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Paul Davis Award

Towards Better Livelihoods Through Equality

Part 1 Project 2008
Valerie Saveedra Lux
London Metropolitan University | UK
During my visit to Ambedkar, I met a woman who had to sell her kidney to pay for her son’s education – could this have been avoided if she was financially independent and had the opportunity to work ?

The proposed intervention is aimed at empowering people through the creation of physical and social environments where they can get access to resources that will allow them to improve their futures and livelihoods. The strategy operates at various scales, turning problems into opportunities and creating a solution to various social, environmental and economic problems. Useful environments are created re-using misused areas and spaces that have remained in disuse.

Related concepts of economic development, social justice, human rights and ecological responsibility are harnessed to ensure the long-term sustainability of the settlement.

Valerie Saveedra Lux

The studio explores how urban landscape is inhabited, made and remade through personal and collective acts, events, memories, and experiences. Suspicious of strategic and large-scale planning policy because of its tendency to distil out the rich but fragile local interactions, the studio encourages students to observe fragments of lived experience for themselves, and formulate programmes for architecture. The studio searches out situations where communities are experiencing rapid cultural and technical change and where resources are scarce.

By engaging with these communities in Delhi, with the help of the Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence, CURE, and in conversations and cultural dialogue, by recording their physical state and by considering context as a resource for change, students attempt to cut through cultural barriers to expose the silent issues that constitute the everyday. They then go on to fabricate their own individual briefs around a very real set of circumstances with client groups they know by name.

Thus seeded, such projects contribute to the discourse within the host community and can lead to real funded projects within such transitional societies.

The student’s research was located in a five kilometre long linear industrial zone, sandwiched between the Grand Trunk Road and the Delhi to Calcutta Railway line, east of the Yamuna River in the suburbs of Delhi, containing amongst the factories, a series of dense low income settlements, threatened by the ongoing construction of the Delhi Metro eastwards extension with their delicate self-built infrastructure of houses

This project is a stunning example of how, within this strategic remit, using the narrative techniques of the studio, a student can formulate a sensitive response in this case to gender issues and architectural gems can be created which fit easily into the physical and cultural landscape at the community building scale.

The texture, flexibility and roughness of local brick wall construction, the delicacy of the bamboo roof structures, the mother’s narrative and studies of the lives of young women in Ambedkar have been combined to provide an open and accessible series of spaces: simple, well built, connected, interactive, sheltering, cool, and we believe satisfying emotionally.

In August this year the student returned to India to apply her knowledge in a new situation in Navi Mumbai for a series of community resource centres situated in a working quar

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