Thursday, 29 January 2009

Lines of Flight: Sheffield

The Lines of Flight researchers' group at the University of Sheffield arranged a workshop on 28 January about Informal Architectures and Participatory Practices in Mongolia.

On the theme of Informal Architectures, we discussed:
• the informal,
• the idea of l'informe from Bataille (Bois and Krauss, Formless Zone:1999) - and the relation of form and informal, informal within the formal, etc.
• Informal Architectures (Black Dog:2008) the book,
• participants' notions of informal architecture and urbanism, belonging, and land tenure,
• 'institutional study' of informal settlements including by visiting university groups (WHO pdf).

On the theme of Participatory Process and practices,
we briefly reviewed a few VSO methods which were developed and tailored with Mongolian construction college teachers in a training workshop in July 2008
1. Focus Group Discussions - Бүлгийн Хэлэлцүүлэл
[each subgroup develops responses to a topic and reports to the wider group]
2. Participatory Presentations - Орон Нутгийн Шийдвэр
[each participant presents a few examples and everyone groups them]
3. Picture Stories - Зурган түүх
[developmental Heurisms communicated graphically]
4. Problem Tree - Асуудлын Мод
[root causes and effects 'fruits' of a problematic are mapped as a tree]
5. Thought Shower - Санаагаа Илэрхийлэх.
[free generation and discussion of ideas]

A suggestion to the Mongolian teachers was that some of the methods might be applied to teaching through two live architectural projects. Some of the work to site analysis stage in July 2008 was presented;
Site Analysis and Initial Discussion
Yarmag - Childrens Camp and Conference Centre
Site plan, site analysis
Site sections, site analysis
Captioned Site Photography - tested using the "Participatory Presentation" method in teams for selection and captioning.
Sketches, Collage
Accommodation Brief
Play space - defining play
incl interior, exterior, roads, gardens, ecological features, ecological footprint.
Market Appraisals; Play/Conference centres UB wide, International; Russia, China, Khazakstan etc
Agreed Precedent Studies - Structure, Roof of Beijing Airport (Foster)
Precedent Studies - Programme, Eden Project Cornwall (Grimshaw)
Precedent Studies - Conservation, Camley Street London Kings Cross
Precedent Studies - Theme Parks, Butlins Family Holiday Camps (UK)
(The college director / client suggested Beijing Airport, and students asked for successful foreign examples to study from 'my culture')
Questions arising in the Seminar
• Why weren't local / Mongolian / vernacular architectures studied as precedents?

Sanzai - Eco Houses - Эко Хаус
Background of project funding, private development.
Green standards, agreeing a standard of ecological sustainability
• Energy - Энэриг
• Transport - Тээврийн хэрэгсэл
• Pollution - Агаарын бохирдол
• Materials - Матэриал
• Water - Ус
• Land use and ecology - Талбай ашиглалт
• Health and well being - Эрүүл мэнд эрүүл саруул байх

Questions arising in the Seminar
• Could the ecological sustainability of the traditional Mongolian Ger be studied?
• Defining informal architectures,
• Activism, roles of local NGOs (eg MWFA, MWUA, GCSD) and International NGOs
• Collaboration and Participatory methods in Architectural Practices and Education

Possible actions:
• Further communication / contact in future - discuss ongoing projects with those involved

Here are some flickr pictures - including some shown in the 'lines of flight' seminar.
Lines of Flight Seminar space and participants.
Thanks to participants for a stimulating discussion. Please post/send comments.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Sheffield; Informal Architectures

Students at the University of Sheffield (Lines of Flight) have arranged a workshop on 28 January about Informal Architectures and Participatory Practices in Mongolia.
Recent pictures of the architecture school in Western Ulaanbaatar.
Alt Praxis (U Sheffield c.2007)

'Slumming' in Panchsheel Vihar and Chirag Delhi

Architecture students I met at London Metropolitan University are working with two informal settlements in India, Panchsheel Vihar and Chirag Delhi, which they visited at the end of 2008. These settlements are west and east of the Madapuri Stream, and between two of the seven ancient cities of Delhi. The latter 500m x 500m village has a population of 80 000, only three storeys (a density of 3200 persons per hectare). The students' collection of site information, surveys, analysis and photographs of these informal settlements forms the background for proposing improvements to public spaces.

Diverse precedent studies included one student reviewing Chandigarh*, Archigram and markets in Petaling Jaya. Her project connects many rooftops, with complex effect on private and public space thresholds. Another identified genial occupations of the street, but did not have a clear proposition for any improvement to the neighbourhood. I suggested projects might reference development of communities through local education organisations like SEWA, or like Mongolia's MWFA.

In an age of studios where images of even Panchseel Vihar and Chirag Delhi are accessible via google earth and websites, a student collage of an anonymous map profile caught my eye. In a clipping of an ancient map called "Terra Incognita", I recognised the coast of Western Australia. Like one by Robert de Vaugondy (Didier) 1756, only the west coast was distinct, which suggests it was from the 17th century, when Hondius was still drawing connections between Terra Australis Incognita and the Orient. As students grapple with cross sections of villages and of social strata, Terra Incognita takes on others meanings in 2009.

* Chandigarh conference (see also flickr photos)