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INFORM

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ENS Informal Settlement Project . Spring 2010

College of Environment & Design . University of Georgia . Athens, Georgia

eachstudio]


What... The Urban Outreach Studio is an independent graduate studio that engages unorthodox urban issues. Conceived in January 2010, this inaugural studio deals with the informal communities of Athens, Georgia. Through research, analysis, and communication we intend to begin addressing this complex urban issue using the tools and perspectives of landscape architecture. The following document was based upon academic and field research and employs photographs, maps, and graphic data to tease out principles and patterns in order to establish a foundation for further work with Athens’ informal settlements. The Urban Outreach Studio’s main goal is to share this information; our findings empower designers, informal settlement residents, and the community at large. We hope this project impassions and inspires you.


...and who is UOS?

Jordan Bates

Brady Richards

Prof. Brian LaHaie

Prof. Douglas Pardue

UOS would like to thank settlement residents, the Mad Housers, and the Oconee Street Methodist Church. Thanks to all who care for and live in the informal settlements of Athens, GA.


Informal Settlements An informal settlement is a collection of impoverished people who live in improvised dwellings without “access to either traditional or permanent housing that can be considered safe, sanitary, decent, and affordable” (OCGA 8-3-301). Conditions vary from settlement to settlement, but are generally defined by the five shelter deprivations outlined by UN Habitat - “lack of access to improved water, lack of access to sanitation, non-durable housing, insufficient living area, and security of tenure” (2008). Very often, they are unhealthy places to live. Informal settlements have many faces. In developing countries, political, economic, or environmental disasters can create sprawling slums, where inhabitants may number in the millions. In the developed world, informal settlements sprout on vacant land, public right-of-ways, or peripheries of cities. They can be called slums, shanty towns, favelas, or barrios. They can be small collections of primitive tents or massive cities within cities. They can be temporary or last one hundred years. While many consider these places to be dangerous, lawless, or unhealthy and the people in them undesirable, the Urban Outreach Studio seeks to question these assumptions. Perhaps the settlements are more than they appear. Perhaps they are safe and organized communities valued by their inhabitants and have their place within the urban context. But if we do not seek the answers to these questions, we will never know the truths concerning informal settlements and, as a consequence, we will always act on assumption alone. A landscape architect cannot be so negligent. In order to address these urgent issues, crucial questions must first be asked; The Urban Outreach Studio asks these questions.


Hooverville in Seattle, 1937

Slum in South Africa, 2005

Favela in Brazil, 2007

Tent City in Sacramento, 2009


The Athens Five Though other informal settlements exist, we have chosen five. These five were selected after extensive research, interviews, and personal exploration. Their proximity to downtown Athens and the university located them within a familiar context and allowed for repeat visits at different times and in different conditions. The fact that they are situated so near each other provided for an interesting comparative study.

The five settlements are introduced below:

Overpass

1 Settlement

River

4 Settlement

Railroad

2 Settlement

Highway

5 Settlement

Greenway

3 Settlement


These five communities compose our Athens urban informal settlement map seen below. Specific site and street names are purposefully excluded to ensure the anonymity of the settlement locations.

1

Downtown

2 3

Neighborhood

4 University

\

n

Greenway

5


Key Information UOS’s data compares and contrasts conditions between individual settlements. This information was compiled in the field through interviews and observations and was contingent upon the conditions of spring 2010.

The data is expressed through a graphic vocabulary outlined here:

POPULATION

SITE SIZE

= 1.5 acres Current Estimated Residency (dark) Site Capacity (total)

1 square = 1 acre

PROXIMITY

COVER

= Dense Cover = Medium Cover 0

1.5

Miles to Athens Downtown Core

3

= Sparse Cover


DRINKING WATER

SOUP KITCHEN

0

Yes

Distance to Oconee Street United Methodist Church

No

SHELTER TYPOLOGY

HYGIENE

No

Yes

HEALTH SERVICES

0

1.5

Distance to Athens Regional Medical Center

1.5

3

3

Tent

Structure

Overpass


Overpass Settlement 1

\

n

Railroad

Urban Context

The Overpass settlement sits at the convergence of three right-ofways: a main road, a railroad, and a greenway. Two bridges provide adequate shelter for habitation while the greenway provides essential cover and water. These circumstances sustain a large permanent population.

Riv

er

Greenway Park

d

[

Key Information

ain

a Ro

Site Context

M

0

0.4

3


e dg Bri

Fo o

This overpass provides a large permanent shelter.

tpa

th

Buckets are a multi-purpose tool, utilized for water, waste, or other needs. Site Diagram

Park

]

This settlement is located within an unde-rused park on the greenway.

0

1.3

3

0

1.7

3


Railroad Settlement

road

2

Rail

\

n Urban Context

The Railroad settlement is perched beneath a bridge that straddles an active rail line. Close proximity to both the university and downtown make this the most urban site of the five in our study. No water or cover vegetation also make this site the most dependent on urban infrastructure. Site Context

in Ma

[

ad

Ro

Key Information

0

0.1

3


This bridge overpass has provided shelter for long-term human habitation.

Access to sanitation services is an issue for most informal settlements.

M n

ai

Site Diagram

ad

Ro Beds and individual living spaces are elevated for privacy.

0

0.5

3

0

1.9

3

]


River Settlement 3

River

\

n Urban Context

The River settlement is situated within an existing neighborhood and capitalizes on a proximity to the river and the vegetative cover of a kudzu patch. It is situated beneath the pylons of an inactive railroad right-of-way.

Greenway Park

Site Context

[

Key Information

0

0.3

3


Riv

er

Current and historic right-of-ways create ambiguity of ownership which allows squatting.

This composite dwelling uses tarps and other fabrics to augment a traditional tent. Site Diagram

Invasive plants provide privacy and cover for residents.

0

0.4

3

0

2.2

3

]


Greenway Settlement

4

n Urban Context

River

\

Trail

The greenway allows this settlement to grow unconstrained by any formal limitations or boundaries. Due to this, the settlements are not concentrated, but scattered into constellations that maximize privacy and access to water.

Greenway

Site Context

[

Key Information

0

0.4

3


Trail

Individual spaces are created by the clearing of wooded undergrowth.

Trail

River

Site Diagrams

This prepared fire ring, used for heating and cooking, suggests established habitation rituals.

The banks of the river offer private and practical locations.

0

0.1

3

0

2.2

3

]


Highway Settlement

\

n

y

a hw

g

Hi

5

Urban Context

Due to its location between two right-of-ways and unused private land, the Highway settlement is capable of accommodating a large population. This settlement also contains sophisticated freestanding structures made possible by the ample size and cover of the site.

Private Wooded Lot

il

a Tr

Main Road Site Context

[

Key Information

0

1.1

3


Tr a

il

This particular long-term resident has gone beyond basic shelter to the artistic expression of home.

The structures made by a nonprofit group are suggest a well developed community. Site Diagrams

The history and sophistication of the 20 year settlement are evident.

0

0.8

3

0

3.0

]


Site Comparisons Overpass

1 Railroad

2 River

3 Greenway

4 Highway

5

[ [ [ [ [

0

3

0.4

0

3

0.1

0

0

0

3

0.4

3

0.3

1.1

3


0

0

1.3

0.5

0

0

3

0

3

0.1

0

0

3

0.4

0

3

0 0

0.8

3

3

1.7

3

1.9

2.2

3

3

2.2

3.0

] ] ] ] ]


Settlement Patterns

After a comparative analysis of the five sites, UOS found patterns that suggest a commonality of human needs drawn upon the land. These patterns of location, shelter, and habitation appear within the specific urban environment of Athens and offer a deeper understanding of daily life within these settlements. While it is difficult to fully comprehend the issues confronting informal settlements without actually living in them, recognizing these patterns makes it possible to walk in a resident’s shoes, if only for a moment.

Location VACANT LAND All five settlements exist on the vacant land of government right-of-ways. The inability to develop this land ensures longer tenures and greater privacy.


PROXIMITY TO WATER Four of the five settlements have instant access to essential non-potable water due to the adjacent river.

COVER Privacy is a commodity in informal settlements. Vegetation, infrastructure, or other site characteristics provide the necessary cover.


Settlement Patterns Shelter COMPOSITE STRUCTURE Improvised free-standing structures made of multiple materials are the most common. Simple and economical, they withstand the elements and time.

BRIDGES Informal settlements appear close to bridges. Not only are these right-of-ways, but they provide permanent shelter.


Habitation COMMUNITY Shared spaces exist in all settlements illustrating the universal human need for congregation and camaraderie.

PATHWAYS Internal circulation defines settlements. Footpaths mark primary and secondary routes through settlements, to shelters, and along the river.


Settlement Patterns

Habitation FIRE Fire is essential. It provides heat for warmth and cooking. Fire rings and barrels are scattered throughout the sites and used regularly.

WATER Since potable water is scarce, the river provides water for cleaning and personal hygiene. Buckets are used for water retrieval and storage.


PERSONAL EXPRESSION As always, the human spirit is imbued into physical artifice. Words and images enhance structures, mark territories, and add life to informal settlements.

WASTE MANAGEMENT Trash is ubiquitous in informal settlements. Though sanitation is a serious concern, a lack of sanitation services makes this issue difficult to address.


(In)formal Correllations

All people have basic needs; they are manifested in different ways. While studying these informal settlements, we could not help but notice the similarities between formal living conditions and those within the Athens five. One can only see a bucket so many times before one sees a toilet, and vice versa. These formal/informal correlations challenge conventional living practices with their simplicity while disputing the validity of modern conventions. The patterns found in the informal settlements of urban Athens highlight the value of thrift, ingenuity, and resourcefulness in a world of waste, consumerism, and disposability. In this way, their existence alone challenges the shorings of our modern society. These provocative informal correlations to formal living are explored in the following pages.

SHELTER


COVER

COMMUNITY

TRANSPORTATION


(In)formal Correllations

?

*

FOOD & POTABLE WATER

HEATING

HYGIENE


STORAGE

WASTE MANAGEMENT

These parallels seek to dissolve the boundaries between the residents of informal settlments and traditional society. By seeing the similarities of their respective existences, UOS hopes to diminish the stigma and stereotype of those who live alternative lives. Further research can only help this cause.

we realize that the Oconee Street Methodist Church provides daily meals for the * While homeless, site evidence suggests that there are many different sources of food and potable water. This information was beyond our scope for now.


Future Paths Research UOS was only able to scratch the surface of this deep and complex issue. Further research paths may include homelessness in Athens, ecological impact of informal settlements, resident displacement, social programs and government outreach, the design and construction of useful interventions, the social hierarchies of informal settlements, renewable technologies for heating and cooling, or sanitation. This topic is rich, robust, and untouched. An interested mind could tackle any one of the multi-faceted issues within informal settlements and discover many more along the way, as we did.


Advocacy Just as the information within this document was meant to be disseminated far and wide, any future research should also be accompanied with advocacy as a means to educate community members and dispel existing stereotypes. Advocacy could take the form of government policy, built intervention, settlement charettes, public demonstrations, or university outreach. The problems of informal settlements are exacerbated by community ignorance; change can only occur in an environment where compassion and understanding exist.


UOS Reflections Cities, even small ones like Athens, are bigger than the imagination allows. They are composed of countless perspectives and situations that inspire, arrest, enliven, and depress, all of which make the urban context the dynamic experience it is. The Urban Outreach Studio learned many things throughout this process. Some heartening, some heart breaking. We went places that few people see. These were rich locations of history and human drama hidden in the cracks of our modern society, behind our backs, and under our feet. They are like vestiges of earlier days when mankind was still hammering out the details of its civilizations. They serve as proof that these civilizations still have far to go. We met individuals that few people meet. Some were amazingly dedicated and hardworking individuals toiling for quiet causes and invisible people. They were more than willing to help UOS with their knowledge and spirit. Others were battered souls in search of solace and support we were unable to give. Their problems of violence, addiction, and mental health were out of our scope and abilities, a fact we found hard to swallow. We learned what many people have yet to learn, that community is far larger and more complicated than the typically discussed issues of traditional neighborhoods, open space, and civic buildings. We found that community includes the in between places, the forgotten places, the places that most will never go. A rich, healthy community must consist of all these places and the people that inhabit them, because there is little difference between the needs of greatest and the least of us. UOS was an experiment in the unexpected. Many unforeseen obstacles stymied desired directions but led to new ones. In the end, as landscape architects, we decided the best way to employ our skills was to observe, analyze, understand, and communicate the richness of the people and patterns of the informal settlements of Athens. In doing so, we expanded our definition of community and re-evaluated our own roles within it. We hope this helps you to do the same.


Bibliography LITERATURE 1. Davis, Mike. 2007. Planet of slums. Paperback ed. London ; New York: Verso. 2. Somerstein, Rachel. 2010. The Tent City and the Olympic Village 20102010]. 3. Spaulding, Tricia. 2008. Cops Trim Borders of Tent City. Athens Banner Herald, March 13, 2008. 4. UN-Habitat. 2008. The State of the World’s Cities 2008/2009: Harmonious Cities. London: UN Habitat. 5. Werner, David, and Richard Hodes. 2001. Where there is no doctor : a village health care handbook for Ethiopia. Ethiopian ed. Addis Ababa: Shama Books. IMAGES 1. Hooverville Photo: http://www.washington.edu/uwired/outreach/cspn/Website/ Graphics/Hooverville.jpg 2. South Africa Photo: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2005/12/25/ international/25durban.large1.jpg 3. Brazil Photo: http://momento24.com/en/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/favela.jpg 4. Sacramento Photo: http://spankingbeaarthur.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/ sba193.jpg


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