The designs in the show “Design With the Other 90%: Cities” are simple and economical. Their beauty comes from their functionality and ability to change the lives of millions of the world’s most poverty-stricken people. The New York Times article “Rescued by Design” described quite a few of the designs, so I’ll write here about my three favorites.
I was most impressed after reading about “bus schools” popping up in slums of India’s largets cities. The NYT article mentioned Pune, a large city in India where workers move around following work and move their families around with them. Because of all the moving, children aren’t enrolled in school. The solution was to provide buses, equipped with classrooms, to the children. The buses even pick the children up from their homes so they can make it to school. Students are given handbooks that track their progress, so when a family moves, parents can find a new school and the child can pick up where he/she left off.
This article from The City Fix mentions a few different programs, all with the same school bus classroom idea, but slightly different approaches. Delhi has a program that opens schools in areas that don’t have schooling facilities because about 25% of the children there don’t attend school. Another is the “Door Step School” mentioned in the NYT article. A third program is “School-On-Wheels,” which is designed specifically for children who live and beg on the streets. These children are also mobile, so the buses provide a realistic alternative to the traditional classroom. The article also said that similar programs are being implemented in parts of Chile.
The Guardian also had a good article about the buses. I think it’s about the “School-On-Wheels” program. It includes quite a few pictures and quotes from students, which helps enforce how successful the program seems to be.
Another design that I was impressed with was the renovation of the slums along the Bang Bua Canal in Bangkok. The homes there used to be flimsy and hanging above polluted floodwater, according to the NYT. Architects from Sripatum University, one of the country’s schools, were called in to design new houses. The old, rickety structures were torn down and the new homes were built, “often from recycled doors and timber, on solid ground and near the former stilt houses, so that communities would not be broken up and families uprooted.” The project also included low-interest loans and renewable 30-year leases for residents, which made them, for the first time, “legal stakeholders in their properties.” This website from the program said the area never would have been able to negotiate the leases if each community along the canal had tried to negotiate on its own, but collectively they were able to “convince the authorities that redeveloping their communities in the same place is good for the people and good for the city as a whole.” This is what the area now looks like: Bang Bua Canal.
Lastly, South Africa has benefitted from a design from XYZ Design. The NYT article didn’t mention this one, but it’s included in the exhibit, and this article from Design With Africa explained the concept. The design is a modular bicyle and cart. They’re “easily and cost-effectively modified” for use in areas that don’t have good access to public transportation. The modular bicyle and cart are easy to assemble and maintain. Providing transportation to these areas is supposed to help start “sustainable economic development and improved access to services and economic opportunities for under-served areas.” This video shows the bikes and the process of designing them.