Charette 1: Site: Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Charette 2: Site: Kampala, Uganda.
Charette 3: Site: Rosario, Argentina.

Charette 1: Colombo, Sri Lanka


The Canal: Some concerns were expressed regarding the logistics of cleaning out the canal. A 12 feet wide tract of housing would have to be demolished and a more substantial road surface would have to be built in order to accommodate tractors required to do the job. Jeanne Wolfe observed projects in Belize where this kind of incursion was successfully avoided. She suggested creating a community participation project where drainage material is delivered off-site via hand-to-hand transport thereby eliminating the need for tractors with the benefit of offering work to the poor.

Community Participation: The Colombo team expressed difficulty in sustaining community participation towards projects with less tangible results. Colombo team member, N.S. Jayasundera, explains, “Getting people to stay together to get a toilet is easier than getting people together for services such as pre-natal care, etc.“ Furthurmore, if the government sees that the community commitment is not there, they are less likely to support projects such as the cleaning out of the canal. McGill team member, Rune Kongshaug, cited an effective method used in Montreal whereby the various festivals and community activities promote the project and thus, helps solidify the idea that the project belongs to the community. In such a manner, people feel encouraged to participate in an end-product that will belong to them.

Demonstration Park: The proposed park will function as an educational resource intended to demonstrate how agriculture can be incorporated into urban upgrading. Although it was agreed that the park could serve as a powerful educational tool, it seemed disconnected from the Halgaha Kumbura project. Kampala team member Winnefride Makumbe commented, "If I were your client, I could not relate a huge park to my own small compound." One approach would be to represent one's home plot by demarcating a portion of the park ground and demonstrate how plants could be grown within this compound. Another goal of the park is to show higher-income visitors that plants can be used beyond the ornamental trend. The poor could grow edible or medicinal plants for higher-income clients and in doing so, will create a more productive relationship between diverse income groups.

Roof & Wall Gardens: Of the three city projects, roof and wall gardens seem to be the most beneficial solution for Colombo, particularly due to the small size of plots in which valuable square footage could be reclaimed by making use of the vertical planes (walls) and horizontal planes (roofs). It was suggested that 50 homes be used as an initial demonstration. Horticulture experts might explore solutions for issues such as poor soil drainage and choose plants appropriate for minimal sun exposure within dense compounds. Also mentioned were the precarious roof structures of some informal homes which would have to be strengthened or upgraded for roof gardening. The Colombo team received these ideas well and believe that this type of project, with both a high level of demand and commitment from partners, could be a successful demonstration site.

Medicinal Plants: Dr. Palathiratne presented the potential of growing and using medicinal plants as part of the urban agriculture concept. They are valued for their medicinal qualities, consumed for good nutrition, and improve the general aesthetic landscape of the neighbourhood. Currently, medicinal plants are grown and processed around the municipality on land belonging to religious temples. Promoting the growth of medicinal plants in low income settlements must first begin by clarifying how to use urban agriculture as a tool. For generating income, for example, one must have a clearly defined business plan. Who are the workers? What is the output of this activity? How are the plants retrieved? The McGill team suggested that these questions be worked out as the next stage of the project. McGill team member, Rune Kongshaug, also proposed the idea of creating partnerships with nearby facilities such as the parks and herbariums.

N.S. Jayasundera, Deputy Municipal Commissioner of Colombo, one of the presenters during the Colombo Charette.

Charette 2: Kampala, Uganda


The Kampala workshop placed initial emphasis on identifying the clients, followed by possible solutions for housing and the site. Previous KCC low-income housing projects were presented and workshop members offered suggestions on how to avoid excluding low-income clients or those who do not have the financial resources to contribute. The Rosario team shared their experience with political participation and how to instil a sense of ownership in their potential clients. Auto-construction, brick-making and farming was also discussed as beneficial tools during the session.

Project target & Client Selection: The 2006 target for the project was considered unrealistic for the desired quantity of housing units. If it were to be achieved, the quality would potentially suffer. The suggestion is to reach a smaller number of people within a more feasible time period. This approach might also insure replicability. For example, starting with 25 people, encouraging incremental consolidation, observing results and then doubling the project. This could be the first phase. As the central government of Kampala city is working out the technical issues of ownership and land tenure, the selection process of clients should move very quickly. A lottery system would be the fairest method. It is important to note that 80% of the candidates are in the low income sector.

Housing Design Proposals: Housing proposals should allow for the design to grow vertically and horizontally. However, proposals for mutiple story buildings might keep residents disconnected from the ground and furthermore such housing structures require a lot of front-end work. The design should clearly define joint-structures and joint-areas, however, as much freedom should be given to individuals within their plot or certain common spaces. McGill graduate student, Shannon Pirie proposed a few schematic plans on the site that is currently selected. These schemes have found solutions for irrigation from the reservoir, created off-site produce areas along the main road, dealt with the contours of the land, and create growing space between each house. Although the road and the irrigation system provide energy savings, additional alternatives such as bio-gas and solar panels were also discussed.

Housing Process Approach: Securing government commitment and funding seemed to be a difficult task. At the same time, previous low-income projects that were presented at the workshop appeared to be out of line with target income groups. Given this, the challenge is to consider the least expensive way to house the poor. One method would be to sub-divide the land, offer it to the client for farming purposes, offer a standpipe, allow them to erect a “hut” and offer a short-term lease for future building and/or consolidating their home. The technical solutions of the house can be secondary on the timeline of priorities. Rosario team member, Raul Terrile, suggested using food growing or farming to promote access to housing and adds that this would be the best argument for obtaining more funding. With this approach, housing becomes a processs instead of a product. Vikram Bhatt explains, “When you look at housing as a final product instead of a long term process, you can go bankrupt overnight. The process of housing can being very minimal and grow into something solid and beautiful.”

Winnie Makumbi, from Kampala City Council, presenting during the Kampala Charette.

Charette 3: Rosario, Argentina


Productive Garden: The Rosario charette session opened with a brief overview of the four typologies: the urban park, productive road, productive square and productive house. Particular emphasis was placed on the proposed Productive Square demonstration site or “Garden Park”. The programmatic needs and wants for the site became apparent with the input of residents through community workshops. The Rosario team emphatically expressed that community participation is a key factor in design & development. Rosario team member, Gustavo Ramos, explains, “It seems impossible to us to do the project and then go and get the clients. We feel it is critical to develop the concept together with the clients.” Out of this relationship emerged a palette of various public spaces such as a soccer field, bocce ball court, barbeque and picnic area, childrens play area, a small amphitheatre and productive gardens as part of the Making the Edible Landscape project. Issues about the security and maintenance of these grounds promptly surfaced during this workshop session. If the site is sectioned off per activity, there might be some conflict as to who is responsible for the entire park as a whole. This can begin as a practical issue and develop into social conflicts when dealing, for instance, with territorial power disputes between groups. Additionally, the design of the park can be affected as Colombo team member, N.S. Jayasudera, points out, “…the people who are taking care of the soccer grounds will find that they will have to build a fence around the field so that their soccer ball won’t enter the garden.”

Markets: The Rosario team also studied growing & selling in surrounding districts. Their research found that gardening proved to be a viable & profitable activity. While the average income of a typical resident is US$50 a month, a market vendor can earn up to US$130. Fruits and vegetables are inexpensive, fresh and organically produced. With the support of CBOs, advertising pamphlets are distributed to potential customers beyond the nearby settlements thus attracting a larger and more diverse clientele. The growing of produce on and around housing or joint-ownership of communal gardens is an income-generating activity that will give clients revenue to pay for their homes. It is important to note that 63% of gardeners are women. While part of the agenda is to empower women, the team had a difficult time encouraging men to fully participate.

New Roads & Displacement: With regard to the two major roads which essentially cut through the existing settlement (proposed for upgrading), the Rosario Team was asked to re-negotiate the proportion of public to private space for 2 reasons; first, to displace as few families as possible and second, to keep the efficiency of the neighborhood. The official width of the streets are 18 meters for vehicles, 7 meters for pavements and 5.5 meters for pedestrians. Vikram Bhatt explains, “If you calculated the value between public space and housing, you are sacrificing a lot of area.” The McGill team felt that the roads consume valuable land that could potentially be developed or kept for housing. If these streets are truly non-negotiable, then a strip of sidewalk of approximately 3 meters could be used as a green space, thereby incorporating agriculture into the "productive street". The municipality could continue to own the space but allow residents to grow and maintain it. The next stage is to explore the types of plants that are appropriate for this environment, how it is to be irrigated and the responsibilities of the persons maintaining the space.

Housing Standards: Housing standards (38 m² - 100 m²) and plot size (up to 100 m²) were considered to be quite high. Workshop members were asked to keep in mind that each unit could potentially shelter 5-10 families and that perhaps the “appropriate” size is a cultural issue. Furthermore, the larger size of the plot could support gardening as a means of income-generation. Roof gardening on existing shacks would be precarious due to poor materials. On new units, however, concrete roofs can potentially support agriculture. However, more research is needed in this area.

Gustavo Ramos, from Servicio Publico de la Vivienda (SPV), presenting during the Rosario Charette.

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