The future of urban planning in cities with high density slum areas: What can be considered a realistic solution for the ever growing worldwide problem regarding the regeneration of government declared slum areas?
The success of the human race is in its eagerness to discover and learn, advance, prosper and invent to benefit mankind. Designing things to make peoples lives less arduous and more comfortable. For these reasons we have advanced from living in caves to living in more sophisticated dwellings and yet it is hard to believe that in the twenty first century there are people still living in absolute squalor without the basic human needs of running water, electricity, elementary sanitation and solid waste management. These people live in slums and these places have been a problem since the dawn of time.
1 Defining the slum
A slum is viewed as the most undesirable place one could live in the world. Sadly a large proportion of the world’s population have no choice in where they live. We in Britain sometimes take for granted the lives we lead, often complaining about trivial day to day matters, whilst there are people sharing the same planet as us surviving on next to nothing. A building within a slum can range from simple shacks made singly from corrugated metal sheets to permanent and well maintained mud or brick structures such as tenements. In the last century first world countries have been able to overcome slum living conditions in their cities, the existence of the slum discredits the Architectural design involved in the urban planning of these cities. Chicago in the United States of America is an example of this and has been created so that people can live and work in acceptable living conditions. Today, an area is declared a slum by the government; these areas are defined as illegal settlements that do not have government approval. Although it may arguably be the government’s fault, the development of a slum seems inevitable within a country that is unprepared for social growth in and around their major cities. This results in a high density population growth and inadequate housing to accommodate this.
The twentieth century experienced two world wars alongside rapid industrialisation; this has undoubtedly changed the way of the world dramatically. In the forthcoming first chapter, titled Slum Beginnings, the numerous factors that have coincided with these key world events will be examined and presented as: how urban planning today, must learn from the mistakes made previously in urban societies. The case study of Ralph Erskine’s ‘Byker Redevelopment’ in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, could be used as a relevant example of the success of re-housing of slum areas in the 1960’s. It represents a thoughtful and effective slum clearance. Urban planning today will benefit by revising such projects, whilst also realising past wrongs.
2 The problem and the solution
Today, one billion people live in government declared slum areas in what are generally referred to as ‘developing countries’. This label has lost its relevance in today’s society; China has some of the most squalid living conditions in the world, but it is also one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. It could be argued that this is due to their large population, but this is an example where a country cannot be labelled as developing. The ‘developing countries’ label needs to be scrapped. Each country should be assessed individually because all countries develop at different speeds.
The real challenge of development is that there is a group of countries at the bottom that have fallen behind and are usually falling apart.1 The second chapter is an intimate assessment of the slum as an individual dwelling, using first hand experience and personal knowledge to show how people live in slums and why they don’t want change. The chapter, ‘Worldwide Problems’, will give an overview of cities across the globe in housing crisis at present with millions living in inhumane conditions. This leads on to ‘Urban Planning Today’ to look at what has already been done by government organisations, particularly the UN-Habitat and other organisations, such as the World Bank, assessing whether or not these have been successful.
This paper will give an overview of the relevance of architecture and urban planning in the regeneration of illegal settlements today. By researching case studies of how architects and other organisations have developed illegal settlements in the past and today’s ongoing projects the failures of past regeneration projects can be assessed. Defining the failures is based on the original intention of the project and a critical analysis can be made as to how these issues can be overcome today. The final chapter will provide a rounded evaluation of the points discussed to give an outline of what a realistic solution would be, whether there is a singular successful case study from the past or, taking a variety of positive aspects to form a collage of past projects.
Why do slums still exist in the world today? One billion people live in absolutely unacceptable conditions. Where there is greed and over indulgence, there are also people who suffer in their wake. When the countries of Europe and the United States of America realised there was a problem with how their poor were living they started to get rid of the problem. This resulted in the separate world classes we see today, similar to the class systems within a single country. The third world countries are now the ones who need help. The first world were in the same position once, they had to overcome the problem without guidance of the tried and tested. This chapter will assess the first world countries successes in slum clearance, pinpointing the failures that the third world governments should learn from and use to their advantage.
1 The reason for slum development
Britain had some of the worst slums in the world at the end of the nineteenth century, this is when the problem was initially acknowledged and it then followed numerous attempts to try to overcome them. A social scientist of this time, Charles Booth, began the first series of his research in 1889, mapping the social conditions throughout London. In this year volume 1 was completed and it included the East End of the city.1 The map used the entire spectrum of it’s key for the area around Whitechapel Road proving the reputation of the area to be true.2 This was the most accurate census that had ever been drawn up of London; it was the beginning of
a domino effect. Soon after, the London County Council presented the beginning of a slum clearance program, to be funded by the government.
The Boundary Estate slum upgrade program in Bethnal Green was built in 1896 to replace the Friars Mount slum in an area that was called the ‘Old Nichol’3, it was one of the first council housing estates in London.4 Modern slum clearance wasn’t really taken seriously until the Housing Act of 1930 in which the local authorities had to put forward their plans for dealing with the issue due to a lack of commitment since the beginning of the program. Three years later the government instructed an increased effort of slum clearance, as it wasn’t making a real difference, the programme was not properly recorded again until 1954 due to the war and post-war housing shortage.5 Post-war regeneration was made easier as the government had no choice but to rebuild because of the large number of homes obliterated during the Blitz.
As Britain’s population grew, the need for social reform increased. The formation of the National Health Service after the Second World War meant people were living longer and life expectancy continued to rise. There was still little understanding or easy access to effective contraception, which meant people were having children at an alarmingly uncontrollable rate. The lack of availability of contraception is extremely relevant to the slums of today’s world; it is the source of overcrowding and rapid population growth.
Of course British cities weren’t alone with their horrific conditions; there were also slums in places such as Paris and New York. They all share; the city status and faced rapid urbanisation around the middle of the twentieth century after the Second World War. Most of Europe had been forced into post-war regeneration, but poverty had increased in most places due to the long lasting effects of war. Photographs of ‘Atget’s Paris’ show scenes comparable with that of an India slum today.6 Many comparisons can be made; surely this means that similar solutions can be applied to today’s slums? As for New York, it had a major dock; with good transport links such as this, rapid population growth would be inevitable.7
2 Attempted solutions
After the post war period, architects and urban planners began to design realistic solutions for high-density housing. This resulted in a lot of high-rise estates being constructed. Some of these were simply an answer to a request. However, there were some particular individuals who paid close attention to detail and designed buildings that are considered today to be revolutionary with regards to developing innovative architecture.
In Marseille, France, Le Corbusier designed the Unité d’Habitation using concrete cast in wooden formwork to replicate the texture of the wood.8 It was to provide over 300 new residential apartments. His design was notable as each apartment had views from both sides of the block and he took into consideration the community, by providing them with a terrace on the roof that included a swimming pool.
Alison + Peter Smithson who were part of the Independent Group, also took into consideration the existing community when they developed the housing block; Robin Hood Gardens, in Poplar, London. They designed another of these vast concrete structures that had an open green space in the centre that could be accessed as a shared space.9 An important consideration in their design integrated their housing block into the existing community. Perhaps, this new way of using concrete was seen as the only solution to replace the existing weak infrastructure of slum areas in Europe in the mid-twentieth century. Although past experiments in concrete use can be seen as un-aesthetically pleasing in today’s architectural world, it was believed to be what was needed at the time to rehouse the hundreds of thousands living in slum conditions.
There were a lack of regulations and realistic political policies that should have been imposed by the government from the start. These caused the failure to meet the target slum clearance. Therefore the Housing Act of 1949 was then introduced which comprised of the ‘twelve point standard’, which stated that a dwelling must:
(i) be in a good state of repair and substantially free from damp;
(ii) have each room properly lighted and ventilated;
(iii) have an adequate supply of wholesome water laid on inside the dwelling;
(iv) be provided with efficient and adequate means of supplying hot water for domestic purposes:
(v) have an internal water closet, if practicable, otherwise a readily accessible outside water closet;
(vi) have a fixed bath or shower in a bathroom;
(vii) be provided with a sink or sinks, and with suitable arrangements for the disposal of waste water;
(viii) have a proper drainage system;
(ix) be provided with adequate facilities for heating;
(x) have satisfactory facilities for storing, preparing and cooking food;
(xi) have proper provision for storing fuel(where required).10
If all these standards were not met, a property would be deemed unfit for human habitation and the property would be listed for demolition. The issue with these standards was that it was unlikely that any property would conform to them all. This led to the list being edited many times, by 1971 the standard had been reduced to only four main standards; ‘…whether the occupants had exclusive use of a fixed bath or shower, a wash-hand basin, a hot and cold water supply to a bath, wash-hand basin and kitchen sink, and a water closet inside the dwelling.’11 It could be argued that paying too much attention to detail in this aspect would result in prolonging the process of slum clearance. On the financial side of things, grants were not available from the government until 1971 and residents could only apply for a grant if they were situated in a ‘General Improvement’ area, the government decided these areas.12
Various housing acts and regulations were introduced but it took a long time to have any real effect. An example of slum clearance in St. Mary’s, Oldham had a positive outcome and the Ministry of Housing led it. Policies regarding housing were still being implicated forty years after the end of the Second World War, showing that time is a crucial factor and the smallest mistake can greatly affect the longevity of upgrading slum areas.
In 1980 the British Prime Minister at the time, Margaret Thatcher, introduced the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme that gave the ability to buy social housing properties from the local council. This was to give people a chance to own their own home instead of paying rent and living off the state.
3 Mistakes made
Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ scheme is an example of political policies that needed future planning; the scheme has had a long-term knock on effect and has left a gap in today’s social housing sector. Urban planners now have to find land to build new social housing, this is proving increasingly hard in city areas as the demand and cost of land is forever rising. Lower classes need social housing, without it in city areas they will be forced to move further away which would have an effect on the local economy as there would be nobody to work in the lower paid jobs as they couldn’t travel in from far away. They are a big part of the social infrastructure.
At the end of the nineteenth century, slum clearance was initiated by the government with the right intentions but failed to prioritise it in the right way, and there were other mitigating factors that were out of their control. They concentrated on categorising properties when they should have been considering the social aspects. How the residents would be affected were barely considered and were the main reason it took such a long time to overcome the slum conditions in Britain. There were a number of surveys stating how may houses had been cleared, recorded by local governments; although their accuracy was questionable.13
The government underestimated the sheer amount of time slum clearance would take and didn’t control social movement or overcrowding. This led to new issues arising and being dealt with incorrectly as there were no real rules and regulations stating what to do. This mistake would be helpful for future urban planning. Government officials took things into their own hands, an example of this is shown in Ken Loach’s film, Cathy Come Home.14 When Cathy tries to get help from the Ministry of Housing and they kick her out onto the street, they know her children will get taken away; stripping her of any hope she had left and leaving her helpless.15 This shows that class differences played a large role at this time; the rich didn’t want the poor to gain from this slum clearance. It took almost a century to realise that slums could not be overcome by housing policies and demolishing substandard housing, it involved many other factors and slum clearance was only the beginning of a complete change in society.16
The future of urban planning relies on the use of recorded failures to have any chance of being successful. Mistakes have always been made in designing housing and they can be learnt from. Cities that face slum clearance today should use past mistakes as an incentive, a government defined slum area appears as one giant mass on their maps as if it is a separate country with its own border. If more precise mapping of illegal settlements existed it would show the world just how bad the problem is, more people would be willing to aid third world countries from a wider knowledge provided by the mapping. Of course, it is easier to sweep the mess under the rug rather than acknowledge and clean it up with the correct methods.
An important mistake with slum upgrading can be when it comes to providing temporary accommodation for the existing residents. The Heygate Estate in Elephant & Castle is an example of this where some residents have been completely moved out of central London. This is re-housing today which shows that Britain is still learning from it’s own mistakes.
4 Case study – Byker Redevelopment
‘The existing houses were small and grim: the area was due for development. Erskine looked at the situation for a month and submitted a “plan of intent” which, among other things, stressed the importance of providing the right physical framework to enable the people of Byker to maintain the reference of their community in the future.’17
The housing at Byker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne was completed between 1969 and 1981, designed by architect Ralph Erskine. The scheme was to provide over 2300 new homes as an act of slum clearance.18 The existing housing at Byker was too small and home to squalid conditions comparable to that of third world slums today but with perhaps a slightly more decent infrastructure.19 Peter Collymore gives an overview of the project in ‘The Architecture of Ralph Erskine’.
Using Peter Collymore’s book the plans of the redevelopment can be studied and learn why his scheme is an example of a successful slum clearance in Britain.
Erskine drew up the plans for the Byker Redevelopment; the council approved them. The scheme was built as a gradual process in phases. This made the re-housing process easier and took into consideration the needs of the residents by not taking them out of the area while new homes were built. He paid attention to detail; ‘Built into the balconies outside each of the flats are benches and window boxes. Thoughtful touches like these, which enhance the communal living spaces, can be seen throughout the development.’20 The eight storey wall was also designed to keep the inner buildings of the redevelopment from wind and noise, making the town within feel enclosed and protected.21
The key to Erskine’s overall design is the variety of homes he created, giving the residents a preference to what type of home they would prefer to live in. His experimentation in a previous project in Sweden created the basis for the protective Byker wall.22 It shows his genuine care in wanting to help the people and not just to make money from a large building project.
For this collection of information to be useful in future planning, it needs to be taken into consideration that times change and the cities of the world today are completely different to when slum clearance occurred in the mid-twentieth century. Back then people then left their front doors open without worrying that someone would run off with their valuables because they didn’t have anything much of value to steal. Children played freely in the street largely without parent supervision. There is only so much that can be learnt from past mistakes, inevitable problems will occur that cannot be prevented with modern social growth. As people grow wealthier, the need for security increases; consumerism comes hand in hand with money. It is natural for people to want more, but not everyone gains at the same time so crime increases and people that have less see an opportunity to benefit from others’ wealth. This in turn requires an honest police force with a solid presence to deal with this. All of these factors
show just how important the social awareness of the situation is. If today’s urban planning does not take these factors into consideration, the slums will always win.
Slum Functionality as a Dwelling
What needs to be realised is that slum upgrading cannot necessarily be dealt with in the same way that governments deal with other political problems. The slum is such a difficult subject to class as a problem; it is not simply a mistake that can easily be erased. It involves millions of human lives and the homes they live in. These need to be improved and they need to evolve into something better. If the cities that are in this position cannot upgrade their own slums by themselves, they need help from outside. The people who help them need to experience real slum life so that they actually understand it, instead of being removed from it, perhaps watching snippets on the news thousands of miles away.
1 Maintaining positive attributes of the slum
Unbelievably, there are some positive attributes to slum life. Slum dwellers have strong family and community values, strengthened by the threat of demolition from the government. They are happy because they don’t know a different way of life.
It would be difficult to maintain this social status after slum clearance, but is certainly
a challenge that needs to be addressed until it is successful.
The conventional definition that a slum is lived in by the poor is not the case anymore, not all slum dwellers are poor. The people that work for oil companies or in the seven star hotels earn at least an average wage. They live in the illegal settlements out of choice because it is their home; they belong to the community and are happy living there.1
It can be compared with past slum conditions in Britain. Photographs taken by Nigel Henderson when he lived in the East End of London capture moments that take away the focus from the squalid living conditions. It encourages people who live outside the slum to realise that it is not as undesirable as one might imagine.2
The vernacular buildings witnessed in illegal settlements, should not be dismissed. Integrating these concepts with strict guidelines, similar to first world countries, new buildings can be designed instead of replacing them with large glass and concrete structures that do not suit the context of the country. Renzo Piano proves that vernacular architecture works with his Tjibao Cultural Centre, by complimenting the context of the existing traditional methods of construction.3
2 Negatives beyond counterbalance
Although the slum can have attractive qualities, the bad factors completely outweigh these. The existence of a slum symbolises aesthetic urban decay and inadequate infrastructure. The use of limited materials and personal space from overcrowding decreases any chance of progression.4 People are merely surviving and not actually living, it devalues the human life. They accept the conditions they live in which means the will for change has been lost. The lack of sanitation and solid waste management leads to disease. Corrupt people, who have been granted positions of power, encourage the crime within a slum. All these factors have to be dealt with in the right way to have any chance of successful slum clearance.
3 India experience – Delhi to Agra
The slum experience can be quite varied; personally it confirmed to me the differences between two types of slum. The culture shock is apparent as soon as you leave the airport, luggage is carelessly flung onto the top of a taxi and the journey
to the hotel is spent worrying whether you’ll both make it there alive.
In central Delhi it is hard to identify one individual dwelling; there can be three doorways in one square metre space. Looking up, you see endless windows scattered across the façade with no real thought or process gone into their orientation or position. It is almost as if there is no point in a window, it should be replaced with ventilation as that is all it is being used for. It creates the illusion of this block being one giant house when in reality it houses a hundred people at least, probably divided amongst five or six families. Unusually for a city, it does sleep at night; quite literally as bodies cover the roads where people have nowhere else to sleep. The most dismal part is, that the Indian people treat this life as acceptable because to them it is normal. This type of slum I would say is one of the worst, although talking to people there they told me that Delhi was nothing compared with Mumbai in Southern India.
One becomes easily disorientated in Delhi. The main roads are shown on the map but if you enter one of the numerous alleyways it could be miles before you enter onto a main road again, this makes it understandable why crime rates are so high. Although it is overwhelming walking the streets of Delhi, especially for a female, driving was the most dangerous experience. Lanes are completely ignored which creates serious collisions at junctions and if there are seatbelts they are disused. A ‘tuc tuc’ is the Indian equivalent of a New York taxi except it has open sides, anyone jumps in along the journey and there isn’t a limit on the number of passengers. People drive on the wrong side of the road and overtake when they shouldn’t. At night there isn’t any
street lighting and animals are transported in the back of a truck, similar to how furniture would be moved house to house in the United Kingdom. It shows government negligence and lack of police control. If there isn’t any order, how can the Indian government expect to ever be rid of slums? The lack of socially responsible intervention appears to be a major problem in certain countries.
Agra is a densely populated city, though the slums there are completely different to that of Delhi. The buildings rarely rise above two storeys because there is an airport in the old British army base that is still active. What I learnt from visiting a slum first hand is that the people who live there clearly have had unpleasant experiences with government officials. Upon entrance to the slum one would be bombarded, with children shouting abuse at you when you visited particular areas unannounced. At first I assumed they just wanted their picture taken but it was because they are wary of strangers.
After speaking with residents they said that they hear of people’s homes being destroyed by the government because they are illegally built. It was heart-breaking because these are actually people’s homes.
Ukhara is a semi-rural settlement on the outskirts of Agra in Uttar Pradesh. Learning about how the family operates was an important part of the experience. The first thing you realise is that although some houses seem quite spacious, they are often housing three or four generations. Some houses I visited had twenty people sharing three rooms. The women in the settlement told us that the men either works locally in agriculture, work in the city or as tradesmen completing mass orders for large companies. The women and children stay at home. Walking through this type of slum one notices the houses are of a similar size and quality. Every so often you will come across a patch of land where most of the structure has been abandoned apart from one small room. It was soon realised that these were the houses of single women, widows. They have no income now their husbands have passed away. There is no welfare system so there are no benefits and nobody to help them.
The main problem that was apparent to me was how I had always felt sorry for slum dwellers, realising it is because I have a completely different set of standards from growing up in a first world society. It is hard to accept these people are actually content. How is it possible for someone to be happy living in such conditions? The reason is that it is all they know and they have grown to accept things the way they are, it is a sad fact. This is not to say they do not need change however, regardless of their mental wellbeing. It goes without saying that the problem of having no drainage is simply unacceptable. Driving along the River Yamuna one day, I noticed that miles of pipeline had been abandoned on the side of the road. This was obviously Agra’s drainage system that should have been in use. The pieces were there but nobody had bothered to put them in the ground.
For the slums to be dealt with in the correct manner, the positive attributes that appear in illegal settlements should always be kept in mind. Some of the advantages of slums are fading away quietly in first world society, for example comparing the experience of Indian public transport with that of the New York Taxi; strangers don’t share vehicles, there is no social interaction. In first world countries it seems almost frowned upon to converse with a stranger on public transport. How are first world communities supposed to survive if this is the case?
This does not mean that change in third world countries is not required because the negative traits completely outnumber any of the advantages.
The slum is not in one country alone, countries all over the world have slums large enough to be classed as a new type of city.1 Most slum settlements are at such
a large scale that they seem irreversible. The question is why do certain countries face a desolate future and can this be avoided, or is the slum some form of social ultimatum?
1 Individual characteristics
Generally it is the third world countries that face huge issues with illegal settlements, although urban planning in cities seems to be a growing problem for even wealthier countries today. More people than ever are moving into cities, the demand for housing is growing and space is running out. There are many problems that lead to an area becoming classified as a slum. There is not one type of slum- each has various individual characteristics. State controlled countries have an issue of unfair leaders, and people who are out for themselves and not their country means people are left to their own resources. This appears to be building homes out of any material they can find and attempting to live in it.
A Brazilian Favela is infamous for it’s high crime rates making the streets extremely dangerous, not only at night but also in the daytime. With a lack of proper policing there is nobody controlling the streets in the right way. If police enter an area such as the Cidade de Deus (City of God) it causes a great uproar amongst citizens, this means they can only go into slum area if they are certain the criminal will be caught and there is significant evidence to convict them. The reason they receive a bad reception from the locals is lack of trust. Some areas of the police force are corrupt and they control the drug dealers, taking their drug money as their own.2 They are also the source of guns in the Favela, making them the source of the crime. The Cidade de Deus actually started as a public housing scheme in the suburbs with good intentions; it is now one of the worst slums in the world. The right ideologies were implicated but then forgotten about. Governments need to realise that once slum clearance takes place, money is required to fund maintenance. A decent infrastructure cannot look after itself.
2 Landlocked countries
The dominant characteristic of a slum in the Central African Republic is the lack
of food and water. There have been various charities that advertise the need for help with the hunger campaign in Africa. The reason for their lack of food is the hot climate that makes it hard to predict crop success. Most countries in this continent are landlocked which means they have to rely on the neighbouring countries to provide them with routes to the sea to reach the global markets. International trade is extremely important to the growth of a country’s economy. If they don’t have access to this it means having to rely on their own sources from within. One could ask how Switzerland is landlocked, and rich. It is because their neighbouring countries such as Germany have a solid infrastructure for direct access to the sea.3 Countries that face this issue need to work together if they want change. Ethiopia is an example of a landlocked African country, in 2003 it was recorded as having the world’s highest percentage of slum dwellers at 99.4% of the urban population.4
3 A discarded legacy
India has some good solid infrastructure inherited from the British, when they were relieved from the Commonwealth. It could still easily be used to their advantage, if developed in the correct way. Their railway would be a great piece of infrastructure
if they upgraded the trains and maintained the tracks properly.
A slum in India exists because there is no form of sanitation or solid waste management. People are practically living in their own excrement; the government could do so much more to help. The social and economical state India is in today
could be compared with Britain in the fourteenth century.5 Instead of despising their history with Britain, the government should use it to their advantage and actually develop the country.
4 Development at breakneck speed
Eastern Asia has the problem of overcrowding of their small countries. Many countries can’t keep up with the rate of globalisation, but China has done the opposite of this and run its race too fast ending up in a pile of plans that should have been implicated from the start. They didn’t plan ahead, now they are suffering for this.
By growing too quickly they now face extreme overcrowding. So much so that they were forced to introduce laws on controlling the number of children one family could have.
In 2011, the urbanisation rate in China exceeded 50% for the first time, which indicated the historical transformation of the social structure.6 China is notorious for building high-rise housing blocks to solve the problem of overcrowding.
The countries that are the most successful share common factors; with a fair governing system, they have a police force that is not corrupt and the people enjoy freedom of speech. Taxes pay for everything shared by the citizens of the United Kingdom. There would be slums if working citizens did not pay taxes as there would be nobody to collect the rubbish every week, there would be no national health service and even more pot holes in the roads. This system works in first world countries because they have grown steadily and adjusted with the changes in society. Countries such as China grew too quickly and were unprepared, now they face the problem of overcrowding and lack of substantial housing.
A solution for the Brazilian government would be to introduce taxes to pay
for public services. At the moment though this would be an unrealistic solution.
It would be impossible to implement these measures in such dense social conditions.
Taxes can only really be charged once a house has a proper address and people are in a job that pays enough for them to be able to afford to pay taxes. The government needs to fund the slum upgrade before taxes can be charged, this funding would
act as an investment.
Urban Planning Today
The pure size that the slum has grown to worldwide has made everyone aware that something needs to be done. By studying the past, assessments can be made to recognise which factors are the most important. These factors will need careful consideration to find out who should be in charge of the slum clearance programs.
1 The city masterplan
One approach for overcoming a housing crisis when it has consumed the outskirts of a city has been to draw a masterplan. One plan designed to solve all the city’s problems. Over the years numerous Architects have redesigned entire city structures for places that are overrun with slum settlements. They generally seem to share one common problem though; they are designing a city within a city.
Designing a city within a city creates new problems rather than fixing anything. It leads to poor slum dwellers illegal settlements being demolished under government order or it could be viewed as homes being destroyed. The weak infrastructure of the slum dwelling is cleared away for the new design to be built. People aren’t rehoused as they were in Britain, they are treated like solid waste and dumped somewhere else.1 Although their homes may be illegally built on government property, it doesn’t mean these people aren’t human beings. They may live in undesirable conditions but
it seems the government treat these people as if it is their choice to live like this.
The reason people move to the city is because they believe they can have a better life there, to live where there is supposedly more work and therefore money. The problem when they get to the city is that there is nowhere for them to live, the government haven’t done their job for the people and funded the improvement of social conditions. Developing housing to meet the demands of city growth that is inevitable in our ever-growing world would fulfil this. One may argue that the country cannot afford to support these demands; India is a perfect example to show that this is not the case, they have some of the most densely populated slums in the world but they also have some of the wealthiest companies such as Indian Oil, ranked within the top one hundred worldwide companies. 2 When I visited the slums in Agra I noticed that every single house has a colour television which is how a lot of people learn English, I met people that had never left their home and they could understand me well enough to hold a conversation. If they can provide electricity to every household with a television, why can’t they build acceptable housing?
The problem with drawing up a city masterplan is the city ends up being divided into segregated blocks; a city cannot function in this way. It should be constructed
of carefully considered layers taking into consideration all the factors, like a recipe.
If there is not a change in the planning of the structure within an existing city, it will result in the same worldwide problems we face today, becoming a local issue within every city. An extreme divide would form between the rich and the poor. The main problem is that people in first world countries don’t realise the importance of the issue, they will only understand how important it is when it lands on their doorstep. It all seemed so far away and surreal until I witnessed first-hand just how bad things were in Delhi and Agra.
There have been successful attempts at social housing in slum areas, Alfonso Reidy in Brazil3 and the PREVI project in Peru in 1968, particularly James Stirling’s involvement.4 Both architect’s used the idea of self-built projects, this is the key to slum clearance. They both realised the priority of social conditions and the importance of taking into consideration what the people want and need.
2 Case study – Saemangeum Island City, South Korea
“Saemangeum is conceived as a global city and centre for tourism… harnessed to the concept of local agri-tourism to combine hospitality to help farms, service industries and international investment. Such a synthesis drives opportunities for coexistence, overlapping activities for what aims to be a major urban centre based on sustainable energy within the Yellow Sea Rim regional network.”
Architecture Research Unit designed the Saemangeum Island City built between 1991 and 2006; it is a 400m2 land reclamation project to provide more productive agricultural land on the west coast of the South Korean peninsula, with a 33km seawall. By 2020 it is estimated that up to one million inhabitants will live there.
From studying Lucy Bullivant’s book, titled Masterplanning Futures, the Saemangeum Island City is notable as one of the more successful designs. It doesn’t create a city within a city.
What makes this city design relevant to the future of urban planning is the way this island city is designed against the conventional zoning of cities. This is a major problem with large scale Masterplanning, zoning effectively causes divides that is the worst starting point for something new. A city needs to be created of layers and integrate with the existing.
Saemangeum creates layers, by using knowledge that approximately twenty per cent of work in the country is in the agriculture sector, a design has been made that centres focus on this and what the people of Korea need. By creating new spaces for the people this project adds a new layer to the landscape. It really is a success story for the city masterplan.4
High-rise blocks are not particularly aesthetically pleasing. They lack individuality and strip the city of personalisation acting as a form of standardised housing. Each low-rise slum dwelling acts as an industrial niche, the most common form of income is by individual tradesmen that sell their products from the room they work in that usually has an opening onto the street. Successful businesses require the street level for easy access to their trade. Re-housing these people into high-rise housing would have
a knock on effect on the local economy.5 This means high rise blocks in replacement of slums could lead to empty wasted structures where people choose not to live there. Other factors such as alienation, loss of traditional and cultural values are reasons why building up would not be ideal for the country’s heritage.
However, building up does provide many homes that have a real infrastructure and they can possess character if they are designed properly. The misunderstanding of Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower is an example of this, the detail and precision of his design was not appreciated until much later on but he had provided a structure that had been designed to live in, each apartment had rotating windows making it easy to clean both sides; detail such as this is what high rise housing requires. This is why slum settlements don’t work, housing needs to be designed professionally by architects and urban planners.
This does not mean that low-rise housing is the solution. It may retain the qualities a home should have but usually when large scale planning is involved it ends up creating a standardised housing that look identical to one another. Building closer to the ground can also cause de-personalisation; the real issue is the high demand for housing. People want a fast solution for themselves; so urban planners see the answer as building all the houses the same. Building structures that aren’t built to last, showing they are not too concerned about future generations.
Government control and independent organisations
At the G8 summit, political plans are created with an estimated time frame that is rarely met, with so many factors involved the targets seem unrealistic.6 By doing this it is almost as if the government is trying to reassure itself that everything will work out fine. It is hard to say exactly what has been done and whether it was a success or not because government sources are unreliable. They have a job to keep people at bay, prevent rioting and social uproar that could mean bending the truth. If there is a way to beat the slum, it is crucial that the mistakes that were made during slum clearance in places such as London and New York are not repeated. For a real difference to be made within a slum-ridden country the changes need to come from their own government; the UN cannot do much more than aid the process.
The UN-Habitat is a government organisation as part of the United Nations Human Settlements Agency. They aim to provide shelter for all and have categorised various subject areas that should be considered when looking at the problems of slums. UN-HABITAT’s programmes are designed to help policy-makers and local communities get to grips with the human settlements and urban issues and find workable, lasting solutions.7 At the turn of the century the Millennium Development Goals scheme was proposed as a fifteen-year programme that would aid in the understanding of developing countries, gathering useful information that can then be used to begin trying to solve the problem on a more realistic basis.8 It has been calculated that half of the world’s population now live in cities, compared with one third in 1950.9 A single organisation such as the UN-Habitat cannot decide policies for countries and create their unrealistic goals of solving a problem within a specific time frame. The organisation uses the conventional definition of a slum; with its overcrowding, poorly built housing and lack of sanitation and because of this, their records and figures lose relevance. They underestimate the social dimensions within such living conditions that are hard to measure in such dense areas.10 By 2015, it will be apparent that this way of conceptualising development has become outdated.11 Future plans should be stopped and the present needs to become the priority, solving a problem can’t be assumed and given a vague time stamp. Brazil has over 600 Favelas none of which are the same. Local planning should be made alongside the national plans set out by the government.
It is important to realise that the UN-Habitat understand that the way some governments have set out housing policies are wrong.12 The World Bank is a non-government organisation but they have a similar structure to that of the UN.
Other government organisations like Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) are active in teaching communities in third world countries about the necessity of contraception; this is an example of first world organisations that volunteer their time to help small communities in third world countries. It is acts like this that will slowly improve the social state within a country to increase their chance of leaving slum conditions behind.
The ‘Favela Rising’ film shows a small group of young men, who had seen their friends shot to death in their own neighbourhood, decide to create a social movement called ‘Afro Reggae’. They began by publishing their own paper to try and resurrect the importance of Brazilian culture into the crime ridden Favelas. Most people that live there are honest people trying to get by in life, the criminals are the people who get the attention from the media and it paints a picture for countries outside of Brazil that everyone there is a criminal. Afro Reggae has grown to be extremely popular by using music and dance to encourage youngsters to stay away from a life of crime. In doing this they have changed the futures of many Favela children–it is an icon of hope. Until the problem of having corruption in the police force is wiped out the only hope the people have is from within with social groups such as Afro Reggae being an example of the community helping itself. This is where government organisations
have no power. Their five-year plans won’t be a success in Brazil’s slums.
Urban planning today needs to focus on who is best suited to overcoming the most dominant factors of slum existence that are present today. It is clear that the future of urban planning largely relies on community involvement. From examples, it seems that independent organisations have been successful within communities because their motives are pure and direct. Government organisations seem to concentrate too much on planning ahead, whilst the situation continues to grow worse day by day. They should share their surveys and knowledge of the slums with non-government organisations to help them get a better understanding. The government could then take a back seat and not actually control what they do. Unfortunately, it is doubtful this situation would ever work, that a government would be associated with an organisation they don’t control.
With regards to large scale masterplanning there needs to be a careful consideration of the existing settlements, even if they are shacks made from corrugated metal. People have built them and they function as well as possible for the space and density of population. Large-scale development is a good idea until it destroys homes and creates a western style building completely out of context.
The slum is not a mathematical equation that can be figured out easily; there is no correct answer to the problem. The many complicated factors involved in the creation of a slum means that overcoming them will need a greater effort than has ever been shown before. To do this it needs intelligent solutions and empathetic methods specifically designed to improve people’s standard of living.
From visiting a slum, one realises that the majority of people who live there are scared of change; they are worried about losing their homes. They do not trust the government, and with good reason. They have always been left to find their own way, dig their own drains and create their own sewage system. With a situation like this, the country cannot change without external intervention.
First world countries have the knowledge, power and the finances to help poorer countries. But why should they get involved? Why should they help governments that are lazy and corrupt? These governments simply don’t care about their country or the people whom they govern?
Fixing the social condition that has been created by slum living is the first step on the ladder to slum clearance. The people who live there really need to believe in themselves to be able to help their situation. Some of the more legitimate global and local organisations named in this paper possess the necessary power to influence the change needed to begin making the difference to start eradicating slums. They are creating a social movement, proving that a small group of people can have a huge impact in helping slum communities from within so they can begin to help themselves.
The government within the country should take charge and realise what their people need. By creating a team of architects and urban planners that have connections with the local communities and can act as the voice of the people. By integrating community projects in the slums with the slum upgrade program, they can learn about the local culture and traditional building methods that have been lost to the slum. A starting point for the project would be to build housing for the people involved as a form of workers housing. This will give incentive for more people to get involved and learn about the art of design whilst using traditional building methods. There were examples of this in Britain in the mid twentieth century such as the Bournville village in Birmingham, it still exists today and the people who live there that have no relation to the company, are proud of the connection with the local history.
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