Non-Architects Build Small

October 4, 2010

The exhibition at V&A Museum,  ‘Architects Build Small’ and Studio Mumbai’s contribution to it caused a lot of interest in the subject of survival of poor on the streets of an affluent city. To look at this sad but brave attempt through a magnifying glass in a museum of a wealthy developed country and enjoy or indeed celebrate the artistic and spiritual aspects of these meagre attempts appeared a bit voyeuristic and left me slightly uneasy.

Last Year I was in Lahore for a family visit and saw something close to Studio Mumbai’s creation in real life. This humble structure standing on a ‘postage stamp’ size plot of land must have been housing 8-10 people. The structure was obeying all the basic rules of privacy (a crucial issue here), ventilation, thermal comfort and hygiene.

The honesty of this simple, economical construction to me looked stunningly attractive in its directness. I wonder to this day as to the layout and size of inhabited rooms here, but answer must be in Studio Mumbai’s  exhibit.

Following is taken from my Blog regarding this visit to Lahore

“I also saw the construction of humble dwellings for the people who were displaced from the  slums  where these huge roads are being built. They can only afford to  buy tiny plots of land and are forced to build 2-3 storey houses for large families or often for partial letting to make ends meet.

It was no surprise to know that without fail all of these structures were using a mixture of reinforced concrete walls/columns, floor slabs and stairs to save and gain precious inches of floor space and heights.”

The surprising thing is that no architect has been anywhere near this construction at any stage. In retrospect perhaps Studio Mumbai  was right and I must alter my stance accordingly.

Some other examples of  similar housing in the same area.

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