TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. INTRODUCTION 1.1 The question of Housing: from provision to strategy 1.2 Drivers of Change 1.3 Engaging communities in transformation 1.4 Objectives 1.5 Housing as Strategy 2. HOUSING AS A STRATEGY 2.1 Materialising the Strategy 2.2 Spatial Analysis: Housing Typologies 3. IT TAKES ONLY ONE BRIDGE 3.1 Infrastructure of Transformation 4. SEQUENCE OF DEVELOPMENT 5. MANAGING THE ESTUARY 6. CONCLUSION RELEVANCE OF OUR SITE
1. INTRODUCTION 1.1 THE QUESTION OF HOUSING: FROM PROVISION TO STRATEGY The question of housing is interwoven with the issues of urbanism; as housing pattern is influenced by social, economic and political conditions of a region. Provision of housing is considered a part of government’s duties, as it is the regulator of housing stock. But for many years, along with the provision, the governments also took over themselves the production of housing. This tendency resulted in the design of large scale housing programmes often meant for the economically weak section of the society. As these projects were primarily meant to provide welfare devoid of profits, their location was pushed to the periphery of cities owing to the high land prices and rates of construction in the city centre. Eventually, these programmes became a tool of addressing merely the quantity of units rather than the quality of housing produced. The Minha Casa Minha Vida (MCMV) programme, initiated by the national government of Brazil, is an apt example of this kind. Most of the projects implemented in its initial phases stand as isolated residential quarters as they lack the urbanity needed for a neighbourhood to flourish. However, pertaining to the social and economic challenges that exist today, housing programmes, such as MCMV should do more. As the dominant factor that defines the urban fabric, housing has an important role to play in shaping everyday life and thus, should go beyond just satisfying the numbers. Hence, the needs of hour is to reconsider the conventional way of implementing MCMV programme and strategically use the tool of housing to create integrated urban development that combines private and public sectors, in order to address the social, political and economical shifts experienced in Brazil. 1.2 DRIVERS OF CHANGE Nowadays, cities have become more complex, intensive and fast moving due to the constant changes in the flow of capital, knowledge and people on the global scale. Consequently, this has transformed the social, political as well as economical scenarios of cities in almost every country and Brazil is not an exception to it. The factors that have been instrumental in bringing about the transformations – in other words ‘the drivers of change’ need to be discussed as they have a crucial role to play if housing has to be rethought as an urban strategy under the MCMV programme. Also, positioning these factors within the context of Recife, which is the testing site for this exercise, can help in relating to the local scenario effectively. Shift in the growth pattern of industries: Pertaining to the good connectivity, multiple users, strong presence of people with different skills and large amount of post-industrial abandoned land, city centres are the preferred areas for locating service industries. Especially, infrastructural networks offered by the city centres provide good connectivity for the flow of goods as well as people, thereby enhancing the productivity of these industries. The growth new service industries, such as the bio-medical and legal service delivery in the centre of Recife, justify this argument. Hence reflecting upon this shift of industrial growth while reconsidering the issue of housing is essential, as it should be capable of accommodating a diverse community - from the qualif ied employees working in the bio-medical and legal services to the unskilled labour engaged in activities serving these service industries – preferring to live close to their work. New mobility: Productive activities can be enhanced based on the manifestation of healthy value chains. Small actors which contribute immensely to the realisation of these productive networks depend on permeability to move and connect. Though, various transport lines such as railways, highways or waterways (canals, estuaries, etc.) which are extremely important for a city to grow, they isolate a few areas within the city from their surroundings. Bridging over or creating underpasses can help in dealing with these thresholds and improve the connectivity to and from these areas. In addition to this, urban morphology needs to be permeable enough to allow small actors to move around effectively. In other words, improving local mobility systems through new bridges, revitalising the urban fabric, creating permeable morphology, etc. is of prime importance if housing has to connect to the productive activities of a city and materialise as an urban strategy. New ways of living: The contemporary patterns of living have changed with the accessibility to knowledge and the use of technology. Civic amenities such as schools, libraries and health care centres amongst others are the primary centres of learning which become instrumental in boosting the social growth of cities. The ability of cities in imparting knowledge to the masses is directly proportional to the skills cities can generate. But, isolated residential developments like the earlier MCMV projects deny people the opportunity to gain knowledge and improve their learning, which is in turn detrimental to the growth of cities. Therefore, future housing projects need to be merged effectively with the civic institutions to create a healthy learning society. Sustainability: Global warming is an issue of great concern. New architectural and urban interventions need to respond to the rising water levels, fluctuating temperatures, etc. in order to create sustainable urban regions. As Recife is located close to the sea, it has a presence of many waterways and estuaries which increase its vulnerability to the threats of climate change. Moreover, mangroves – which are inevitably found in coastal regions – are crucial for protecting the land from
water currents of the sea and also for the growth of sea life and thus, need to be preserved and nurtured. Owing to the large scale impact of urban development programmes such as the MCMV, it is necessary to be sensitive to these issues in order to foster growth with minimum damage to the environment. All in all, to accommodate the emerging shifts and challenges, new housing practices must provide for improved living, learning and working environment supported by an effective mobility pattern. This can help them contribute to the knowledge generation capacity of cities; while being inclusive at the same time. In other words, housing strategy under the Minha Casa Minha Vida programme must respond to these drivers of change for the realisation of a cohesive and sustainable urban development. 1.2 ENGAGING COMMUNITIES IN TRANSFORMATION The centre of Recife – where the site of intervention is located – is one of the most preferred areas for redevelopment in the Pernambuco region, owing to the presence of strong productive networks. The site is classif ied as a ZEIS (Special Interest Zone) – the regulations of which aim to moderate the urban upgrade plans in order to include the local inhabitants and disadvantaged groups of the area. The Coque community (an economically weak group), which has a strong presence in this area is currently struggling for its existence in face of the recent economic developments of housing and offices around the site. The challenge is to transform the city centre using the tool of housing in such a way that it not only responds to the drivers of change but also protects the livelihood and the rights of the underprivileged community, for the larger benefit of the city. In order to response to this challenge, it is important to strike a balance between consolidating the existing Coque community and opening up space for other stakeholders in upgrading this area, so that an optimum realisation of the existing infrastructure and the central location of the site can be materialised. 1.1.1 The productive region The reason why the centre of Recife is facing these challenges is because of the enormous economic growth that has happened at its periphery, thereby redefining the relationship between the city centre and the fringes. Recife is strategically positioned as compared to other cities in the South America, as it provides an efficient connectivity to African and European cities on an International level and is thus emerging as a favoured location for industrial growth. As the old port inside the city failed to address the spatial requirements of growing industries, a new port - SUAPE – has been developed on southern periphery of Recife to cater to this demand. This relocation has resulted in a dual impact, wherein land is being opened up for new activities at the centre and development of peripheral areas due to the upcoming industrial growth. New housing strategy needs to be well-tailored to address the particular characteristics of intensif ication of both – the central city and peripheral developments – so that they complement each other in their future growth. In reference to this, the aim is to start with a more focussed approach on the changing centre of Recife - using the framework of MCMV - which will also responds to the larger productive region. 1.1.2 Transforming the centre of Recife Though, new residential areas and heavy industries are moving out of the city centre – owing to the relocation of the port and also to avoid the congestion in the downtown – this area still holds a signif icant potential as a place that offers diversity and connectivity. Using the interest of the private sector in investing in this area, the dynamics of the surrounding urban fabric and the existing public transportation, a platform for transforming the city centre can be provided. But as established before, this process must be inclusive of the local Coque community and help reposition it within the larger productive region without extermination. 1.2 OBJECTIVES Setting up a few objectives based on the understandings from the drivers of change and the site surroundings can help in catering to the challenge in an effective manner. Gain value from urban transformation: With rise of new service industries like ICT, biomedical and legal services in the city centre, the site is going to be transformed inevitably. The new strategy should include this phenomenon while regenerating the Coque community. The failure to do this will lead to the formation of isolated ghettos - one of the service industry and the other of the existing underprivileged class – functioning next to each other without benefitting from each other. In order to avoid this, all these actors have to be layered effectively to make them a part of a single urban process. Redeem investment in existing infrastructure: The current scenario is such that, infrastructure such as the road, railway station, etc. have a strong presence around the site but hardly deliver anything to the underprivileged class present there. If the optimum realisation of investing in infrastructure has to occur, then it needs to interact with the surrounding fabric and reach a larger productive territory. For instance, while rethinking the railway station development, the interests of the railway department, private investors and the Coque community need to be taken on board. This will help in equally distributing the benefits bought in by the railway line to a larger territory around it without being partial to a single party. In other words,
infrastructure holds the potential to create a network of knowledge by the means of integration and layering and thus needs to be explored fully. Increase investment in water and mobility: A huge amount of population resides in the low lying areas of the site, along the edge of the rivulets which is easily prone to flooding. These people can be relocated within the site under the new housing strategy and the waterfront can cater to the ecological aspects such as â€˜Mangueâ€™ (mangrove) preservation, etc. wherever required. Recife is heavily dependent on private vehicles for its transportation needs. Improving the water transport can provide an effective solution to cater to this issue. Also, the site is surrounded by estuaries which disconnect it from the neighbouring territories. As learnt from the drivers of change, the need is to develop new mobility in order to form a larger value chain. In this regard, improving and enhancing the permeability of the site by bridging over these water bodies becomes an essential criterion. Involve private sector in urban transformation: The improvement of infrastructure networks around the site together with the availability of empty land due to the relocation of heavy industries and the port creates a good condition for the alliance of public and private collaboration. Public investments in infrastructure can initiate private market development that could redeem the preliminary public financial investment. Policies and regulations could provide strategic guidance for the development of service industries and private entrepreneurship can help in generating knowledge that can be of a great value in the years to come. Involving private participation can enhance the development process and create a different model for the typical real estate development for the city. It will help materialise the collaboration of different actors thereby creating a new platform for the evolution of several key service industries. Involve community in improvements: The provision of basic health and public facilities is a lacking factor in the area where Coque community resides. Using the tool of housing strategically, optimum amount of space can be opened up in phases for the provision of these civic institutions. 1.5 HOUSING AS STRATEGY Though Minha Casa Minha Vida and PAC (Aceleracao do Crescimento - growth acceleration) programmes provide a framework to address the deficit of housing, the way in which they are implemented currently fail to reach the scale of the city. The objectives can help in addressing this issue if the tool of housing is used strategically by the national and the local governments. In other words, to confront the challenges arising from the drivers of change, the city has to use housing as strategy to achieve these objectives. Housing as strategy reconsiders the common solution to slum upgrading - of forcing the disadvantaged to move to new housing. It is an attempt to test new solutions based not only on quantity but also on quality of housing, in order to enable the underprivileged to upgrade to healthy living conditions. The idea is to set a new spatial organization defined by housing in the city centre of Recife by incorporating public and private investment, to develop infrastructure and new industries, to define the use of the waterways and to improve public realm together with social infrastructure. 2. HOUSING AS STRATEGY 2.1 MATERIALISING THE STRATEGY Housing as strategy provides a way of combining the densif ication of central city area with the introduction of different uses and activities. The strategy proposed can be applied in different conditions to define new and existing urban fabric. To redefine waterways: Along with integrating the site with the rest of the city with the help of new bridges (as the estuaries strongly fragment the fabric), the strategy of redefining waterways tries to address a few other issues like improving the quality of mangroves, respond to the future risk of rising water levels and flooding, unlock the potential of waterways as an effective transport medium and enhance accessibility to the waterfront amongst others. While enhancing the waterfront accessibility, the idea is to use building types to define pathways and views which are compatible with retaining mangroves. To deliver social infrastructure: Currently, the social infrastructure on site is extremely weak to support any kind of knowledge generation from within the existing community. While schools imparting primary education are present, there is an absence of other institutions such as colleges for higher education, training centres, etc. in order to improve the professional skills of the people. Moreover, sports and recreational facilities are also marginally represented, making the scenario worse. Hence, it is crucial to strategically insert/propose these amenities within the site, as it will not only boost the social growth of the community but also help in creating a productive link with the medical and legal service industry surrounding it.
To define areas for private sector participation: By systematically planning new programmes to improve the integration and quality of the existing housing settlement, the image of this area can be improved drastically. This will help in increasing the participation of local people in boosting the productive activities inside the city centre. In addition to this, a demonstrable commitment from the government to invest in the improvement of public transport is a clear indication of responding to the unbearable congestion caused due to the excessive use of private cars in the downtown. As a result, the private sector can be encouraged to invest in this site. In other words, by opening up land inside the site, real opportunities can be created for the private sector to claim a stake in securing the future of this area. By consolidating social housing in Zeca island for the local community, we propose to free up land for private sector investment in the area of the proposed bridge. To extend the circulation and to improve the collective realm: The existing housing does not permit movement through the site. Hence, the strategy is to extend the circulation and eventually improve the collective realm regenerating the morphology of a few areas. In addition to the improvement of internal circulation, this intervention can also improvise the larger scale permeability when analysed in relation to proposal of constructing new bridges across the estuaries. 2.2 SPATIAL ANALYSIS: HOUSING TYPOLOGIES The way MCMV is being implemented at the moment, does not support the implementation of this strategy. It is engaged in the creation of mono-functional residential quarters, which ignore the provision of public realm and social infrastructure, fail to improve the local circulation and do not respond to the new/existing mobility infrastructure. Along with the policies, the housing typologies used under this programme is also responsible for these failures. Hence, the need is to rethink the design and quality of housing produced in order to realise the larger strategy. However in spite of all the drawbacks, the positive side of the current MCMV approach is the use of simple floor plans. This is justif ied, as it makes the construction of units easier and affordable. Addressing the affordability of construction is crucial, as the programme has to reach the economically weakest section of the society. With reference to this, the idea is to demonstrate the compatibility of these minimal floor plans with other typologies which have potential to achieve something that is much richer in terms of wider (and longer) urban benefit. Significance of slabs (linear blocks): Until now, the tendency of MCMV’s approach has been to create monotonous rows of single family dwellings in the country side. But, when intervening in a central city district, this type of morphology would prove to be inappropriate. Moreover, the aim is to generate forms which have the ability to create an urban fabric i.e. define streets, courtyards, public spaces, etc. Additionally, the rules of MCMV prevent the use of lifts in the buildings (to make them costeffective), which restricts the building height to 3-4 storeys. One of the forms that can help address both - the orientation bias as well as high density in low/mid-rise areas – is slab (linear blocks). Along with incorporating the things provided by the MCMV floor plans, a linear block can also help in creating courtyards which can become effective in distributing circulation – a strategy that can offer certain amount of privacy and at the same time enliven interior spaces. Nonetheless, it can still keep up with the basic MCMV approach of creating inexpensive multi-residential housing and is multi-scalar as well as multi-sectoral at the same time. This section tries to investigate the potential of types, especially linear blocks, in order to spatialize ‘housing as strategy’. 2.2.1 Floor Plan Despite of its “serialized” connotation, a slab can accommodate various spatial organizations, which may address different urban conditions. Variety of unit types can be created within a linear block in relation to its circulation system. Slab facades have an urban value/effect different than other urban forms. Its facades may define the characteristics of outdoor environment that they overlook. For instance, communal access to a slab facade in engagement with private outdoor spaces contributes to the quality and security of the space that it overlooks. Secondary and tertiary streets might be addressed with wider residential facades, whereas on high streets, noise could be minimized with use of narrower facades in a slab. 2.2.2 Circulation Circulation system within the slab has pivotal role in organizing spaces. Strategic use of circulation can create various spatial qualities. For instance, pulled away communal gallery access can: - differentiate the side of slab it belongs - gives room for a personalized secure outdoor space - helps to create even more complex urban forms when connected to others
2.2.3 Ground Floor Elements used on ground level directly affect slabâ€™s front-back orientation and also the characteristics of areas at the front and back. Serialized maisonettes on ground floor define the characteristics of the outdoor environment and give room for prospective knowledge clusters in case they are used as live-work units. 3. IT TAKES ONLY ONE BRIDGE While implementing these tests on site, the ambition is not to be disruptive to the community. Phasing the project in order to efficiently relocate the affected people becomes extremely crucial in this regard. Zeca Island stands out to be the most preferred location to initiate the development of new housing in phase one. Once it is realised and people from the dilapidated areas are moved to Zeca Island, land can be opened up within the Coque community for further interventions. Hence, to support the strategy of housing, building new infrastructure in the form of bridges holds the key. Improving existing transportation infrastructure and enhancing the connectivity of local mobility system for pedestrian, bicycles and vehicular movement in the cityâ€™s centre by new bridges can improve connectivity in a larger scale, between different parts of the city. In relation to this, the proposal promotes the formation of a sequence of bridges at four locations. This sequence would not only be instrumental in phasing of the project but also provide connectivity to and from the site which currently stands disconnected due to the presence of estuaries. But, for the reasons explained earlier, this sequence needs to start with the bridge to Zeca Island followed by the others. 3.1 INFRASTRUCTURE OF TRANSFORMATION The proposal includes four bridges of different scales. Two bridges connecting Zeca Island; a vehicular and a pedestrian bridge. The vehicular bridge will allow better connectivity to and from the area. The pedestrian bridge will offer a connection between the Coque community and future development of housings in the centre of Zeca Island while introducing educational centre for sustainability and the protection of the natural ecology in the south part of the island. Two other bridges â€“ one for cyclists and another small scale vehicular bridge would allow better connectivity to the centre of the city and the bio-medical cluster. These connections might enable the extension of the bio-medical cluster to the south area and introduce new options for employment for the community. 4. SEQUENCE OF DEVELOPMENT RATIONALE: The project will be financed by the Federal government of Brazil via Minha Casa Minha Vida programme. Besides social housing, communal facilities and environmental education centre have also been proposed. The state alone cannot bear the expenditure for all this development as it will over burden the government treasury and hence would need the private investors to contribute. Thus, along with causing minimum disruption to the community and improving connectivity to the city, one of the most crucial factors is to encourage private sector participation. Therefore the first step is to build the vehicular bridge to Zeca Island. It will represent the commitment of the local government to bring about an urban transformation in this area. This will automatically catch the attention of the private sector and encourage them to invest in this project. Also, Zeca Island stands out as the closest option to relocate people from the precarious housing settlement in Coque. Instead of pushing the disadvantaged population to the peripheral land, Zeca Island allows them to be in the city centre - close to their jobs and other social and cultural amenities. The next step is to develop the land that will be freed-up inside the Coque with the help of private developers. But the challenge here would be to guide them in creating a social mix instead of building high-income housing enclaves without any kind of urbanity. For this, we suggest the Federal Government (land is a ZEIS and belongs to federal government) with co-operation from the local government should provide strategic guidelines to the private investors and ensure that they abide by the rules. The tests that we've done can help the government in framing these guidelines. Further, a civic spine must be built on the other part of the site which again accommodates housing in a precarious condition. This spine will reinforce and improve the civic life in the neighbourhood and attract more private investors to invest in Coque. The challenge of financing the construction of these non-profit making facilities can be addressed through the surplus gained from the development in Coque. Lastly, eastern waterfront becomes a good location to place businesses due to its rich connectivity - the metro station, the main vehicular arteries, and proposed river bus station - and is also in a close proximity to the bio-medical and ICT clusters. These businesses will help in productively opening up the Coque to the The city. The aim is not to create isolated ghettos like the existing Forum but to encourage mixed service ecologies to flourish in this area. The prospective businesses will be well-supported by the housing built in the Coque region, as it would provide homes to the qualif ied employees working in these service industries to the unskilled labour engaged in activities serving them. The sequence: 1. 2. 3. 4.
Zeca Island Housing strategy in Coque The civic centre The development of eastern water front
5. MANAGING THE ESTUARY Estuaries have played a signif icant role in the growth of many cities (eg: London) as they offer a source of sustenance, trade and recreation. Previously, the river in Recife played an important role in mobilizing products from the port to inner parts of Brazil. Today, the river is used mostly for fishing, and provides a source of productivity for the communities along its bank. In addition to this, the mangroves on the water edge are a part of a delicate ecosystem which is environmentally important. The estuary is affected by the relationship between the water and the land. The strong flow of water during the events of flood, make the water edge extremely vulnerable. In order to provide a strong resistance to this act of nature, the strategy is to define buffer areas in the form of soft (mangroves) or hard edges at strategic locations depending upon the relation between the land and water. 6. CONCLUSION Central city real estate redevelopment: The need for a new model Over the years, the real estate market has driven the way the cities are developed but has always been instrumental in speculation, leading to expulsion of weaker section of the society. There is a need to rethink the over – valorising method of this real estate development process if at all the socially backward communities are to be given an opportunity to upgrade themselves. Though this does not imply that the private sector should be excluded from the regeneration process, as this may put an immense pressure on the state funds creating further complexities; but should make the private players accountable for the inclusion of the weaker communities in the creation of a healthy urbanity. Though the sequence of spaces suggested here respond to the specif ic site conditions, the primary aim of setting out the drivers of change and the objectives has been to formulate a general strategy which can be useful in executing similar projects in other cities too. In other words, it can help the city in providing a larger framework to the private developers in implementing programmes under Minha Casa and Minha Vida. Refining the federal housing strategy: At present the Federal government of Brazil allocates funds to the local government to mobilise the Minha Casa & Minha Vida and PAG programmes after which it is predominantly the responsibility of the municipality to execute them as per their own rules. But till now these programmes haven’t been able to address other issues of the society other than ‘housing’. To change this scenario, the Federal government should exert its authority on the municipalities to be more accountable in addressing the multi-scalarity of these projects. In case of the Coque – which is a Federal government land, the state can be more emphatic in asking the local government in formulating a strategic plan that caters to the issues discussed here. RELEVANCE OF OUR SITE: This site falls under the ZEIS (Special Interest Zone) regulations and has been declared as a potential MCMV site by the Brazilian government. This is unique because it is one of the very few occasions wherein a central city area will provide housing under the MCMV programme; otherwise mostly the projects have been executed on the periphery of the city. The central city context brings in a lot of challenges pertaining to the real estate pressure, land deficit, etc. and hence, a typical mono-functional MCMV development devoid of any urbanity needs to be rethought. As per the competition guidelines, there are three ways of selecting the mass housing locality. Our site can be considered in the third category which is “Other configurations of sites to be defined by participants based on their local situations.” The site offers an unique opportunity of using the MCMV programme to create a sustainable urban environment by involving various actors while at the same time consolidating the existence of the disadvantaged population groups within the central city.
Published on Apr 4, 2014