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.
Shanghai Gucun Community Center in China by INCLUDED
March 11th, 2014 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: INCLUDED
INCLUDED does essential work in difficult places, particularly the slums where migrants are crowded into the margins of big cities. We build community centers and broker collaborations to help migrants access the city. Starting in Beijing, we are now also active in Shanghai, Kathmandu and Dhaka, with a goal of ten cities and a hundred community centers in our network.
When INCLUDED was established eight years ago, we began in an abandoned structure in the heart of one of Beijing’s most impoverished migrant communities. Because migrant communities are inherently unstable environments, and because they are often misunderstood by local governments, the first community centers were demolished along with the homes of countless migrants. Nonprofits and governments around the world don’t invest quality infrastructure into slums because it could be demolished at any time. While INCLUDED’s ultimate goal is to promote slums as healthy transition environments for migrants to settle on a path to stable and productive urban lives, it was quickly apparent that alternative community center models would need to be considered.
INCLUDED’s Shanghai Gucun community center is the latest attempt to create an affordable, mobile, scalable, and highly flexible center to serve the marginalized migrants of Shanghai. It can be moved with the community if they are forced to move. The shipping container model was first conceived because of the high availability of used shipping containers in China.
The used containers, donated by OOCL, have been individually renovated and are meant to be detachable and transportable if the need arises. Behind the flashing are bolted plates that can be removed in order to detach and transport the containers, allow us to protect the investment.
Because the shipping container community center is meant to serve a large variety of different functions, from early childhood development, to adult workshops, to community meeting space, the interiors were designed to be highly flexible. Four shipping containers together create one large classroom, but can be divided in two by a sliding room divider. The room divider and cabinets also have whiteboard veneer so they can be used as teaching surfaces. The three smaller nooks created by the longer containers, approximately 15 sqm each, allow space for a small library, quite play space, computer area, and a place to pin up student work.
The classroom furniture also adds to the flexibility of the space as it can be easily stored away for community gatherings, or it can be pulled out into many different configurations for both children and adults. The simple furniture also has a white board veneer so kids can write directly on them.
The container doors were left intact and drilled with small holes. The doors are opened during the winter to allow maximum heat gain, and closed in the summer to keep the classrooms cool. The small holes allow light to filter across the floor during sunny days. Large sliding doors allow the classroom to open to the outdoor space when weather is appropriate. This is also useful during community gatherings and for outdoor teaching sessions.
The outdoor playscape is designed to encourage creative involvement and be highly adaptable for multiple uses. The curvilinear landscape benches can be reconfigured into sculptural waves and circles and are lightweight and mobile in order to be easily rearranged for outdoor classes, community events, and staff gatherings. Utilizing the vertical surfaces as a canvas for a massive chalkboard wall and keeping the play equipment portable allows this small space to remain barrier free and adaptable for a wider range of creative, free-play and event space.
The space is covered in a colorful, child-safe rubber softfall paving and a small garden area is placed in front of the office so parents can sit while their children play or attend class. Nothing goes to waste as the excess corrugated metal from the container interiors is re-used as a landscape security fence that encloses the community center.
All aspects of this project were designed with the goals of safe, sustainable, and dignified space for migrant children and their families. INCLUDED believes that good design with a continuing community presence can create a lasting difference for these underserved communities. So little of good design, architecture, technology, urban planning, products, and systems is being focused on migrant slums today.
Up to 1 in 3 of us will soon live in one. With a little extra thought, our slums can become brighter, organized, more life-giving places to live with better access to better products. If you would like to learn more about INCLUDED and our philosophy of good design for migrants, please visit us at www.included.org or email Matt Mueller.
If you would like to support our cause, donate to our upcoming shipping container exhibition here.
Category: Community Centre