During the disputed general elections of 2007, Kenya experienced the worst ever post election violence in her history, worse than the violence during the struggle for independence because of the tribal animosity experienced. One of the battlegrounds for the post elections violence was the slums, Kibera slums. Kibera slums houses 13 villages mostly divided along community and political lines. It is these political differences that caused the violence to so be extreme despite the coexistence among the communities. Poor living and environmental conditions coupled with unemployment and the lack of property ownership, worsens the situation.
Void and Volume: Inversion approach
The villages have always been marked by boundaries that continue to divide them rather than unite. We propose a planning solution that will apply architectural vernacular in uniting people of Kibera slums and at the same time creating spaces conducive for capacity building and living in harmony.
We propose to flip the housing space (volume) with the open space (void) and instead of having one level of housing units, to have 2-3 levels and create more space on the ground level. The space on the ground level shall be used for common facilities like schools and market and for meeting space and Agribusiness.
The Void will be the reconciliation space and capacity building, space to meet and do business. The Volume will be the living blocks that will also form the ‘new boundary’. The different villages will no longer be divided by a road or river, but by a shared living and business block. This volume is to be porous to allow free flow of human and ideas from neighboring villages.
Slum eradication, a flawed method: Previous attempts to solving the Kibera problem have been counterproductive. Methods like ‘Slum Eradication’ and literally so, eradicates the slums by bulldozing off the residents to more ‘modern’ flats nearby.
One of the worst effects of this approach is that it takes into no account the residents’ preexisting community’s fabric and culture. The ‘modern’ houses do not solve the problem of the housing in the slums. On the contrary, the residents are dissatisfied by this method as it simply not sustainable.
It is not sustainable because these new settlements come with a price; the residents have to pay a minimal amount in the form of rental fee, normally unaffordable. What ensues is subletting of the units and you guessed right, the residence move back to the former dwellings in the slum or into another slum.
I also find fault with the term ‘Slum Upgrading’ by still leaving the word ‘slum’ in the phrase; the genius loci of Kibera slums should be respected in the process of solving housing.
Construction Methodology: Reuse of the earth from the building shall be the main construction material through rammed earth building technique. We propose a gradual renovation by a team of architects and local residents. It is a gradual process where 2-3 house structures are demolished and rebuilt by the same earth.
The tenant will take part in the construction of the space (reduce cost of construction); will acquire the skill of building the house ands will be able to teach his/her neighbor. This will create exponential speed in achieving renovation of the whole Kibera. This project, therefore will not have one master plan, but will apply intuitive approach by collaboration and interfacing with the residents of Kibera.
Infrastructure and Economical significance
There will be no need for a new infrastructure like piped water and drainage systems. The newly renovated structures will be self-dependent and self-sustaining units. Solar power tapped, stored into restored batteries and used in the housing units. Excess electricity will be sold back to the grid, thus generating income to the residence. Rainwater harnessing and supplementary filtrated well water. Both human and kitchen waste shall be recycled into compost manure for agribusiness or used for bio gas production.
Proposal was nominated for exhibition at the 2013 triennial Architecture of Necessity in Virserum Konsthall Art Gallery, Sweden