The project recognizes the talent and skills of local builders in homegrown settlements by providing a space for showcasing their ideas and design imagination. From Cairo to Mumbai, from Sao Paulo to Tokyo, cities work with multiple strategies to fulfill building related demands of urban life. Due to increased pressure, construction activities often spill out from professional boundaries. Most architecture and civic administrations, urban infrastructure projects and real-estate developments work on a financial model of large scale capital mobilization, often rooted in speculation. However, a majority of inhabitants raise small amounts of capital from their family and community networks to finance a local economy of incrementally growing construction projects outside this space.
Such spaces are often populated by self-taught experts and professionals who have gained design and construction skills through experience and practice. Rather than seeing them in opposition to professional and certified practices, or through euphemistic binaries of the formal and informal, the project sees them as part of a shared space, rich in potential for dialogue and collaboration. The project’s departure point is the recognition of the role of local actors in the production of their own habitats. It focuses on the processes at work in Dharavi, a famously unplanned settlement at the heart of Mumbai, that is usually described as Asia’s largest slum. Putting preconceptions aside and using an ethnographic lens that works with the language of architecture, the project explores the design imagination of local artisans who day after day build thousands of tiny houses that accommodate the multitude of low-wage workers sustaining the city’s service and manufacturing sectors.