Designing WITH People

An interesting essay by Cynthia E. Smith reviewing hybrid design activity between professional and community groups.

It includes some very useful examples of the types of work being done and good links for further reading.

Designing WITH people.

Some excerpts:

“It will be difficult to meet the extraordinary challenges that our urban areas face as a result of the massive population shift from villages to cities. We need to plan for transformative change, include people in the planning, and educate for urban complexity. The projects included in Design with the Other 90%: Cities explore new social, spatial and economic structures. It is critical we find ways to share information — the urban success stories, the efforts to implement and sustain promising initiatives and their impacts over time. This will require more inclusive urban design practices; responsible economic and environmental policies; the establishment of new institutions; transparent governance; improved equity and security; and land reform for a more just and humane urban world.”

– “Formal mechanisms are not adequate to tackle this rapid informalization of the city. We are not able to make services available as quickly as the growth. We should make our process more appropriate for this new reality by creating an interface between the formal and informal.”

– Edward Glaeser writes, “Cities don’t make people poor; they attract poor people. The flow of less advantaged people into cities from Rio to Rotterdam demonstrates urban strength, not weakness.” [6] The participation of slum dwellers and the urban poor is changing the dynamics of design at all levels.

Some Kenya/Nairobi examples:

“Trash and pollution cause many social and health problems in the Kibera settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. The Community Cooker, or Jiko ya Jamii, designed and engineered by the Nairobi architectural firm Planning Systems, is a large-scale oven that uses trash, collected by local youth for income, to power a neighborhood cooking facility. Community members bring collected trash in exchange for use of the cooker (one hour or less to cook a meal), or twenty liters of hot water. Elsewhere in Kibera, a collective of local artisans and groups of landscape designers, architects and engineers have reclaimed a dumping site next to a stream that runs through the slum. The Kibera Public Space Project incorporates a variety of uses, including micro-enterprises, a community pavilion, youth playground and gardens for composting.”

“In Bangladesh, Venezuela and Kenya, Google Map satellite images help reveal the density of settlements. Using open-source mapping software, the GroundTruth Initiative works with local youth to pinpoint water and sanitation locations, security problems and health clinics via Map Kibera.”

“Alternatively, a group of families who used to beg on the streets of Nairobi saved enough money to purchase land 43.5 miles (70 km) outside the city and are manufacturing their own building materials. They formed the Jamii Bora Trust and worked with architects to erect Kaputiei New Town, a safer, cleaner village with over 700 houses and temporary storefronts, primary and secondary schools, churches, factories, and a town generator. [47]”

“Slipping and sliding at times, stepping over open sewage, we made our way in Kibera, Nairobi, to several shower and latrine blocks constructed by the local NGO Maji na Ufanisi, whose motto is “Water is life; sanitation is dignity.” Part of K-WATSAN (Kibera Integrated Water, Sanitation & Waste Management Project), in Soweto East, one of the 12 villages in Kibera, the NGO worked with the UN-Habitat/World Bank Cities Alliance and the Government of Kenya to build eight such sanitation blocks. Users pay a small fee to the community-based organization, which runs the sanitation block and maintains the clean water, showers and toilets. Also in Nairobi, Ecotact has created Ikotoilet Malls, which provide similar services for the urban poor and business community. Users’ nominal costs are offset by local enterprises, such as shoeshine booths, mobile phone services, newspaper vendors, barbers, and snack shops, and also by advertising. Biogas from human waste is used to generate light and hot water. Umande Trust, a local “rights-based” agency, designed 14 BioCentre community latrine blocks in Kibera. Three stories high, they feature toilets and showers accessible to the disabled and free “child-only” toilets; kiosks selling affordable clean water; and a community center and offices on the top two floors. A biogas-generating latrine block treats human waste in situ without requiring sanitation infrastructure. Built with locally available technology and unskilled labor, it requires minimal maintenance and has no movable parts.”


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