COLLABORATIVE URBAN DEVELOPMENT IN GOPAL NAGAR REGENERATION OF SUBSTANDARD HOUSING NEIGHBOURHOOD IN AHMEDABAD, INDIA ALBERTO GONZÁLEZ-CAPITEL MARTORELL
[THE PROPOSAL] This project proposes a careful thought on the risks and possibilities of urban development. It proposes a complete urban management system, based on a profound integration with user’s design&work labour. The proposal is located in Gopal Nagar, a neighbourhood on the west side of Ahmedabad, India. The project is structured in 2 groups: - INFRASTRUCTURES: variety of buildings that give physical form to the new neighbourhood. Infrastructures is defined as “the set of elements necessary to create and operate a certain organisation”. - GUILDS: techonology that supports and produces infrastructure. Technology is regarded as a complete social structure that encompass all agents involved.
* URBAN TISSUE The project has to deal with the urban grid, with how cities grow, develope and generate its identity. In this case, we are interested on studying the city from its core, the residential program. This analysis tries to process how the different housing typologies affect on the city, the relationship established between them and the resulting tensions between private and public space. 3 different typologies are defined: the housing block, the bungalow and the “chawl”. During the research, it was detected that the “chawl” residencial type, which we had connected to an informal settlement, was in fact a consequence of a formal development. Those few families that owned these land grew rich gradually by constructing and renting this substandard dwellings on high fees. Building up an alternative to this abusive rents became the primal objective of the proposal. On opposition to this residential model, Ahmedabad’s Pol stands as a reference. Some principles of its common design are studied in order to implement them on the housing proposal.
* SOCIAL & ECONOMICAL TISSUE An intensive study on the target population is carried out as well. A high manual capacity is observed, regarding not only craftsmanship but also their resolution towards self-construction processes. This talented, almost natural ability will be kept in mind during the design of the proposal. As part of the field study, an economical analysis is made, relating all the social spetrum living in the neighbourhood. Formal businesses are again connected with manual labour and construction. The mayority of these stores and workshops are concentrated along the main road that divides Gopal Nagar in two parts, causing an increasing chaos. Informal economy is based primarly on residues recollection, up to a “ragpicker” level on a family scale. They might have a small store in which to clean their product, but the business is always limited by its short participation on the recycling chain. A “second chance” towards Gopal Nagar economical development will be implemented on the proposal design.
* URBAN METABOLISM The concept of URBAN METABOLISM is probably the compass guiding all of the project decisions and principles. It tries to develope a careful research on the material conditions of daily life. A special light is shed on the need to maintain the delicate relationship between human (architecture) and nature (environment). In order to recover the lost balance between these two poles, the project is thought in terms of cyclical systems that support each other, merge and work towards a new integrated urbanity. Water in Ahmedabad, both from river Sabarmati and underground resources, has been over exploited and is now on a critical state, due not only to its deficiency, but also to its increasing pollution. Cyclical independent processes, based on rainwater harvesting and black water treatment, stand as a viable and sustainable solution. The project takes advantage of the chosen field of intervention by reusing an artificial lagoon located there, which will be the last step of the cleaning process.
[DEVELOPMENT PLAN] PROGRESSIVE OCCUPATION
The project aims to gradually replace the renting â€œchawlâ€? developments with a new grid that is capable of offering better conditions for its users, as well as increasing their chances to grow economically. It is looking towards generating an urban tissue in which the relationship between private and public spaces is determined by transitions meant to solve the gap between poles, generating mixed uses and urban complexity, as well as a sense of common appropriation of the project. The proposal implementation is structured in partial stages, starting by occupating some empty land and constructing the primary infrastructures, necessary for further development. The project itself needs to be understood as a process, not as a result. It focuses on the principles that structure its management and allow the neighbourhood development.
[GUILD+INFRASTRUCTURE] * BRICKS MANUFACTURING + * FIREBRICK KILN / SCHOOL
As part of the concept of urban metabolism, fired bricks are chosen as the primary building material. Again, the process is cyclical and produces value from waste: the clayey earth extracted while laying the foundations for infrastructures (the built types that define the project) is used as raw material to manufacture the bricks. The Brick Kiln, the first infrastructure to be built, is designed as a zig-zag continuous kiln. The structure can be refurbished and used as a school (or some other similar public equipment) as soon as the neighbourhood consolidates and its former use becomes obsolete. The bricks designed and produced here will play a decisive role on all the other guilds, as almost every building component and detail will be constructed with them. The constructive simplicity is a core principle of the proposal, because the success the project seeks depends on users participation. The easier and more flexible systems are, the faster and more efficient the collaboration and the commitment of the community will be.
[GUILD+INFRASTRUCTURE] * STRUCTURAL SYSTEMS + * PRODUCTIVE & HOUSING BLOCKS Structural systems are the technological frame that comes from abroad and is settled on site. It shall be open to local input and gradual improvements, although with necessarily limited customization. Cross-cultural technological exchange is implemented here: floor structures follow and ancient traditional spanish technique, the â€œcatalan vaultâ€?. One of the reasons this system is considered appropriate is the ammount of qualified labour it requires, which is easily found on this neighbourhood. The housing blocks in front of the main road serve as platforms for strenghtening local economy and breaking the stagnation of the family-scale black economy that is traditional to the site. Workshop places in the first two floors become the support for the apartment floors, designed as narrow cross-ventilated strips. The working spaces on the ground floor are meant to be used as work places for prototyping during the constructions stages of the project, and as private / collective workshops as the neighbourhood consolidates.
[GUILD+INFRASTRUCTURE] * FASSADE SOLUTIONS + * EXTENDABLE HOUSING
Fassade solutions compose the guild where the users obtain more freedom of design. This catalogue is presented as a minimal structural frame that allows each house owner to decide its final aspect. This process gives sufficient freedom while at the same time establishing the minimum standards needed to ensure efficient construction. Housing is understood as a social and economical frame. On the first stage of the project, houses will be constructed on a minimum core, that can be later extended by the owner itself. Houses are meant to be built by the users themselves, enabling them to be part of the designing process. The objective is to transform passive users into active drivers of the project. The fact that users take part on the construction and the decision making process implies that they are not only owners of their house and neighbourhood, moreover they appropriate the skills, technology and philosophy of the proposal. Appropriate and acquirable technologies ensure an unique and properly maintained urban environment.
[GUILD + GUILD]
* WATER TREATMENT SYSTEM + * PUBLIC SPACE MANAGEMENT The Water treatment system is one if the basic principles of the project, favouring the blooming of a pleasant public space. Centered on rain water harvesting during the Monsoon season, this system proposes a complete black water treatment through 5 different steps, finishing at the artificial lagoon located on the site. The system follows the principles of DEWATS technology: it works on gravity, so it requires no energy, and its constructive simplicity allows to be constructed and properly maintained by the neighbours themselves. In direct relationship with this system is the last guild: public space management. It allows to harvest as much rainwater as possible from public spaces too, distinguishing between pedestriandomestic and traffic-service streets. Some basic public furniture is provided, always connected to the flora: existing trees are protected and new ones are planted where they are most needed, depending on their specific properties. The surroundings ot the artificial lagoon become the core of public space, using the treated water to irrigate a grove around it.
ALBERTO GONZÁLEZ-CAPITEL MARTORELL
Alberto studied at Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid (ETSAM), where he graduated with honours on september 2012. He received an Erasmus grant at the Technical Universität Berlin (TUB) on 2008-09. On that year, he participated in a DesignBuild Studio in Mexico, an experience that would imply a radical shift in his understanding of both architecture and its learning methods, and would lead his further investigations. Back in Madrid in 2010 he co-founded the student association ACetsam (Cooperation Area of ETSAM), born from and for the students, under the premises that there was an urgent need to construct an alternative educational path in opposition to formal academical curriculum. ACetsam consolidated itself by organising constructive workshops (with the participation of different collectives, such as Basurama, Zuloark, Canyaviva or Inteligencias Colectivas 2.0.) and other complementary activities, such as exhibitions, conferences, debates, competitions… Its main goal is to open the university environment to varied architectural realities across the world, researching basic habitability concerns in a multidisciplinary approach. His Final Project, “Collaborative Urban Development in Gopal Nagar”, located in Ahmedabad, India, is the mirror and result of his personal view towards architectural practice, a cohesive collage of his investigations. Complex sustainable thinking, collaborative design and productive housing dynamics stood among the studied research topics. He is now leading an experimental formative course within ACetsam, researching on bottom-up dynamics and self-management processes and putting its results into practice, with the aim of recovering a residual urban plot as a self-managed public space. Following the Learning by doing principle, students have the opportunity to establish a real contact with local government and institutions, neighbours and cultural associations as well as any other agents involved in the process.