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Competition: Dencity 2017

Shelter Global has announced an open international contest to improve the living conditions of slum inhabitants around the world (Deadline: 24 April)

The competition, which is open to architects, students, engineers, designers, thinkers, NGOs and other organisations, seeks conceptual proposals that tackle the problems of unplanned cities and help establish flourishing neighbourhoods.

Submissions may consider any site, programme or size, and concepts may be based on a specific urban location or feature a more general strategic response. Teams must, however, consider all aspects of community and housing and respond to general or specific site constraints to find creative solutions to the problems inhabitants face.

Indonesia

Indonesia

Source: Image by Jonathan McIntosh

Slum housing in Jakarta

According to the brief: ‘The intent of the competition is to foster new conceptual ideas about how to better handle the growing density of unplanned cities. Towns are quickly growing into cities, and some of the densest places in the world are comprised of makeshift homes, otherwise referred to as slums.

‘Right now, well over one billion people around the world live in slums. This number is rapidly growing and it is expected to reach two billion by the year 2030. Contestants should consider how design can empower communities and allow for a self-sufficient future.’

At least one third of the world’s population live in unplanned slum settlements with poor access to quality housing, clean water, sanitation and other public services. The United States and Europe featured many slums prior to the 20th century, but today such areas are mostly found in Sub-Saharan Africa, south-east Asia, east Asia, west Asia, Oceania and Latin America.

Shelter Global is a not-for-profit organisation, focused on providing safe, clean living conditions for all humanity and raising awareness on how cycles of poverty can have a major effect on people’s health, safety and prosperity.

Projects delivered by the charity are often crowd funded, based on research from community needs and are usually developed in partnership with local organisations. Some projects also offer volunteering opportunities.

The annual Dencity competition was first launched in 2015, and seeks innovative solutions to housing, resource management and infrastructure for overcrowded urban areas. The winners of last year’s contest – Jai Bhadgaonkar and Ketaki Tare of Bombay61 – proposed a waste management and community development in a coastal village near Mumbai.

Participants in the latest competition must submit two landscape display boards including sitemaps, drawings, elevations, sections, photographs and renderings. A 750-1,500 word explanation in English should be included either on the display panels or on a letter-sized document. Teams may feature up to four members.

The competition jury will feature eight international professional and academic architects specialising in urban design for developing nations.

The overall winner will receive a first place prize of $3,000 USD, and there will also be a second prize of $1,500, third prize of $750 and six honourable mentions.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for submissions is at 23:59 (EST) on 24 April

Fee

Standard registration from 9 January to 13 March: $55
Late registration from 14 March until midnight on 24 April: $80

Contact details

Email: info@shelterglobal.org

View the competition website for more information

Mumbai

Mumbai

Dencity 2016 winner: Versova Koliwada by Jai Bhadgaonkar and Ketaki Tare

Versova Koliwada case study: Q&A with Jai Bhadgaonkar and Ketaki Tare

The co-founders of Bombay61 discuss lessons learned designing last year’s competition-winning scheme for a waste management programme outside Mumbai

Jai Bhadgaonkar and Ketaki Tare

Jai Bhadgaonkar and Ketaki Tare

Jai Bhadgaonkar and Ketaki Tare

How does your Versova Koliwada project provide a long-term solution for transforming slum areas?

The Versova Koliwada project demonstrates that there cannot be one generic solution for the slum areas across the world. The socio-cultural context is very diverse in all such dense neighbourhoods and it is very crucial to understand the dynamics and the potentials of the place. The key to the slum issues lies in the identification of the strengths of the context and the neighbourhood, and empowering the community for their long-term development.

Which architectural, material and other methods did you harness?

Participation of the locals of Versova Koliwada (the fishermen) was always very important to us. We realised that the professional skills of the local fishermen and the abundance of plastic waste are the most valuable ‘assets’ of the community in a way. Considering this philosophy, we evolved a system rather than a singular architectural solution, to develop and create a unique economy around the plastic waste which tends to flow through the creek into the oceans, eventually degrading and creating an imbalance in the marine ecology. The intention was to harness local skills and locally available material to improve the living conditions.

Mumbai

Mumbai

Dencity 2016 winner: Versova Koliwada by Jai Bhadgaonkar and Ketaki Tare

What advice would you have to contest participants on designing a strategy to handle the growing density of unplanned cities?

Innovation, experimentation, community empowerment and the environment are the key strategies for the right approach towards these dense neighbourhoods. These neighbourhoods have grown or have been ‘planned’ very intuitively in the ‘unplanned’ parts of the city and the growing densities are not cancerous but a part of natural process of urbanisation. Self-development and sustainability of these communities are of the most urgency.

Mumbai

Mumbai

Dencity 2016 winner: Versova Koliwada by Jai Bhadgaonkar and Ketaki Tare

Incremental Housing Strategy case study: Filipe Balestra

The founding partner of Urban Nouveau* discusses lessons learned designing a transformational strategy for slum housing around the world

Filipe Balestra

Filipe Balestra

Source: Image by Patrik Engström

Filipe Balestra

How does your Incremental Housing Strategy provide a long-term solution for transforming slum areas?

Our strategy accelerates a natural process of improving an existing village gradually. The strategy commercialises this process by bringing benefits of neighbourhood legalisation to municipalities, and it keeps the local people in the centre of the process. The prototypes are flexible since they change from one location to another. Hopefully our strategy will live forever. Urbanity needs ‘healing’ and this is what design is all about. We need long-term strategies, life-long commitments of learning and improving. We need to live onsite.

Incremental Housing Strategy by Urban Nouveau*

Incremental Housing Strategy by Urban Nouveau*

Incremental Housing Strategy by Urban Nouveau*

Which architectural material and other methods did you harness?

Initially we wanted to use recycled construction materials. Unfortunately, they were too expensive. We had to prioritise. We learned that people needed toilets, homes, infrastructure and security of tenure. Imagine these to be your materials. Imagine architectural materials to be immaterial. In 2008-2009 we had weekly meetings at Pune’s Municipality to push the project forward; we had lunch everyday with the local CBO ‘Mahila Milan’ (Women United) to learn the ‘sustainable gossip’ of the project network. We met the local beneficiary families everyday and we even learned to cook Indian food. Frank Lloyd Wright asked us to find spiritual connections between materials. That is what we did. Architecture is a spiritual profession.

Incremental Housing Strategy by Urban Nouveau*

Incremental Housing Strategy by Urban Nouveau*

Incremental Housing Strategy by Urban Nouveau*

What advice would you have to contest participants on designing a strategy to handle the growing density of unplanned cities?

Doing a competition is a great exercise. My advice is to go beyond competing and find an underprivileged community somewhere. Once you find it, get in humbly, listen; design and propose “doable” solutions for positive change. Be your best. Make it everyone’s project. Document the process and share with the world. This way you will always win.

Incremental Housing Strategy by Urban Nouveau*

Incremental Housing Strategy by Urban Nouveau*

Incremental Housing Strategy by Urban Nouveau*

Empower Shack case study: Q&A with Urban Think Tank

The Switzerland-based interdisciplinary design studio discusses lessons learned designing a pilot housing scheme for unplanned settlements in South Africa

How does your Empower Shack project provide a long-term solution for transforming slum areas?

Approximately 7.5 million people in South Africa (including one-quarter of Cape Town residents) are locked out of the formal property market due to escalating prices, limited access to financing, and inflexible regulations that create a barrier to private low-income development. Rather than a simple architectural intervention, Empower Shack is a comprehensive and sustainable upgrading scheme based on three core elements: a modular two-storey housing prototype built with prefabricated local components; an inclusive spatial planning process supported by innovative digital tools, which offers a controlled path to densification; and embedded livelihoods programming which responds to wider social, environmental, and economic dynamics in the township of Khayelitsha.

Khayelitsha

Khayelitsha

Source: Image by Jan Ras/U-TT

Empower Shack by Urban Think Tank

Which architectural, material, and other methods did you harness?

The project is designed to not only ensure dignified housing and an improved quality of life, but also to stimulate vibrant, community-driven development. By redistributing the existing residential footprint over multiple floors and incentivising the transfer of unused land through a land release credit, the urbanisation plan allows for the introduction of additional housing stock for rental and sale, integrating the stepping-stone role played by the informal ‘backyard shack’ market. In parallel, the strategy designs in a pathway to formalisation negotiated with the City of Cape Town. By providing greater certainty about tenure and future housing-code compliance, it encourages incremental investment by residents. The prototype’s adaptable floor plan and exposed internal services also support a range of ground-level commercial uses, spurring local entrepreneurial activity.

Khayelitsha

Khayelitsha

Source: Image by Jan Ras/U-TT

Empower Shack by Urban Think Tank

What advice would you have to contest participants on designing a strategy to handle the growing density of unplanned cities?

The most crucial aspect is an in-depth understanding of the context in which you seek to work. This includes not only the spatial aspects of the built environment, but also the lived experience and ambitions of local residents, as well as the decision-making dynamics of all stakeholders (including community leaders, municipal authorities, financial institutions, and non-profit actors). The reality and room for manoeuvre is always much more complex than you could initially imagine. When it comes to housing, it is also important to plan for a long-term increase in land value by working with ownership models and plot definition. Finally, sustainability means more than environmental performance. Integrated income-generating programmes can feed back into, and strengthen, the upgrading process over time.

Empower Shack by Urban Think Tank

Empower Shack by Urban Think Tank

Source: Image by U-TT/ETH

Empower Shack by Urban Think Tank