|Name:||Sabri Muhammad Pritom, Shartaz Ahmed, Tasmim Fatima Wahhab, Ramisa Tasnim|
|Studio:||Studio VIII (L-4, T-2)|
|Studio Master:||Dr. Syeda Jafrina Nancy, Tasniva Rahman Mumu, Md. Raisul Mostafa|
|University:||Military Institute of Science and Technology (MIST)|
The project attempts to provide an on-site renewal scheme for low-cost housing scenario. In the larger urban context in Bangladesh, such design explorations are crucial. In terms of the design intent and resolution, the design successfully negotiates the site conditions and has been able to use the site potentials to good effect. In particular, the concept of a multi-scalar hierarchy of public spaces nested throughout the design is an astute decision, since it captures the nuances of the uses of public space traditionally and goes against the public-private binary. However, there are certain aspects of the design that requires further elaboration and/or can use refinement. Firstly, the design follows the modernist paradigm of the designer as form-giver. What would be useful is to also conceptually explore housing as a verb (Turner 1976, Tonkiss 2015). In other words, how can the user groups participate in the design process—even explored hypothetically—is crucial in housing design. Participation needs to be explored more that sweat equity (using the citizen labour in building the form) and more in the decision-making of the design. Secondly, while the project takes a tabula rasa approach, it is unclear why the existing urban morphology had little impact on the new design. In addition, the immediate urban context impacts little on the design as well. Existing morphologies are the embodiment of certain community practices and if selectively used, can provide a sense of continuity for the community living there, instead of inhabiting a new morphology altogether. Thirdly, it is important to shed light on how such large scale projects are to be implemented since it is unlikely to be built at once. How to incorporate an incremental logic of construction is a question that remains unexplored. -Editor
| Notes from the submission |
In this project, the design intent was to convert an overcrowded community into a breathable habitat that alleviates the existing inhumane living conditions. By taking stock of the existing low-income population in Duaripara, Dhaka, the question at stake was how to improve a high-density condition yet maintain standards. The present site consists of problems like squalor, lack of open spaces, and inadequate facilities for an ideal community living. The design aimed to utilize locational features such as the lake and canal to create a better habitat.
The current residents in Duaripara live in below-standard dwellings. Subpar living conditions within individual units are accompanied by a lack of community spaces and facilities. Detailed urban analysis reveals that the entire site has three types of residents making a diversified user group: firstly, bachelors living in mess houses (semi-pucca row houses made of brick with tin roofs); secondly, Tenants living in structures consisting of 8-10 rooms, each of which are occupied by single-families (4-5 people) (semi-pucca row houses made of brick with tin roofs), and thirdly, landowners who have their own houses, some of which are two-storied.
Through design, the existing land area was re-striated, where the current densely-packed row houses were replaced with 2 to 3 storied built form. A key strategy in this re-planning was the creation of a hierarchy of open spaces to counteract the total lack of open spaces before. The result was an improved family and community environment with more openness and an enhanced lifestyle within a low-cost budget framework. A portion of the site is dedicated to a local market in which both the community members and residents from surrounding neighbourhoods partake.
The main setbacks identified during the study were: lack of breathing spaces resulting in the structures being cramped together, playing areas for children, community gathering spaces and facilities like parks and clinics. In addition, the overall atmosphere was unhealthy living environment.
The primary design intent was to improve the living conditions of this low-income community by creating a hierarchy of open spaces. This was done by raising the newly-designed dwellings to 2 to 3 storied units, which in turn freed up a large amount of open space at the ground floor level. The masterplan was zoned according to the existing user groups. The higher-valued lakeside land was allotted to the landowners as an incentive for the restructuring. Then a separate zone was created for bachelors living spaces from the family living spaces to ensure privacy. A central open space was dedicated to the community for accommodating important neighbourhood facilities like parks, clinics, NGO offices, mosque etc. The existing marketplace was kept in its previous position since that is where the existing demand is generated. The area dedicated to residences was divided into 9 blocks, separated by the access network.
Hierarchy of open spaces
The open spaces are created at five different scales that cater to specific functions:
Large central open spaces. These are created at the ends and the intersection of the horizontal and vertical spines of the road network. There are 4 of these spaces—entry, mosque grounds, bachelor area gathering, lakeside gathering—and they provide necessary community services, amenities and dispersion space for emergency evacuation. This is also the place with a dedicated ‘bot-tola’ to maintain a traditional sense of community gathering spaces.
Blockwise openings. These spaces are located at the centre of each of the blocks and are used as playing grounds as well as central gardens for the dwellers within that block.
Corner crevices. These are the remnant spaces formed due to the arrangement of the cluster. They’re utilized as corner shops, pocket parks or vegetable gardens instead of negative spaces.
Cluster courtyards. They’re the open courtyard space within the cluster, created by the placement of units. These spaces, also known as “উঠান”, is used by residents of each of the clusters for their daily activities and domestic socialization.
Balconies. Balconies are created at each of the levels instead of providing them for each room. This not only reduces cost but also enforces the socialization required for peaceful living within this type of communities.
The primary access gradually opens up to a large open central community space. This periphery of this space has amenities and services like clinics, NGO offices, training centres and such. This central community space is at the meeting point of the axial spines of the primary road network.
The spine along the East-West axis terminates at the mosque premises, which also provides scope for community gathering and has direct visual access of the central community space. Two other community spaces are provided, one beside the lake (where a primary school was also provided) and another within the bachelor quarters. The primary road along the N-S axis splits into secondary roads that form pinwheel organization stemming from communal spaces.
Services were placed surrounding the open spaces, and a local corner shop (মুদি দোকান) was placed within every block. The positioning of schools, mosque and clinics along each of the edges forms a triangular network that allows for an efficient dispersal area in case of emergencies.
The main road network provided access from the community spaces to the blocks and the arterial road network provided access within each block. Wherever a road terminates, an open gathering space is provided. All the roads within the housing site are shared—mostly dedicated for pedestrian use but have provisions for vehicular access during emergency events such as for fire-fighting trucks.
Demand for the use of the lakeside space as a place of relaxation and entertainment was met by creating walkways along the edge of the lake as well as a parallel walkway above. The two levels allow the use of this area for taking a casual stroll and using it as a temporary escape as well. A large ‘ghat’ was introduced at the centre of the edge of the lake. The aim was that the ‘ghat’ would not only work as a station for boat (নৌকা) rides but also function as a serene seating and relaxation area. The waterbody ecology was also restored by connecting the lake to the stream.
By studying different housings and standards, the basic unit was determined to be of 120 sqft.
For tenants, a specific ‘L’ shaped basic module was created, consisting of 7 (12′ by 10′) ‘units’, one for each single-family, a kitchen, two toilets, and a shower room. Permutations and combinations of this basic module led to the formation of 4 types of clusters. For landowners, a specific module was created consisting of 5 rooms, a kitchen, and two bathrooms. For bachelors, row houses were created and positioned in two different orientations.
These clusters and modules were arranged to create the arrangement of open spaces with a central open space in the middle of each block. The arrangement was simulated using space syntax in multiple iterations and corrective measures were taken to fix any detected flaws. Such changes included moving units a little further from the road at specific intervals, ensuring alleys are visible at every point from either adjacent or opposite units, preventing the creation of any ‘backsides’ of the dwelling units. The ultimate objective was to ensure maximum visibility of public spaces, roads, and alleys to prevent crimes, following Jacob’s (1961) idea of “eyes on the street”, while at the same time providing privacy inside the residences.
Materials and Construction
Locally available materials are to be used to reduce cost and energy footprint. Bamboo “chatai” (local bamboo mats) were used under the roofing for passive cooling, reducing electrical costs. External metal stairs are to be used to reduce construction costs. Community members are encouraged to take part in the construction work to help build their locality as an additional source of income.
A body represented by all stakeholders—a local council—will be responsible for decisions, festivals, and arbitrations. The council decisions are to be followed by landowners, shop owners, tenants, NGO representatives and elders. Collection of utility bills will be done by respective service holders. The community council will ensure steps against illegal dumping, illegal construction and maintenance of central green spaces. Most of the community facilities like green/open spaces, streets, paths and banks of water will be homeowners/shop owners’ responsibility who live in their proximity.
Skill and Economy
A skill development facility will function in the school area from the evening. Volunteers organized by NGOs can teach skills/elderly education. Open-air learning spaces for the elderly in central open spaces and sports training and competition for youth are to be held by the community. Crafting/cottage industry production is organized in the cluster open spaces, with sale of handicrafts in the block display/shops. Small kitchen gardens are made to support low-income families. Creation of urban farm in designated areas will account for yield crops with immediate returns.
Contributing Editor: Tanzil Shafique, PhD researcher, University of Melbourne