19 October 2010

Christian Werthman lecture

We had an outstanding lecture yesterday by  Harvard GSD's Christian Werthman.  He spoke about the rapid growth and critical importance of informal cities around the world.  Called by many names, favelas, barrios and slums are all a neglected part of the urban landscape, treated as illegal and given little or no support by most governments even though they represent more than 50% of the population in some cities.  Werthman challenged the audience to step up to something new and described the landscape architectural response to it as a moral imperative.

Three different citations stood out:
  • Konstantinos Apostolos Doxiadis, whose Ekistics proposed a more focused effort of studying Human Settlement, but proposed it in a more top-down approach that isn't very well accepted today in places like the barrios in this talk
  • John Turner whose Housing by People argued for acknowledging the positive aspects of slums, which are really a locally-driven grass roots design
  • Patrick Geddes, particularly as described in Patrick Geddes in India, recognized the importance of green infrastructure as a tool for transforming these areas into less dangerous habitats (see also Civics: as Applied Sociology)
(This Geddes image is from Project Gutenberg's copy of Civics.)

While the examples like the Kolkata Sewage Fish Ponds from informal cities may be new to many of us, it is interesting to see how old some of the solutions are. 

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