Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Taller Particular / Particular Workshop by Al bordE architects
May 4th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Al bordE architects
TALLER PARTICULAR / PARTICULAR WORKSHOP
Design and Participative Construction in Slums
FADA – PUCE
What if we join forces?
– I am studying another semester in college, but this time there is a real problem to be solved and the project is built. Students
– I am still working during weekends to improve my neighborhood, but this time there are people who advise us and give us a hand to solve problems. Community
– I am still teaching architecture, but this time I am a consultant for a real project. Teachers
– I am still training professionals, but this time with social commitment. University
NOT extra work, NOT extra effort, but individual efforts together. This little change makes a big difference and multiplies the benefits for those involved.
With the work they have done this year with the university and by their own, they have become an exemplary district. The visibility they achieved is so strong that municipality authorities recognize their work and the necessity of searching the ways to legalize their lots.
TALLER PARTICULAR_11 DE MAYO
We are two architects, heads of an office that we created in 2007 which we called AL BORDE. Since we were students, we were involved in social projects. There, we learned how to build, we learned that everyone must have a vote, we learned that anyone can contribute, we learned that one plus one is not two but more, because of the incalculable multiplier effect of teamwork.
As an office, beside private commissions, we faced a few social projects, sometimes charging fees sometimes not. We were happy to face them of course, but altruism does not support a young independent office. Nevertheless we thought that we should not set aside a field that we want to work and in where we find many satisfactions.
That’s when we saw an opportunity in teaching. After seven semesters of teaching in the basics, we turn up to the advanced levels, where teachers have the opportunity to propose the motivation of the workshop. We seek to assemble a multidisciplinary team of advisers and a slum to intervene.
We would call our new adventure “Taller Particular” / “Particular Workshop”.
YOU DO WHAT YOU GOT TO DO
In this first edition of the workshop, we invited: an anthropologist, a social manager, a structural engineer and costs specialist. The only one who accepted and joining the project was the anthropologist. Each semester we will try to get more people involved. To the list above we now understand the need to add people from the communication field to work on documentation.
The role played by the anthropologist was of significant importance in the success of the workshop. Students and community realized its influence. It seems to us vital to teach our students the value of multidisciplinary work.
INI MINI MINY MO
Over time we learned that the key to the success of social projects is working with communities that have a strong, consolidated and well represented organization, without this condition we can’t do anything. The anthropologist suggested “11 de mayo” neighborhood. The location is at the south of Quito city near the industrial zone.
“11 de mayo” neighborhood is an illegal settlement like many others in the city of Quito, which generates from the illegal trade of land. “At first we were going to wash the clothes at the spring of water, down at the end of the gorge, the water was not very clean but there was. For cooking we used the water in buckets that we get every time it rained. As an illegal district, we have no right to any services. We went to the water company and our request was denied. We did not care that refusal. We returned day after day for several months until we were notified that we would have water connection. The authorities installed one community counter in the neighborhood president’s home. He would be the responsible for everything. From there we put hoses to each one of the houses. Now we fight to make our neighborhood legal. According to the authorities every improvement we make helps us to realize our dream.” Account of one of the neighborhood residents.
THE BOAT SAILS
The workshop was accepted by the Dean. The anthropologist confirmed the cooperation and we have a neighborhood to work with. “Taller Particular” began on Monday, January 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm in room 110 at the School of Architecture, Design and Arts of the “Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador – Quito”.
In architecture studies, regardless the school you come from, the direct contact with reality is limited. To face reality is a hard process at all levels. We thought that from the twenty-four students enrolled, not everyone would be prepared for the shock. The workshop means not only to build something in 1:1 scale, but an entire social immersion in a slum. The first class we make sure that everyone understands all the complications, obstacles and problems that could appear at the workshop. For the next class we confirmed three drop outs, twenty-one students counted in the official list.
TRYING TO MAKE THE DREAM COME TRUE
The research is oriented toward the five topics: neighborhood history, neighborhood social dynamics, institutional and legal processes, materials and resources, neighborhood infrastructure.
Sunday by Sunday the group was getting to one team. We approached the issues in situ. Every work in the classroom was confronted with the neighborhood. All of us decided that whatever the final draft may be, this should reinforce two ideas: the field in my piece of city and become an icon of identity, always looking to unite the people in different scales, neighborhood – neighborhood, neighborhood – neighbors and neighborhood – city.
Only congregation of people could make possible such a union. In order to congregate people there should be an activity. Why we do not make use of places where activity already exists, take advantage of this vocation and improve those scenarios? Neighborhood – neighborhood, the exterior of the community center. Neighborhood – neighbors, the edge of the soccer field (which borders the neighboring district). Neighborhood – City bus stop.
Three projects, three groups of seven people each, working every stage at the same time: the design, search of materials, management of economic resources and then the building of prototypes. Everything focused to achieve a collaborative construction at the end of the semester.
In the second semester the work continued from where we left, after seen the results of the first workshop and what had happened during the vacations, we decided to continue working in the Neighborhood Center 11 de Mayo, in order to have an space where they could developed every kind of activities.
The resource and material research was about looking for Companies around the industrial zone that could contemplate social responsibility policies so they can be able to donate material.
Two companies were identified. Both of them donate material for prototypes but only one donates for construction. The third group find in the recycling of pallets their material to work.
The workshop focuses on strategies of management of resource and cash , plus the hand work of the people from the neighborhood and the students. Only one of the three groups speeded zero, and the others got short lags. We consider that the workshop doesn’t have to be afforded by the parents, we want to train managers, not depending professionals.
Today we think the workshop wider. It is necessary a re-design of the resource strategy. Part of this re-design strategy is to think that the resource management should be focus on one company and for at least one or two years. We also must have a place at the school to store all the material we find in the way.
Students and community worked together. The students lead construction logistics, and build with the neighborhood. Everyone shares their knowledge, everyone works for the construction into a common goal, to get up better the neighborhood 11 de Mayo.
“Until the construction process began, the community thought of us as “the architects”, we were way too up in their minds. But the moment we start building they realized we have no idea of what we were doing. In that moment, we stand all at the same level, us even further down.” Student’s anecdote.
First stage, May 2012. Some parents were present. Excited they commented that they had never imagined their sons and daughters knew how to use tools. When they saw the project built, they understood why their children, Sunday by Sunday, leave their homes early in the morning to work in the neighborhood. We were shocked when one of the representatives of the University told us that she never saw before that parents were present in any academic event. She was amazed by their involvement and the pride they felt for their children.
“I dare say in the name of Barrio 11 de Mayo: thanks for giving us your friendship, for shake hands when we needed, for being the way you are, for the smiles and the joy, thanks for opened us your heart, for the timely advices, for your love, comprehension and unconditional support, thanks for the words of encouragement and everything you have given to us, for being our friends, for not disappoint us, for telling the truth, for the beauty and the pleasure that has left the Taller Particular, but above all, thanks for making us very happy…” Extract from the speech of the neighborhood president’s wife in the day of inauguration.
Second stage, 25th of February 2012, the project was ambitious, and because of delays of material donations we couldn`t finish at the end of the semester, but community is organized and they are finishing it in Sunday meetings.
AND NOW WHAT
We are aware that a collaborative design-construction workshop in a slum is not going to change the world, but we are dreamers at heart. Thinking in the future we ask to ourselves: What if this methodology is replicated? And we start throwing numbers:
This exercise was about 1 university + 1 neighborhood + 3 pros, during a semester
There are in Quito 16 universities, so they would work with 16 slums, 300 students and 48 pros, during a semester
There are in Ecuador 54 universities, they would work with 54 slums, 1000 students and 162 pros, during a semester.
What if the methodology is replicated … What if we scatter the virus?
Now, more than ever after seen the results, the plan is to get more people involved, more institutions and enterprises. Monday 16th of January of 2012 at 6:00 pm started the new project: Taller Particular_Chilibulo, new neighborhood, new dream, new challenge.
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