Lost in translation

Life in the slums is one of unique characteristics. These characteristics directly inspire the housing typologies that arise within a slum. The distinct creations that derive from Dharavi and slums around India are solely based on its inhabitants; everyone is an architectural designer and many get lost in translation.

Every settlement has unique social, cultural, and architectural characteristics influenced by the composition, history, and nature of the settlement.

Realizing that every settlement is different, we are obliged to visit different locations to understand the particularities that exist in the ecologies of the urban slum.

Our visit to Pune, on 15th and 16th June 2015, exposed us to two distinct projects under the BSUP (Basic Services for Urban Poor) program under JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission).

The Yerawada project illustrated the In Situ up-gradation of the settlement where temporary (kaccha) houses were demolished to build permanent (pakka) structures, in the same location, as per the guidelines set by the government. The beneficiaries were involved in the designing of the houses from the start; the houses were thus altered to accommodate the needs and aspirations of every dweller.

While the Yerawada project exemplified up-gradation of slums, the Warje project exemplified aspects of relocation and rehabilitation. Households displaced as a result of floods, road widening, irrigation, and other development projects were relocated to Warje. The beneficiaries, in this case, did not have any say in the design process whatsoever and houses were allocated through a lottery.

The most important aspect of both these projects, we believe, was the extensive socioeconomic survey conducted by Mahila Milan, Pune, which laid the foundation for up-gradation and relocation. While the social composition in the In Situ project stayed intact, the relocation project alters the composition of the neighborhood disrupting the social interactions and weakening the strong bonds established over generations.

At the same time, it is important to acknowledge the rate at which the lifestyle of the individuals in the relocated settlements changes as compared to the individuals in the In Situ settlements.

Our initial site visits and conversations with the community leaders, Jokin Arputham and Sheela Patel, helped us articulate our project, further emphasizing the need to rethink the way in which settlements are designed for relocation and rehabilitation.

Through our project we intend to critically document the architectural details that have evolved over generations, affecting the social structures of the community and the integration of the built form and social characteristics of neighborhoods.

We further intend to explore ways in which these architectural details can be incorporated in the relocation schemes in order to curb the disruption of social bonds the strong ties in the process of relocation. But, at the same time being aware of the constraints cost, building codes, and time.