving the relations between the members of the community and the rest of the inhabitants of the city. These objectives can be partly achieved by increasing the attractiveness of the area.
Our proposal tries to rise an innovative response regarding the site specifics, from creating an enhanced action potential community to attracting the public to this new development through the means of good design.
To reach the slum community from within the city you must now pass four barriers consisting in a long row of car sheds, an abandoned industrial railway, a polluted river and a huge pile of garbage – which along with the waste dump nearby are the only source of income for the slums’ inhabitants.
Thus, our first method of involvement refers to the bigger picture and implies the integration of this territory within the city’s urban tissue by solving the accessibility issue and creating open communication through street network between the two entities, sanitizing the riverbed and creating large green areas with playgrounds, promenades and open craft workshops, that turn the previously mentioned barriers into open communication routes. Also, the need for social centers and educational facilities is fulfilled by the reconversion of old wagons into a convertible mobile center on the currently abandoned railway. This center accommodates commercial functions by day and turns into an entertainment center by night. Thus, we create an important public center, which attracts people both from the community and also from the rest of the city, supporting social interchanges.
Another main focus is located on the issue of housing and sustainability. Considering that the development should be both economic and sustainable, we propose for the houses to be constructed using local materials. The walls are comprised of detachable modules that can easily grow or restrain and could even be relocated in case of need, all supported by a wooden structure. Because of the lack of resources, the proposed method of rebuilding is through recycling useful things from the former waste dump, such as textiles or plastics or salvaged publicity banners. The textiles can be cleaned, torn into pieces and placed into gabions (wire or twig baskets 40x60x100cm) or into plastic boxes to act as thermal insulation. The constructions can be further wrapped up in banners that serve as protection from rain, wind or sun while simultaneously achieving a unique expression of the facades through the technique of collage.
Also, as another mean of recycling the existing garbage, the constructions can follow the principles of the hypocaust houses. This means constructing a buried chamber which can accommodate up to several tones of compost and which drives the heat resulting from its decomposition through pipes leading to the nearest houses. The houses have double flooring distanced at half a meter where the hot air is stored and sent further through pipes embedded inside the walls, which communicate with a wind pipe on the upper part of the construction for the air to continuously circulate.
To cultivate and create a stronger community we propose a series of activities to be held in common within groups of people living in cohousing or in vicinity housings, such as cooking in common kitchens, dining together, common laundry facilities and daycare centers for the children, interlaced gardens and recreational spaces.
Considering this is a long-term investment and taking into account the unpredictable financial variables and the evolution of the population over time, we organized the execution of the project in a number of phases:
Step 0: Tracing streets and the parcels where the residences will emerge. The existing houses remain where they are, so that there are no people who become homeless for the duration of the intervention.
Step 1: Building the first stage of houses, ground-only. At the same time, the public services in the space between the social complex [where the dwellers of the slum originate] in the north, the river and the railway are also being constructed, while gradually relocating the existing population in the new homes, as they are being built. In addition to that, each house is designed together with its future inhabitants in a participatory manner, in order to obtain the right spaces for each family.
Step 2-5: Once the public center and the homes for the existing population are in place, the stage is set for the densification of the area. Looking at the land as a limited resource, the houses are rising on wooden pillars above the ground, on top of the buildings from the previous step. These phases will be executed depending on the growth of the population in each of the parcels, in ascending order. Once enough buildings corresponding to step 2 are completed, the project moves on to step 3 and so on.
We aim through this proposition to restore the dignity of the slums’ inhabitants and create a social structure that can take common decisions, be autonomous and also attractive for its community and for the rest of the city.
At present. Far from the city centre, a large plain in the south of the country. The largest manmade lake in the city and a peninsula connected through a narrow strip of land. Various social, civic and cultural actions take place here – volunteers planting trees, music concerts. A recreation area suitable for scooter and sailing boats competitions and air shows as well as windsurfing courses and different kinds of water sports that are practiced during the summer months.
An undefined place where the wind is left to roam free in a space with no obstacles, trees or high buildings. An already-created geography. A rupture in the urban tissue.
In the future. Flowing shapes. Matrices created by the movement of the air and its interaction with volume. Wind and matter are brought together to engender ever-new shapes. The sails direct the wind towards the turbines. Evolutive houses. Networks of green energy. The memory of wind is encapsulated in each structure. Organic profiles. An architecture of elements.
It is the complex dialogue between scales, speed, types of forces that produce an amazing new configuration meant to create energy and trigger change. Changes that can be seen in people’s eyes and thoughts, in their chance to lead a better life, in their hope for a proper house, decent development and the right to belong to a community. A community which is both open and structured, able to provide for itself and even act as a role-model for others in the same situation.
Invent ways in which wind may be transformed into a flowing form of energy without losing its connection to the other elements. Reinterpret the kinetic energy of the air in motion. Aerodynamic shapes for an architecture for the future. Breathe new life into the isolated and unwanted areas at the margins of the cities helping them reintegrate and grow into independent and original spaces peopled with bold shapes and humans.
These rejected areas bear a valuable resource – spaces where the wind shows itself as creative and unrestricted, able to give birth to clean energy and wonderful outlines. This is the place where everything can be redesigned, reinvented, rethought without harming nature but sharing its primordial beauty and making it a better place for people to live in.
New potential cities lie ahead of us – we just have to find the way to gradually build safe, clean and prosperous areas with houses and systems that make good use of wind power. Tame the wind, mould it, discover its beauty and turn it into structures generating energy for life and for the community. A community proud of its neighbourhood, status, autonomy and ability to help the others and foster exchange. A new landscape. An invisible city springing out. The power to develop new mentalities and transform the community. Boundaries are no longer the way you knew them; they can be twisted and reinterpreted, opened and reconstructed, the margins become the centre. The centre of a new beginning for the people and for the place itself.
Rewriting the urban tissue by using the pattern created through the encounter between space and wind. The resulting energy provides new outlines for the houses, reconfigures the outer and inner space and restructures the geography of the community.
Evolution, inclusion, sustainability, renewable energy, exchange, reproducibility, flexibility – key notions for future cities and communities. Concepts related to the temporal dimension and to a global approach that help adapt to the new realities worldwide by redesigning human and spatial maps. Self-sufficient structures for an ever-changing present. The algorithm lying at the core of the shape. The memory of the form which generates new outlines as it evolves – the materialization of a force which cannot be defined or materialized can be rendered visible through imagination and will.
The project makes use of the creative wind power to invent new outlines and strengthen the human core; to create innovative shelters and open up the limits; to transform the communities and bring their potential to light. Architecture on the limit. A limit that is gradually modified and reinterpreted until it becomes tame, just like the wind children play with. Open up the boundaries between people, mentalities and spaces.
Electrical energy is born from houses shaped by the winds; strange boat-like houses with sails made out of banners that produce their own energy create a new urban texture. An experiment with wind, a bold proposal for the reconfiguration of an underused space.
Discover the relationship between elements, codes and their geometry. Imagine complex shapes born from the interaction with the surrounding changing forces. Remember also the earth. Save its resources, reuse materials, make them active and useful again, and integrate them in your structures.
Take a close look around you. Observe the way in which a scarf floats in the air, look attentively at the sequence of movements rendered visible by the beauty and grace of a dancer, notice how a ship slides through, how the wind touches its sails, and see the iridescent shapes of the soap bubbles flying above kids’ heads. They are all inside your mind now. Don’t forget the people. People like you living at the outskirts of your own city. The children, too.
The eye grows used to the unlimited space and becomes free to explore new shapes; the look glides through as it finds no obstacles or limits, just like the wind creates the outlines of the new houses. It comes from a long distance bringing about the scent of the other; find its shape.
The projects talks about evolution and adaptability triggered by creative will, about building more than shelters seen as basic architectural structures, about repairing communities affected by high degrees of poverty by applying an integrated approach and focusing on social inclusion, community empowerment, change of perception, participation.
ArhiPera aims at challenging the limits between people, spaces, and mentalities, thus giving a chance and providing a new meaning for the dwellers of the unplanned settlements at the periphery of large cities. It is their opportunity to demonstrate their potential, to make use of the undeveloped power of the natural elements in order to provide energy for themselves as a community as well as for the entire city and also help creating better living conditions and raising awareness on the importance of fighting for human dignity and for a safe and clean environment for the generation to come. All this is based on the increasing need for sources of green energy and the promotion of social integration and equality. The development of social relations relates to the significance of the human dimension, the creation of public spaces and their impact on the community as a whole. The space and the community are both shaped and improved with the aid of the ecological, social and urban concepts leading to an original urban design for a self-sustainable city. A solution for an urban future.