After winning the RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship in 2011, Sahil Despande of the Rizvi College of Architecture in Mumbai has focused his research on understanding an urban planning scheme that would look beyond the typical architectural desires of constructing houses and public spaces, to the broader problem of providing proper sanitation. Proper sanitation is not a necessity most can afford; in fact, over 2.5 billion people have poor access to proper sanitation and for 1.5 billion, access is seemingly impossible. Without such a basic amenity, a city or settlement’s economic and health structure are often jeopardized. Despande feels the issue of providing proper sanitation is one in which architects often shy away from, as master plans focus on spatial aspects of the formation of a city rather than trying to install the proper infrastructure necessary for its citizens. In his research, Despande traveled to thirteen vastly different cities – ranging from the poorest informal settlement, Kibera, in Nairobi, Kenya to places such as Zurich, Beijing and Delhi – in an effort to study the existing sanitation systems and understand the cultural context in which they reside. Despande’s research is bringing sanitation to the forefront to generate awareness about its inherent linkage with public health, and urge architects to tackle the issue to improve the conditions for billions of people. Check out his presentation and let us know what you think of his research findings.