What slums can teach us about community development

Kevin McCloud Slumming It in Dharavi
Photo courtesy of ABC Australia

A recent program presented by Kevin McCloud (Grand Designs) looks at one of the largest slums in Mumbai, India. Some of the world’s leading architects and planners claim that Dharavi solves problems facing modern day cities, such as how to provide neighbourhood meeting places, a sense of community and low rise, high density compact neighbourhoods.

What planned cities may have gained in privacy, the provision of unpolluted residential environments and general amenity, we may have also lost in terms of providing a built environment where strong communities can form and people can access goods and services within easy walking distance of their homes.

The introduction of sanitation which stimulated the beginning of the town planning movement is still something  lacking in many slum environments and contributes to a significant burden of disease in these communities. While much could be contributed in regards to the provision of updated sewerage, water and drainage systems, there is also much that we can learn from slums in terms of community building and the advantages of proximity to others,

Dharavi, India is being slated for wholesale demolition, with the chief architect presenting Le Corbusier style plans for development. Unfortunately what may be gained in terms of cleanliness and order may also result in the dismantling of existing communities and people-friendly environments.

To watch the show and form your own views see Slumming It on Channel 4 in the UK or on ABC iview in Australia alternatively the show is available for purchase from ABC Australia.

Innovative Community Consultation – The BMW Guggenheim Lab

Group of people in discussion for consultation

The BMW Guggenheim Lab is a mobile laboratory seeking to inspire public discussion in cities around the world, by exploring new ideas and forward-thinking solutions for city life. The Lab addresses issues of contemporary urban life and will travel to nine major cities worldwide over the next six years.

First stop for the Lab was New York City, and for 10 weeks, from 3 August to 16 October 2011, it was located in the Lower East Side of New York. Residents and visitors were invited to attend and participate in free programs and experiments at the Lab through a series of catchy billboards, advertisements and online information.

Next, the Lab will travel to Berlin in 2012 and then Mumbai, this will complete the first two-year cycle theme ‘Confronting Comfort’ which aims to explore the ideas of individual and collective comfort and the need for environmental and social responsibility.

For more information on the Lab see the BMW Guggenheim Lab.

What are the best examples of interactive community consultation that you have seen or experienced?

How do we harness social media, to help get people more involved and interested in planning issues?