Join Gary Hustwit for an in-depth discussion in this video Mumbai to Santiago, part of Urbanized.
The world today is changing pretty dramatically, shifting towards more and more people living in cities. Cities accelerated relatively slowly, from pre-Greek, pre-Roman times; it took centuries to reach those numbers which might be something like a million. By the twentieth century, 10 percent of the population in the world was living in cities; only two years ago, it was 50 percent. And if we continue at the pace we are, which we will, it will be something like 75 percent in 40 years time.
The pace now, is putting enormous amounts of pressure and strain on any system which has limited resources. 33 percent, roughly, of new urban dwellers they live in slums; that's a third of the world's population without the most basic amenities: without sewers, without water, without sanitation. Today, Mumbai has the same number of people as the whole of London, living in slum conditions, and Mumbai is set to become the biggest city in the world, in 2015, therefore bigger than Tokyo.
That means that the slum population, if it were to be the same or roughly like it, would be New York and London put together. What you have in this city, is a situation where the real estate developers on the one hand, and the slum-dwellers on the other, are actually carving out the design of the city. The poor people are doing it because the plan has no space for them. The construction industry produced a huge housing boom for the top 10 percent, and then increasing crisis for everybody else.
The big downside of informal settlements, which need to be urgently resolved, is the question of health and hygiene: How do you bring sanitation, and how do you bring water supply, et cetera. That is, I think, what makes them inhuman, unlivable, and I think a complete reflection of the failure of the society to create human habitat. The city says, "That if there is one toilet for 50 people," that is 10 families have one toilet seat, "it means they have adequate sanitation." But in 1989, the ratio of people to a toilet seat was 900 people to a toilet seat; today it's come down to 600.
All of the politicians would say, "Oh, we don't want build toilets in slums, "it will encourage people to come." As if people come to shit. You have a situation in which an informal settlement gets ignored for a very long time, and because there's no space for growth, it gets denser, and denser, and denser. The issue is that you've got all this growth happening over the next 20, 30 years; so basically a doubling of the urban population. At the same time, you haven't really dealt with the people that are already there.
You know, it's very easy to get incredibly pessimistic, and dark about the prospects, looking forward, because if you just look at the numbers, and the trend lines, it is profoundly depressing; it's like, you just want to slit your wrists, basically. So this is not a healthy area of research and engagement, but that's it, at the same time, what we know from history, is that you really need a small group of innovators, a small group of people, that can demonstrate how to do things differently, and once that gets mainstream, change happens really quickly.
If we do not take care of how the process of migration toward cities is going to happen, the process of urbanization is going to happen in the form of slums. So we're in an urgency to generate the conditions, so that the flow of people into cities happens in a good way.
With the Lo Barnechea project, the main priority was location. Behind me, you see the group of families in the situation before, meaning they live in a slum. What we're trying to do, is that knowing that the location is so important, because schools, transportation, jobs are in this part of the city, which is actually the richest part of the city. What we're looking for, was to be able to find a design able to pay for very expensive land, but keep all those networks.
So, much more important than an extra square meter of house, was a better-located square meter of land, which tends to be expensive. With a subsidy that is about 10,000 dollars, that is given to a poor family, they will become an owner of the house. We had to buy the land, provide the infrastructure, and build the houses. Instead of producing tiny units, we ask ourselves, "Why don't we think it's half of a good house?" And we thought it was efficient to make the half that a family will never be able to achieve on its own, and then allow families to do the other half, on their own, with their own timing, according to their own needs; we call it participatory design.
To have a participatory design, means to have families sitting on the table to help us decide what are we going to deliver, from day one, and what can be then left, so that families themselves take care of that. We were involved with the project from the beginning, and we chose what we wanted for the house. So far, I haven't done anything to the house. It's exactly the same as when they gave it to me.
I do plan to put a tile floor down. Here is the bathroom. I haven't made many changes. We ask families, "What is more important, "a water heater, or a bath tub?" There was not enough money for both. Decision makers, or politicians, or professionals, they normally tend to answer, "the water heater." And in hundred percent of the cases, when we ask this to families, they prefer the bath tub, over the water heater.
You have to understand that they're coming from no water, no sewage; a shower meant to have a can with water in the courtyard, so they're going to have privacy. More important than that, when they move in, they do not have money to pay the gas bill, to heat the water. So, knowing that in their priorities, bath tub is much higher than water heater, let's do the bath tub, and allow them, over time, to buy the water heater.
(laughs) What channel are they from?No channel. It's a movie. It's a movie! Think about a final stage, and how design can facilitate a families' life, to achieve that middle-income standard in the future; that's how quality should be measured, and that was definitely not the way social housing was being measured, nor the way was it being designed.
Unlike many other fields of design, cities aren't created by any one specialist or expert. There are many contributors to urban change, including ordinary citizens who can have a great impact on improving the cities in which they live. By exploring a diverse range of urban design projects around the world, Urbanized frames a global discussion on the future of cities.
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