Pritzker Prize winner Alejandro Aravena’s Elemental firm designed the “half a good house”, which includes gaps between the houses for residents to fill according to their own needs.
The problem is that most cities are not prepared to absorb these numbers. The tragic result is chaos, inequality and environmental damage. One clear manifestation of the mismatch between people’s demand for opportunities to prosper and the inability of cities to maximize the benefits of agglomeration while minimizing the costs of congestion is the omnipresence of slums throughout the world. Today, one billion people live in slums; worse still, many of those settlements are in areas highly vulnerable to natural disasters. By 2030, this figure is expected to double.
To absorb this ever-increasing demand for affordable urban housing, would require creating, in effect, a new city capable of housing 1 million people – every week during the next 15 years. Governments are already overwhelmed. The private solution of reducing the size of dwellings and relocating them to the peripheries of cities has produced economic and social segregation, which has become a ticking bomb for unrest.
During the past 12 years, the Chilean architect, Alejandro Aravena, 48, has offered solutions to the global housing crisis that are so creative, speedy, budget-conscious and scalable that he has been awarded the 2016 Pritzker Prize, considered the Nobel for architecture. His work—and the prize—challenge architects to envision innovative buildings not just for businesses and other wealthy clients but for all the people.
According to recent estimates, South Asia is facing a shortage of 38 million housing units, largely affecting low and middle-income households. It comes as no surprise that informal settlements, slums and squatters are growing in all major urban centers across Asia to supplement the demand from urban poor. India alone has 52,000 slums inhabited by 14 percent of its total urban population. Almost, 50 percent of total population in Karachi, i.e. 7.6 million persons, lives in Katchi-Abadis. Bangladesh has 2,100 slums and more than 2 million slum dwellers in Dhaka. Even in Afghanistan, 80 percent of residents in capital city, Kabul, live in informal settlements.
Association La Voûte Nubienne (AVN) was awarded a DM grant in 2009 to test an innovative strategy for scaling up and accelerating the recruitment and training of Nubian Vault (NV) apprentices and the growth of a self-sustaining market in NV houses in Burkina Faso. The Nubian Vault is an ancient Egyptian technique of building vaulted roofs made from local bricks without using any wood, instead of typical tin roofs that are more expensive and use scarce wood during construction. AVN is transforming traditional housing available in the harsh climate of the Sahel region by providing a sustainable housing alternative and helping to avoid further deforestation.
AVN has won one of the Dubai International Award for Best Practice (DIABP) to Improve the Living Environment. The Award, co-sponsored by UN-Habitat, specifically recognised the program in Burkina Faso for 'best practice transfer'.
The DIABP was established under the directives of late Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, during the United Nations International Conference in Dubai in November, 1995 with 914 participants from 95 countries, to recognize the best practices with positive impact on improving the living environment.