Our relationship with waste in today’s time and age, is from what we consume to the dustbin, rarely do we choose to know what happens to it after the ‘kachrawala’ collects it from our house. The blame for this lies with the boon of globalisation and urbanisation, wherein specialised systems are put in place, tending to man’s every beck and call. The downside of this though, is that these systems are rarely thought of in a holistic manner, one system is rarely intertwined with another, thus leading to discrepancies in functioning as a well organised and symbiotic network.
The most striking example of this is the case of waste management. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) has to be managed by technologies and methods that enable keeping our cities clean, prevent pollution and protect the environment and at the same time minimize the cost through recovery of resources and energy. As per CPCB report 2012-13 municipal areas in the country generate 1,43,760 metric tonnes per day of Municipal solid waste, of which only 91,152 TPD waste is collected and 25,884 TPD treated. The MSW, therefore, dumped in low lying urban areas is a whopping 1,07,876 TPD, which needs 2,12,752 cubic meter space every day and 776 hectare of precious land per year.
Would waste management be a better system if it was thought of in a holistic way, wherein the waste we generate be used in a more productive fashion instead of taking up valuable space and causing serious environmental hazards?
In Pune, the Pune Municipal Corporation is in charge of the collection and management of waste. Currently, all of Pune’s waste is dumped in a massive landfill on the outskirts called Uruli Devachi. This has not stopped in spite of repeated protests and adverse health effects of the residents of the nearby town. Waste picker collectives like Swach are doing their part to contribute, but it is not enough. People have to start taking individual responsibility for their waste.
The need of the hour is to educate people and generate awareness about creating less waste. This project aims at developing a city level network of decentralised waste to energy power plants in each of the 16 administrative wards of Pune city that would also serve as context specific social space to make the service infrastructure accessible to the urban fabric and sensitise people toward the aim of generating less waste by incentivising responsibility toward waste.
Concept Development :
Swa-oorja (Swa: Self, Oorja: Energy) has the capacity to power 18,500 homes at an average in Pune per ward per day. This system will generate employment and revenue along with reducing reliance on the conventional hydro-electric system of power generation. It is scalable and hence is adaptable to various contexts and sizes, right from a housing society to a whole city. The programmatic challenge was to find the ‘sweet’ spot between industry, education and recreation, and the instinctive design response was to deconstruct the assembly line, which allows permeability of social functions without compromising on efficiency. Demystifying the industrial infrastructure was important, so as to design an architecture that addresses both its processing and social functions, and it is perceived as a social space first, before an industrial one.
Context and site study:
Kothrud ward was selected for a model for this system, as its population density to waste generation ratio is relatively high (6.7 sq.m per person). Kothrud also holds the record for the fastest growing suburb in Asia, transitively generating a massive amount of residential and commercial waste. The ward generates around 50 Tonnes per day(TPD) of MSW out of which approximately 40 TPD is organic waste. After studying the fabric of the ward, it was deuced that Kothrud had negligible public park space. Hence the power plant would double up as a public park. A former landfill site on an arterial road was chosen, which has a history as a landfill before it was banned in 1990’s, and is presently being used as a waste transfer station and office for Swach, the ragpicker’s collective. The site area is 27 acres with the road on the southern end, a hill to the north, and residential buildings on the east and west, along with a slum, that houses the swach employees to the southwest.
Site specific design decisions include water harvesting, two way vehicular circulation, deriving an axis from an existing temple. The role of the architect in this case is more as a designer of systems. The site has been developed as an overlay of various programmatic systems which translate themselves in geometries, them being:
- Plane: The surface on which the social activities take place.
- Organic line: Circulation on the ground, traced by the instinctive movement of people on the site, and the topography.
- Point: A grid of 20m x 20m has been laid on the site, with the grid points translating themselves into buildings, and the workflow tracing the gridlines.
- Process Line: The line tracing the grid, which the processes and services follow, and also translates itself into a pedestrian bridge, for visitors to access the processes without interrupting the workflow.
Programming the Plant:
The programme is divided into three parts, the power plant, which includes the waste to energy plant, processing units for dry waste, and an administration that includes a visitors centre and employee area. The social programme is designed as supporting functions to the power plant and include a shop for selling artisanal items made from waste, a cafeteria, a library and workshops that can be used to for a variety of purposes, ranging from studios for artists to hosting exhibitions. An art gallery has also been included, to encourage art. The third part is the permeable edge, on the southern end of the site, adjacent to the road, which relies on site specific design interventions, including a marketplace to replace the haphazard hawkers on Paud road, a community centre with public toilets and open space that the slum dwellers can use constructively. Adaptive reuse of the existing waste transfer station into an industrial jungle gym for children to play in. The existing Swach office has been used as a Nursery for toddlers and a cycle rent stand, while the office has been shifted to be a part of the administrative building.
Architectural language and material expression:
The prismatic form has been translated as a prototypical modular system of steel trusses, one module being 10m wide by 12m long, made from scrap metal. This module is repeated according to the usage of the building, with functions requiring less space made up of lesser modules and so on. Fly ash bricks are used for the walls, plastic bottles have been used as roof tiles and gutters, Bottle bricks have been used to make the seating, and reused oil drums have been used as lighting.
The aesthetic of the project has been designed to communicate a certain level of relate-ability, with the building form being reduced to platonic solids, prisms, spheres and cylinders, with the interpenetration between them make for the architectural language.
‘Architects have to become designers of eco-systems. Not just beautiful facades and buildings, but systems of economy and ecology, wherein we channel the flow not only of people, but also the flow of resources through our cities and buildings’ – Bjarke Ingles.
This quote sums up the concern for the project and the approach taken toward the thesis. Systems of living have to thought about in a holistic way, and the role of the architect in today’s time is a designer of these systems, since he has the foresight to perceive systems. Swa-oorja is an attempt at such a system, and it is designed to highlight and address waste management and power generation as cogs of the same wheel of sustainable living.
This publication is a collaboration between Hashtag Urbanism and Nishant Pai, based on his Undergraduate Design Thesis, “Swa-oorja : Envisioning a Zero Waste Pune.”, compiled in the document below.
Institution: VIT’s Padmabhushan Vasantdada Patil College of Architecture, Pune.
Thesis guide: Ar Vijaya Srinivasan.
Review Members: Ar. Nachiket Patwardhan, Ar. Vijaya Shrinivasan, Ar. Prasanna Desai, Ar. Narendra Dengle, Ar. Shekhar Garud, Ar Pinkish Shah
Nishant Pai, currently working as a Researcher in Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies (KRVIA), is an architect and closet graphic designer and artist. His research takes him to the informal settlements of the Mumbai Metropolitan region to develop a guideline for architects and planners to deal with informality in an inclusive manner.
He recently kick started a platform for curating art and design, StART Collective. Follow the page for more updates!
The most disturbing conflict that one faces while working for an underprivileged community arises when one asks oneself, ‘Is it neo-colonialism if you, a city-grown and educated person, try to find a solution to a problem faced by them?’. This conflict arose at the beginning and was answered only during the next few months of working on the project.
Architecture is not just about a beautiful building but about the beautiful life that it contains. This doesn’t mean that the architecture of the project merely contains the program but that there’s much more to architecture than ‘apple-ization’ of form. It only means that each part of the built whole, every detail and each joint strives to reinforce the ideals of the imagined life. Architecture also doesn’t refer only to a finished building because that would make the people occupying this imagined utopia be looked down upon as mere ‘pollutants’. It means that the process of creating the space itself, positively affects the lives of people working or inhabiting the immediate physical context. All such processes have to be handled in a fine precision of a surgeon so that the insertion that is proposed doesn’t hamper the process of eventual evolution of the man, the place and the interplay within.
Architecture is also a process of building narratives. It also means that various narratives also play their parts in the process of building architecture. Such narratives of user groups as well as natural and artificial entities such as water, dwellings also act as the inseparable steps of the design process. Architecture of the project understands that after all the metaphors, connections and poems that an architect tries to imbibe into his (in this case, me!) space, it still longs to be accessed by all; unlike other art forms. Architecture can be pretentious and yet the ideals behind can be completely transformed by the users of the same. The project understands this process of change and this layer of time tries to fit the insert right inside the ancient society of the tribals.
Interpreting Conservative Surgery
Contextual development is a model of development that demands to be participatory and which studies and responds to the cultural, economic, ecological, political, historical contexts of the selected area. A tribal village in Melghat, Maharashtra (India) was selected as a site to demonstrate how a model of contextual development can be implemented.
Melghat only because of the positive changes it brought to me when I was involved in a teaching program previously through ‘Maitri’, an NGO that tries to improve the education and the livelihoods of the Korku (name of the tribe). The selection of the village was made by carefully analyzing the ‘athawda bazar’ or the weekly market system of the tribal society. The most suitable and potentially well-connected host village of Hatru was chosen for maximum impact after comparative analysis. The site was visited on multiple occasions and the observations related to it’s cultural, economic, ecological, political and historical contexts were recorded.
Published literature on Meghat was studied. Secondary literature that dealt with the post-colonial understanding of politics, economy and sustainability was chosen and studied. Schemes, acts and rights under the state of Maharashtra, India and the Constitution of India were studied for being able to analyze and critique it. Detailed discussions were conducted with the villagers, experts and social workers from Melghat, and the thesis guides. A contextual development plan, a manifesto of sort was proposed that would be implemented over next 20 years. The plan comprises of measures suggested in the domains of local self-governance, economic self-reliance, food security, and ecological interventions, creating spaces for positive social interactions and for several educational initiatives that respond to the micro-context of the local ecosystem. Certain inserts from the plan such as an activity studio, a research studio, a village-library, an educational farm, a parallel school, the ecotourism model, the community kitchen were selected through a process that embraced ‘user narratives’ as a tool for detailing the design. Thus the design approach became narrative-based and not program-based.
All the areas were determined by the local standards (ex. indoor space occupied by the villagers) and the design aimed to be rational, low cost, built with local and sustainable materials and techniques. The architecture had to be efficient, which can contain multiple activities with and without formalization. The scale of aesthetics, poetics and kinesthetics of architecture was purposely kept within the user’s comfort level. The beauty of the project lies in the way it started as a contemporary, rational and secular project and ended up eloping with traditional solutions. The project juxtaposes rationality with tradition when the functional spaces are weaved together by water, forming a contemporary step well.
The thesis also tries to question itself on the every step. ‘Why must this policy exist? Why must any policy exist at all? How much fodder do cows need? Should the by-laws and our conventional ideas of development hold us from valuing our evolved traditions? How does scale matter? How do people get comfortable? Who is going to build the project? Do bananas grow in shade?’ were only some of them. The project addresses the macro issues with micro solutions comprising of individuals, their livestock and their immediate surroundings.
The project focuses on shifting role of the architect from being a mere facilitator to the rich to being a translator for all. The project therefore tries to meet the objective of demonstrating contextual development with a realistic outlook.
The process of thesis tried to find an answer to the previously presented conflict. If you think yourself as different from the society that has thrived right next to you, that itself implies your superiority and falls into the neo-colonialist trap. If you imagine yourself as different, that itself implies the hierarchical structure of the society, reinforcing yourself as being a know-it-all problem solver. Once you start to be an active agent of your society, you try to be sustainable and increasingly more sensitive. The entire built up that the project proposes is in fact an inter-play between the inclusion and the exclusion of the individuals and the groups of individuals. When I look back to the process of designing so as to examine what could have affected the project positively, the ratio of the architect’s capacity and his power in an architectural project should have been questioned rigorously.
A thesis about decentralization can only become a valid project if its methods of design and execution represent the principles of decentralization that it tries to promote. Democratic, participatory approach to any project that deals with defining space should not only be preferable and celebrated but it should be a norm in any society that strives for democracy. Democracy at the end isn’t an event but a process.
This publication is a collaboration between Hashtag Urbanism and Advait Deshmukh, based on his Undergraduate Design Thesis, “Context Reservoir- Re-wiring the tribal systems of Melghat.”, compiled in the document below.
Noteworthy mention – Presented along with 9 others at NIASA (National Institute of Advanced Studies in Architecture) Thesis Awards West Zone jury.
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George Town is a unique amalgamation of various communities co-existing harmoniously in a homogeneous fabric united by trade prospects. The Buckingham Canal linked the port to Madras to various trading places along this aqua spine. The Telugu Chettiars shifted from Andhra to George Town to explore trading opportunities, bringing with them cultural, traditional opinions and unique way of living.Trade barriers were discarded, boundaries imploded and distances crossed when the Railway lines linked Madras with the rest of the country, attracting Marvaris from Gujarat, Rajasthan and other northern states.
The demography of George Town and Wall Tax Road reflects a multi-ethnic society that acclimatised itself to the prospects of their potential new home.
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