Bricolage-New Delhi

June 2010

Bricolage:Building Resilience in Cities of Global South

Jun 11, 2010 9:17 AM
Utkalika Panda

Team Bricoleurs: Maro Mavri & Utkalika Panda 

Music: Spiritual Master key by Talvin Singh


DRAFT VERSION II - Bricolage:Building Resilience in Cities of Global South

Jun 6, 2010 11:57 AM
Utkalika Panda

Team Bricoleurs: Maro Mavri & Utkalika Panda
Music: 'Spiritual Master key' by Talvin Singh



May 2010


May 30, 2010 10:44 PM
Utkalika Panda

 Team Bricoleur- Maro Mavri & Utkalika Panda

Music- 'Spiritual Master key' composed byTalvin Singh




Bricolage:Building Resilience In Cities of Global South

Developed countries are still equipped with technology and funds to deal with the issues of climate change and peak oil. The alarming rates of urbanization in the megacities of global south, creates a precarious situation owing to budgetary constraints. So innovative strategies like: Adaptability, Reuse and Localized Infrastructure can prove to be effective tools for developing nations to fulfill the demands of growing urban population and also build resilience in cities. Adaptability refers to flexibility of use. Reuse unlike recycling retains the properties of the object. Energy consumption to produce and transport new building materials or recycling existing ones is far higher than reusing existing in the same form. Localized infrastructure eliminates the need for trip generation and hence the demand for energy for transportation is curtailed.

Bricolage refers to such strategies- the term used in several disciplines like visual arts and literature, refers to the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available, or a work created by such a process. The term is borrowed from the French word bricolage, from the verb bricoler – the core meaning in French being, "fiddle, tinker" and, by extension, "to make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand."

CASESTUDY: Worker Camps For Commonwealth Games 2010,New Delhi
Since 2006 the city of New Delhi has been undergoing an unprecedented $6 billion building boom and beautification campaign and some estimate that preparations for the Games, the world’s third largest multi-national sporting event, have brought more than 400,000 contract daily wageworkers. These migrant worker camps come into existence around the construction sites. In the absence of proper infrastructure, these worker camps manifest into slum conditions, feeding into the city services as available.

Many come with their families, including children who are being exposed to unhygienic conditions and inadequate care. As their parents toil to build commonwealth games venues and related infrastructure, around 10000 or more children are on the streets of New Delhi, spending their lives in squalid conditions without electricity or adequate toilet facilities and most importantly losing out on the opportunity of education. These children come from the poorest states in India such as Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu & Uttar Pradesh, which are not just geographically diverse regions but have different languages as well. Some children are enrolled in their village’s school but are forced to drop out when moving to the city. To top it all, these children often move around to different sites within Delhi and that constant mobility hinders their access to education and thus impairs their development.

Accepting the temporality and diversity of the construction worker camps and their inevitability in building the city and adhering to the concept of Bricolage, we sought to reuse leftover materials on the construction site and harnessing the masonry skills of the workers to create a localized infrastructure that is adaptable to the transitory nature of workers camps. The concept of a mobile classroom or “chalti paathshala” emerged that follows the worker’s children and not vice-versa.

As we geared up to find solutions to provide educational infrastructure through design, it was clear that whatever we do should evolve from the existing ways of life of people in India. While looking for clues for design development, we came across the School Tricycle Rickshaw, which has been a traditional mode of transportation for school going kids under the age of six in many parts of India. The element of mobility of a classroom and its acceptability by people is strengthened by such existing usage. As Teddy Cruz (2008) mentions in his article ‘Architecture: Participation, Process, and Negotiation’, regarding the framing of informal tactics in a spatial sense by thinking of infrastructure at the micro-scale and understanding the processes better, we visualized looping such bottom–up processes within the community to strengthen our thesis. Design as activism for us meant bringing the slightest improvement in one’s life by doing a minimal intervention, which just blends into the lifestyle of the user and is the middle path for top down and bottom up approaches.

Design Considerations
The physical manifestation of our thesis develops from several restrictions in site context such as costs, worker skills, availability of materials, technology, climatic conditions, site conditions and of course the need of flexibility & mobility.

  •  Materials & technology

“Historically societies have consumed beyond their needs as a means to feel they are not merely existing but truly living” (Baudrillard, 1998). Societies all over the world produce more waste compare to what they consume, which depletes resources, harms economy, environment, and health. The distribution of commodities and waste manifest the stark inequalities between the wealth and the poor areas of the city, creating two different types of flows - one of the commodities moving to wealthy areas and the other one of remnants to the slum areas. Through our thesis we attempt to rearrange these flows and find creative ways of reusing the unwanted. Also, restrictions of costs of pre-fabrication and manufacturing, led to materials readily available on the construction site such as leftover scaffolding (remnants on construction site, sand bags, corrugated sheets, cast iron (I-beams) and other regional materials & products such as jute or bamboo mats or screens.
Undoubtedly the idea of the reused material is not new. Unlike recycling, concept of the reuse is different as the object reserves its form and its elementary attributes the way it is now but the way it has to operate/perform is completely different. Also, as a design product, it is in tune with ‘beautiful strangeness’ as in the sub-title of the book Design Activism by Fuad-Luke (2009), in which he defines it as “beauty that is not quite familiar, tinged with newness, ambiguity and intrigue, which appeals to our innate sense of curiosity”.

  • Climatic Conditions

The climate of Delhi is a monsoon-influenced humid subtropical climate with high variation between summer and winter temperatures and precipitation. Delhi's version of a humid subtropical climate is markedly different from many other humid subtropical cities such as Sao Paulo, Tokyo and Brisbane in that the city features dust storms (something more commonly seen in a desert climate), has relatively dry winters and has a prolonged spell of very hot weather. These variations in climatic condition and the affordability for cooling/heating become a deciding factor for the flexibility in design and the choice of materials. For instance, openings and fenestration for the classroom are removable and may take the bamboo or jute mats in summer as the screening element or insulated corrugated sheets in winter to protect against cold winds.

  • Mobility

‘Chalti Paathshala’ or Moving classroom is a flexible educational platform, which is not fixed into a locally defined area and is based on the student’s necessity to be transferred to different nodes–usually where their parents work. Additionally in order to adapt to light & shade, wind and resource need, the mobile classroom can be displaced and located as per convenience.

  • Flexibility

The modular components can be dismantled and assembled by the construction workers themselves. The structure has no specific and final form but constitutes a flexible system that follows the needs of the student. It is an amalgam of different layers, an anthology of different conditions, of different approaches by using remnants and derelict materials. Theoretically the platform obtains the attributes of a bricolage. Extending the notion of Claude Levi- Srauss and Jack Derrida about bricolage, our educational platform transforms and rearranges preexisting materials and integrated again into new processes.
Even in the case of the complete abandonment of the educational platform, it can be reused obtaining new functions and activities. This educational platform responds to the changes of everyday life in order to serve children’s needs that are constantly altered and attempts to give solutions through moving structure and flexible constructions.

  • Power

As the class timetable can be laid out to make use of daylight availability and changing the position of the classroom can control heating/cooling, the need for power is almost zeroed down. As and when need arises, the classroom can be moved to plug into the grid supply on the construction site.

  • Advertisement

We see an opportunity in the market of outdoor advertisement to use it to the advantage of the children welfare. According to a leading outdoor advertising agency in Delhi, when elections are forthcoming, hoardings in a city such as Delhi cost political parties $5000-$10000 for a month depending on the location. Sometimes, the cost of advertising in bus shelters for a month can be between $1000 to $2000. Therefore, additional benefits can come from the mobile classroom, such as the exterior walls and roof of it can be used for outdoor advertisements aforementioned. The money generated can be used towards other educational and extra-curricular activities. To further the tactic, hoardings can also be used to raise awareness of burning issues of Delhi and India such as pollution, deforestation, women’s rights, population explosion and even concerns like HIV/AID.

Throughout our research, we sought to amalgamate elements present in the immediate environs of the users – be it the tangible ones like the building materials, construction workers or non-tangible components like needs and. Also, The Building & Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 - has a provision for financial assistance to be guaranteed by Construction Companies for education and social welfare of the workers. The recently approved the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (2009) and NGOs like Butterflies, Salaam Baalak Trust can be collaborated in the design process as well.

“Chalti Paathshala” (mobile classroom) is a case of waste management on construction site, reduced energy consumption by eliminating need for new materials and transportation and provision of localized infrastructure that is adaptable to needs of the user. Also, by articulating the role of the construction workers (parents of the children) as ‘co-designers’, the design becomes more than just provision of infrastructure but also about community participation in capacity building and welfare activities. As Teddy Cruz (2008) mentions in his article ‘Architecture: Participation, Process, and Negotiation’, regarding the framing of informal tactics in a spatial sense by thinking of infrastructure at the micro-scale and understanding the processes better, we visualized looping such bottom–up processes within the community to strengthen our design. Building resilience in cities like New Delhi is about urban acupunctures and organizational tactics which make design through bricolage like ‘chalti paathshala’ viable and necessary



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