Image source: Cox Architecture
How are your design projects with slum dwellers and refugees contributing to the achievement of SDG 11 and to better co-live together in urban areas?
In the slums of Bhopal (India), I was involved in the new city master plan, which was designed with the participation of local residents to reconcile heritage with rapid urbanization. A bottleneck corridor in the Upper Lake divided the old town, a traditional Hindu area, with the new, predominantly Muslim area of the city. Our strategy explored ‘knitting together’ the fragmented cultural and built fabric. We designed new, publicly accessible walkways and plazas along the lake to create a more inclusive city center.
This project, alongside my work with township residents in South Africa, is showcased through Global Studio’s People Building Better Cities initiative. The modular, open-source traveling exhibition advocates innovative ideas on inclusive urban design and the global problems surrounding informal housing settlements. Since opening in 2012, it has traveled to 20 cities across five continents with a portfolio of localized design events and activities.
More recently, as a Fellow of the World Innovation Summit for Education, I have been engaged with refugee communities in Athens, Greece, co-designing environments that foster innovation with a core emphasis on integration. Whether in a camp or urban setting, refugees co-live with their host communities and so social cohesion plays an important role towards livelihood creation. Through listening to and understanding the needs of users, child-friendly spaces were created in the city that brought local Greek youth with young refugees to learn and collaborate together as equals. Designing for dignity in these contexts becomes the most central driver to delivering cities that are socially sustainable.
How do you think designers can help accelerate actions towards the achievement of the SDGs?
The key for architects and urban designers to contribute towards the progress on the SDGs is to collaborate in a multidisciplinary manner with others from diverse professions. The SDGs aim to end the world’s most wicked problems and this can only be achieved by breaking boundaries and stepping outside of our comfort zone.
An example of this is the award-winning Brisbane Ferry Terminals which were redesigned by Cox Architecture and Aurecon in my hometown, following the 2011 flooding of the city’s river. This partnership harnessed ingenuity in architecture and engineering to generate an innovative solution that significantly shifted away from previous design conventions. It resulted in the world’s first flood-resistant ferry infrastructure. The project is a testament to how our cities can co-live with the natural environment through collaboratively designing for resilience.