A slum in Kibera, in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo via the Affordable Housing Institute
Global giant AECOM has announced the finalists for its fourth annual student competition Urban SOS, which addresses how design can alleviate urban distress. This year's edition, called "Frontiers," focuses on fringe neighborhoods that face chronic liveability challenges that are largely the result of a city’s location on a physical, political, cultural, or economic border--places such as the slums in Nairobi or social-housing developments in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. In addition to a cash prize for the winning team, AECOM arranges a donation to a charitable, humanitarian, or community organization to further develop and implement the winning scheme.
The competition attracts hundreds of student teams representing universities in more than 60 countries. The three finalist teams will present their projects this evening at a free exhibition at the Center of Architecture for New York City (you can RSVP here), after which the winner will be announced.
Rendering courtesy of Unslumming Kibera
Team 1: Unslumming Kibera
Adam Broidy, USA: California College of the Arts, MBA Design Strategy; Jack Campbell Clause, Kenya: Leeds Metropolitan University, UK, MA Landscape Architecture; Jamilla Harper, USA: University of Nairobi, Kenya, MA Development Studies; April Schneider, USA: University of Illinois Chicago, MUPP Urban Planning
Kibera is one of the largest slums in the world--with its cheap rents and strategic location, it has become the prime spot for rural migrants looking to find work in Nairobi's booming economy. But rapid urbanization, a response to a growing urban economy and decreasing rural opportunities, puts increased pressure on an already dense and degraded environment. Kibera's houses have no running water or toilets, and often have no electricity (unless it is procured illegally). Furthermore, the inhabitants of this government-owned land have no legal tenure rights. While the people in Kibera have exhibited an extraordinary pioneering, entrepreneurial spirit, they do lack the time, money, and technical expertise to really transform their surroundings.
As a solution to these challenges, Unslumming Kibera plans to reuse materials such as plastic bottles and car tires and harvest rain water and sunlight to create sustainable buildings. The project also plans on providing flood protection as well as constructing open spaces that will improve the quality of life.
Images courtesy of Green Terraces
Team 2: Green Terraces
Juan Camilo Pinzon, Colombia: Universidad de los Andes, Colombia, BE Civil Engineering; Guillermo Umana, Colombia: Macquarie University, Australia, BA Urban Planning
In Colombia more than 5 million people have been displaced since 1985 because of armed conflict in the rural areas of the country. Most of them have been forced into the fringes of big urban areas, such as the Bogotá-Soacha border, where thousands of families live. In recent years the area has been continually affected by landslides and flooding, putting many people in dangerous living conditions.
Green Terraces plans to target eroded and dangerous slopes in the Bogotá-Soacha border and convert them into agricultural terraces, giving the rural migrants who settle into the area an economic opportunity in an urban area with little job availability and at the same time preventing environmental catastrophes.
It also aims to reduce the impact of erosion on the vulnerable houses and infrastructure of this area; reduce the impact of downhill floods and to increase the soil capacity to retain water; enhance community living, food security and the economy of the area; and provide opportunities for water and waste management in an area with poor service provision.
Photo courtesy of Norte Digital; rendering courtesy of Sewage Ecologies/Economies
Team 3: Sewage Ecologies/Economies
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Sara Navrady, Canada: Delft University of Technology, Netherlands, MS Architecture
Riberas del Bravo is an isolated development on the eastern edge of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Adjacent to the US-Mexico border fence, Riberas consists of 12,295 units built between 2002 and 2006 as social housing. But in the last five years -- due to residents moving to Ciudad Juarez to work in factories -- 2300 houses have been abandoned. The housing units range from 36 square meters to 50 square meters for a family of four. With minimal private living space, adequate public space becomes a necessity, yet 47% of the open spaces sit as undefined dirt patches. The most scenic place in the Riberas is the heavily vegetated sewage canal running through the center of the site, but the odor of the canal is so foul that residents have listed it as the top problem in the area (above abandoned housing and security).
This proposal seeks to use the sewage running through the site to generate a new ecology and economy. Constructed wetlands remediate the canal and generate a new landscape while providing treated water suitable for urban farming, as Riberas is situated on highly fertile alluvial soil. Food produced in the area can then be cooked in community kitchens, using biogas generated from the wetland settlement tanks. The project addresses the spatial and social dysfunction of the area by utilizing the worst aspect of it- the sewage and creating opportunities for the residents to generate their own economies and ultimately their own community.