National Conference on Informal Settlements in Indian Cities
As part of the BInUCom Project, a conference on ‘Informal SettlementsIndian Cities — Impulses for Innovation in Architecture and
Urban Planning Education’ was organised in Coimbatore from
1-4 September 2016.
This conference brought together people from three distinct groups of professionals such as the experts from higher educational institutions of architecture and planning in India, the experts from the European partnering institutions, and those from the domains of architecture, NGOs etc. from India to exchange ideas on architecture and planning education, and the problems of informal settlements. These issues were discussed through presentations on various issues and case studies of informal settlements from their respective places. A series of documentaries was screened as well. In the inaugural session, Dr. Tania Berger, Danube University, Krems, Austria, and coordinators of the BInUCom Project gave a brief introduction about the project, the funding agencies, partnering institutions, goals, and the expected outcomes. After the inaugural session, the conference proceedings started with a presentation on Informal Built Environments and Inclusive Urban Communities in Select Architecture Curricula in India’ by architect Nagaraju Kaja from the School of Planning and Architecture, Vijayawada (SPAV), who presented the survey results and an analysis of the curricula of architecture education in selected institutions in India. This survey is primarily carried out to understand the present architecture curricula. It gave an insight into the various subjects and the amount of informality related syllabus in the B. Architecture curricula across Indian universities. Dr. Darshini Mahadevia from CEPT (Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology), Ahmedabad, spoke about the pedagogy adopted, various faculties in the university, and the way in which issues of informality are addressed. Mr. Thomas Pfeffer, Danube University, Krems, Austria explained the goals of the BInUCom project. He further shared how academic resources have to be freely accessible for innovation in higher education rather than limiting them for commercial distribution. Dr. Aneerudha Paul, Kamala Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture (KRVIA), Mumbai, explained various learning possibilities through informalities via case studies such as the city’s busy Dadar railway station, the eastern waterfront, the industries in Dharavi, the Cinema City project and so on. He explained how academic frameworks can be evolved from mapping to analytical tools to policy formulation. The presentation by
Dr. Anil Kumar from NIT, Calicut, on ‘Inclusive Dimensions of Vernacular Architecture from Architectural Education Perspective’ attempted to understand the aspects of vernacular architecture from an inclusive development of shelter and explored design as a process to involve people and their culture, materials, technology for affordable housing. It further tried to identify the factors inbuilt in vernacular architecture which can be part of the curriculum for inclusive communities. Dr. Shovan K Saha, Dean, Sharda University, expressed his views towards a need-based programme for improving living environments of informal settlements in Indian cities. Dr. Balvinder Singh from Gurunanak Dev University presented his thoughts on the growth of planning schools in India and the way informal settlements and social inclusion are taught in their University through various studio and theory subjects, along with the technology they use as a tool in the teachinglearning process. Dr. Chetan Vaidya, Director, SPA Delhi, spoke about the ‘need for innovation architecture and planning education for making Indian cities more inclusive’. He stressed upon the importance of changing the model curriculum by CoA and AICTE. Vijay Sohoni explained how a slum ‘Erandwadi’ was developed with help from the government along with public participation. He demonstrated how the entire slum was transformed into a better place to live. Urban conservation as an important aspect of architectural and planning education, seen mainly through a ‘people-centred’ approach. Jigna Desai explained this approach and the ways it can be incorporated in conservation studies. Professor Partha Mukhopadhya presented his views on how communities in general are marginalised in our cities, and focused on the issues of boundaries in urban areas. Dhiraj Salhotra presented his study of a slum in Guwahati city. World Bank Consultant Anandiya Kumar Sarkar shared his experience whilst working on a rehabilitation project in Odisha, and the ways in which simple construction details were incorporated in the execution of the project. Dr. Srinivas Tadepalli, NIT, Trichy, deliberated his views on how theorisation can help in teaching about informal settlements. He proposed various studio/theory/assignmentbased courses at the Master’s level programmes. Dr. Ananthakrishna, CMR College of Architecture, Bengaluru, spoke about orienting the architecture curriculum to the needs of the havenots. He opined that the curriculum needs inclusion of various aspects of the have-nots, and professional training under organisations like HUDCO, slum clearance boards, housing boards and NGOs. Dr. Binumol Tom, RGIT, Kottayam, presented her views on how genderbased planning and design needs special attention in architecture and planning education. She explained that vernacular settlements, better street lighting and landscaping, mixed use of buildings, and building neighbourhoods with socio-cultural preferences of people, are the best ways to achieve such planning and design. Mr. Zayed Kadi explained how smart people are important to smart cities for inclusive development. He explained how people should adopt to controlling food habits and curative approach through inclusion of civic sense to stay fit and smart. Architect Prasanna Desai from Pune gave a presentation on how the people-participatory approach helps in slum rehabilitation with the name ‘tailor-made transformation’ through his work in a slum in Pune. Gautam Chaterjee, IAS, in charge of the Dharavi redevelopment project discussed on the feasibility of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna -- Housing for
All (PMAY). Bhavna Vimawala from SCET, Surat discussed the innovative curricula including individual study course-related practices needed for social inclusion in making future architects and planners. Documentaries such as ‘Neo Liberal Visions’, curated by Rohan Shivkumar, were screened during the conference. All the presentations were divided into four sessions chaired by Dr. Abdul Razak from SPA, Vijayawada, Dr. Chetan Vaidya from SPA, Delhi, Dr. Darshini Mahadevia from CEPT, Dr. Ananthakrishna from Bangalore and Dr. PSN Rao, SPA, Delhi respectively. This was BInUCom’s attempt to discover the initiations required for a change in the curricula of higher education in architecture and planning for the sustainable development of informal and marginalised sectors in India. The discussions on the informal settlements in Indian cities that were stressed upon include the significance of the social inclusion and informal settlement development through education at various levels with appropriate professional training and capacity building. The views exchanged by the experts valued the educational pedagogy, teaching methodology, and discussed various levels of integration required as per the year and learning input, through various teaching-learning methodologies including research and development of appropriate informal settlements. This conference stressed upon the need to look in to the present architecture and planning curriculum, and the need for innovation and inclusion of marginalised communities along with their concerns surrounding sustainable development.