Shanty towns sustainable future of urban design
by David Masters
February 9, 2009
Shanty towns like those seen in award winning film Slumdog Millionaire provide an excellent model for affordable and sustainable urban planning, Prince Charles said last week.
Speaking at a Foundation for the Built Environment conference, the Prince said that the Mumbai slum Dharavi, a 520 acre home for up to million people, has “an underlying intuitive grammar of design”.
Buildings in the district use locally sourced materials, whilst residents are employed in nearby businesses and usually walk to work.
He compared the shanty town to Western apartment buildings – the “faceless slab blocks that are still being built around the world to ‘warehouse’ the poor.”
He added: “I strongly believe that the West has much to learn from societies and places which, while sometimes poorer in material terms, are infinitely richer in the ways in which they live and organise themselves.”
“It may be the case that in a few years’ time such communities will be perceived as best equipped to face the challenges that confront us because they have a built-in resilience and genuinely durable ways of living,” the Prince concluded.
The Prince’s comments will be welcome to Dharavi residents who were dismayed by their portrayal as ‘dogs’ in Slumdog Millionaire.
However, the Prince failed to note that the district has only one lavatory for every 1,400 residents. Many slum dwellers have to use the local river instead – leading to the spread of infectious diseases.
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