Incremental Housing Strategy in India / Filipe Balestra & Sara Göransson

Incremental Housing Strategy in India / Filipe Balestra & Sara Göransson

Aerial collage: the new archipelago of incremented kaccha houses rising from a context of well built permanent homes in a typical slum.

The problem with social housing has been how to give the most with less money. We have very good examples in Europe, but the constrains are way different than the ones in developing countries. In these countries, almost all the constructions are done by anyone but architects. Clearly, in these countries architects can do something way better than just designing or constructing, developing strategies together with communities to achieve housing solutions that not only address today´s necessities, but that can also be extended over time as families grow, once again by themselves and without architects.

A good example on this is Elemental, lead by Alejandro Aravena, which has been changing not only design aspects of social housing, but also public policy. Currently, they have built and on going projects in Chile, Mexico and more countries.

But also, there´s the work that Filipe Balestra and Sara Göransson have been doing in India, invited by Sheela Patel and Jockin Arputham from SPARC to develop an Incremental Housing Strategy that could be implemented anywhere.

Both Filipe and Sara had a very interesting background for this kind of project: Filipe had previously designed and built a school and community centre in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro’s largest slum, in a participatory design and construction process tother with the locals. The project was called Sambarchitecture and it was documented as a movie which was shown in Cinema Zita during Brazilian Film Festival in Stockholm. Sambarchitecture was also in exhibition in the Architecture Museum of Stockholm and in the Botkyrka Konsthall; Sara has been working on a strategy to connect Stockholm, framing the future urban development as urban bridges between segregated suburbs.

Informal office in Koregaon Park, Pune.

Design team: Filipe Balestra Sara Göransson Guilherme de Bivar Martinho Pitta Rafael Balestra Remy Turquin Carolina Cantante

With SPARC and Mahila Milan

Soon after Filipe and Sara arrived to Bombay, a team of international architects, urban planners, landscape architects and graphic designers volunteered to set up the strategy which uses the existing urban formations as starting point for development. Organic patterns that have evolved during time are preserved and existing social networks are respected. Neighbors remain neighbors, local remains local.

The following pictures show the life inside of old temporary houses (kaccha). All photos were taken in Netaji Nagar, Pune, India in 2009.

When Filipe and Sara started working they did not know the Indian government would initiate a grant of 4500 euro/ family for the incrementation of their homes at a national scale. The grant is now active and it can be given to any family who lives in a kaccha – an old temporary structure, not suitable for living. It is called City In-Situ Rehabilitation Scheme for Urban Poor Staying in Slums in City of Pune Under BSUP, JNNURM. The strategy strengthens the informal and aims to accelerate the legalization of the homes of the urban poor. Their strategy was arranged to fit the parameters of this grant.

All proposals are for one family and 270 sq foot area (grant regulations). Also, each house will have a new individual toilet and kitchen. The existing houses do not have neither toilets nor kitchens. The government will provide new infrastructure which will be brought into every house.

Implementation collage: kaccha houses incremented and customized

Mixed cluster featuring houses: C-A-C-B-C-A. Families will share walls, columns beams and infrastructure.

All prototypes need the participation of the community to emerge. The rules of the grant say each family has to contribute with 10% of the total max 4500 euro that the house costs. Since some families are not ready to give that amount so we are working on alternatives ways to contribute, i.e. sweat contribution: after the reinforced concrete structure is up, the families can help placing windows, doors, painting the house the color they want, and placing their own floor tiles. Thus, the families end up owning the process by customizing their homes.

Workshop in Netaji Nagar, Yerawada, Pune

Far left: Savita Sonawane from the Community Based Organization Mahila Milan, explaining strategy to slum dwellers of Netaji Nagar. Far right, Filipe Balestra sketching possibilities.

The pilot project will be implemented in Pune, India. Filipe, Sara and SPARC are now spreading the word to implement the strategy in other countries with similar needs: Brazil, Kenya, South Africa, The Philippines – the list is long – 1/3 of the world’s urban population is now living in slums.

Each family is free to choose one of the 3 incremental prototypes:

House A: a 2 story house structured as a 3 story house, allowing the owner to extend the house vertically without structural risks in the future.

House B: a 2 story house on pilots, allowing for the owner to either leave the space open for parking or to increment it as a shop or an extra bedroom.

House C: a 3 story house with a void in the middle. This void can be used like a veranda, living or working space, and the family can close it in order to create a new bedroom in the future.

About this author
Cite: David Basulto. "Incremental Housing Strategy in India / Filipe Balestra & Sara Göransson" 08 May 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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