Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Check out this fascinating video, highlighting Bolivia's "Indigenous Bourgeoisie", which is growing signficanlty with Evo Morales continued tenure are President and a growing economy.  It highlights the city of El Alto and the Andean Style architecture, which has a unique aesthetic, but uses the house in to generate and create income to help fuel the new buying power of a historically powerless population.
El Alto was also the focus of my study in 2009 where I highlighted these very issues. 


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Kambimoto: Three Years Later



In the summer of 2011, I was able to return to Nairobi, as a team member of Mathare Valley slum-upgrading program.  I stopped by the Kambimoto upgrading project that I had documented in the summer of 2008, and found that it has continued to grow, adapt, and change.
The Kambimoto project was a result of many years of diligent work by Pamoja Trust working with a small slum in the Mathare Valley, north of Nairobi.  The resulting housing was incremental, where each family started with a basic one bedroom, one-story space that could eventually be expanded vertically up to three stories.  In 2008, the project was still under construction, although many units had been completed and families had moved in.  In 2011, the entire project was still under development due to lack of funds, but many individual units had been expanded and the overall space had been transformed significantly.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Incremental Upgrading in India

http://www.dezeen.com/2009/05/05/incremental-housing-strategy-by-filipe-balestra-and-sara-goransson/
An interesting project surfaced on Dezeen that highlighted an incremental upgrading strategy in Pune, India, which was to be designed to be implemented in other places as well.  While the images provide a provocative and compelling new vision of the community, they are basically reorganizing and formalizing what the people and the communities are already doing.  It does beg the question if we give ourselves (architects) too much credit for coming up with something new and game changing. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

New Incremental Urbanism



Driving down US-19 from Bryson City to Cherokee, NC, there exists a campground that is unique even for Western North Carolina.  While it is not uncommon to see RV's with permanent roofs built over them, this particular campground in the small community of Ella was extraordinary because so many of the structures, as well as the community itself, had become permanent.

Most campgrounds of this sort provide summer havens for people from the deep south.  In the summer, they can bring their homes up to the cooler mountains, and then in winter, they can take them back where it is warmer.  However, many people now live in this community permanently, as they have found a way to exand their living space while not having to pay the high costs of land and materials typicaly in many houses in Western North Carolina.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Design and Social Change in Hale County, Alabama


20k house
Last year, I took a trip to Hale County, Alabama.  My goal was to connect with Pam Dorr, the director of HERO (Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization).  We arrived one spring day just in time for lunch, and she suggested we get some catfish at the local gas station, Mustang Oil. Soon, the four of us has ballooned into 10 people.  We ran into the local judge, and some long term and short term locals soon joined us, including a filmmaker from Maine, and a psychiatrist from California who has set up a live-in farm as an alternative to an institution.  Heading into the gas station, it seemed like catfish and oil would make strange bedfellows.  But, I was quick to discover it was a good one, and that Hale County was full of such unlikely combinations.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cairo. Revolutionary Change?

Looking down at Tahrir Square (Source: http://liveblogs.globalnews.ca)
It has been extraordinary to watch the events in Egypt unfold in the last few days. In some ways, it is absolutely shocking to see the extent to which ordinary citizens have shed their fear of the government. Yet, on the other hand, it is amazing that it has taken this long. Having navigated the complete chaos of the city, visited and met citizens living in deep poverty and unimaginable living conditions, and finally watching new cities for the wealthy develop on the outskirts of Cairo, it became clear to me how broken Egyptian society had become.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

WNC Additions: Mary


Mary is currently living by herself, as she and her husband are getting a divorce. Originally, in 1984, they had a three bedroom manufactured/mobile home, but got a larger one still with three bedrooms. During this time, they had two daughters. They added a pool/workout room that now serves as a play space for the grandchildren. Unfortunately, it does not have a heat source and stays closed off in the winter. During this time, they also put a new roof on because they old one leaked. They expanded their porch and began to re-side the entire house. As Mary said, “We wanted to make it into a house.” Two years ago, they remodeled the kitchen. There were plans to remodel the rest of it, but those are on hold because of the pending divorce.

Manufactured Home Alterations

Additions include porches, new roofs, new siding, garages, and additional rooms.


I have found a number of trends in terms of how people have changed their mobile/manufactured homes. Most people find that they are built cheaply and need to make repairs or remodel, or people just want/need more space. (most of the homes I have been looking at are single-wide, just because it is an easy module to compare).

Mobile/Manufactured Homes

Manufactured home park in Boone, NC.

I spent some time exploring mobile homes in Western North Carolina. Having served as the most effective and extensive affordable housing option in the United States for the past 50 years, I was curious to learn a little more about the uses of mobile homes here, especially since many of them have been adapted and changed. Many people (especially architects) think that manufactured housing is the only way to effectively address the affordable housing crisis in the US. Unfortunately, the past is littered with brilliant architectural minds failing miserably in using mass production to produce well designed, high quality, and affordable homes. (read the excellent book: The Prefabricated Home by Colin Davies).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Haiti: Beyond Building Housing

Seven weeks after the disaster, a number of recent news pieces have highlighted how now is the time to begin shifting people out of the tent camps and into different kinds of housing. This has many merits but inevitably raises lots of questions. One approach that has been advocated by some is trying to get people back into their communities/homesites as soon as possible. It can begin to ween people from the dependency of the foreign aid system. As we have already seen, such camps are not set up to deal with the onset of rains, etc. Additionally, by integrating people back into their communities, they can begin to re-establish social support structures that would likely provide greater resiliency. Of course, this can only happen once the rubble is removed, or the sites are deemed safe, which is a huge challenge. A number of groups are working on this very task, providing many Haitians with some much needed cash.