Handmade Urbanism


Transcript of Handmade Urbanism

Page 1: Handmade Urbanism
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Handmade describes something made by hand or by

a hand process, not by machine, especially with care

or craftsmanship, and typically therefore of superior


Handmade urbanism is the way of providing urban

change carried out by local residents in their own

neighborhoods or communities, with their own hands

and means. It starts with the residents recognizing a

problem, followed by the active realization of an idea

to solve that immediate issue. Community initiatives

evolve from those active gestures and support the citi-

zen’s active participation at the local scale. Their acts

recognize chances in challenges, make creative use of

existing resources, and forge partnerships and relation-

ships to achieve predefined goals that address their

daily needs and, eventually, ensure an improved quality

of life for communities.

The actions of handmade urbanism are unique, each

shaped by the individuals and the field of operations

that define them. They are carried out at the local scale,

as products of culture and environment, and deal as

much with soft infrastructure—physical and emotional

wellbeing, education, etc.—as with the reshaping of the

built environment.

The study of handmade urbanism acknowledges that

large parts of cities have been built by the residents

themselves, without help from governments, planners

or designers. It suggests alternative ways to approach

planning other than the traditional methods currently


At a global level, handmade urbanism reveals

overlaps in the characteristic ways of life of urban

societies, clarifying common threads and differences

among them. These provide us with opportunities to

learn from the ways needs and problems have been


The operative modes of handmade urbanism con-

tribute to the discussion around participatory models.

Its creation and appreciation is transformative to indi-

viduals and communities.

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Tom Unverzagt, who carefully conceived the graphic

design that structures all of these ideas.

Inez Templeton who greatly refined the text through

her review and proofreading.

We graciously thank all of the photographers who

contributed to our image archive, which has been

growing over the years.

Jochen Visscher and Philipp Sperrle have supported

the idea of this publication from the beginning and

have given us guidance throughout the production

process. We thank them for their constant support,

discussions, and critical input.

Most importantly, none of this would exist without

the courage and entrepreneurship of those individuals,

active in their own cities, who have shown other ways

to fight against shortages and urgencies of all kinds.

Their pioneerism transforms challenges into opportu-

nities making use of available resources, identifying

potentials, and employing them in proactive ways that

generate benefits to the built environment and, espe-

cially, to the users and residents.

Finally, we are grateful for those who have provided

guidance and for every partner in each city. We would

also like to thank all of the institutions, organizations,

and associations that took part in the initiative during

these five years.

Since 2007, the Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award has

been organized by the Alfred Herrhausen Society

as an outcome of the Urban Age conference series,

jointly organized with the London School of Econom-

ics, and initiated by Wolfgang Nowak (AHS) and Ricky

Burdett (LSE).

For five years, Ute E. Weiland has coordinated all of

the awards in five cities, organizing the content and

compilation with the local researchers chosen to carry

out the communication, organization, and fieldwork in

each city.

Jessica Barthel and Anja Fritzsch have also made

valuable contributions in the organization of the award.

We would like to acknowledge the work of our local

researchers, who have coordinated the DBUAA in each

of the cities: Priya Shankar in Mumbai (2007), Marcos

L. Rosa in São Paulo (2008), Demet Mutman in Istan-

bul (2009), Ana Alvarez in Mexico City (2010), and

Lindsay Bush in Cape Town (2012). They have worked

on the ground, rediscovering their own cities and

unveiling networks of local practices that have been

built throughout a year of fieldwork. To a great extent,

these are the researchers that kept in contact with

the local projects, giving continuity to the work that

started with our compilation, through the develop-

ment of their own research and work. And they have

collaborated on this publication, a project coordinated

by Marcos L. Rosa, by participating in a critical review

of the findings. In this review, we look back at the

developments and current status of the projects that

are showcased, conduct a comparative analysis, and

suggest common points among all of the five cities.

Specifically, we would like to acknowledge the critical

input of Priya Shankar, who organized the first award

in Mumbai and made a valuable contribution to this

book, and the constant support and discussions with

Lindsay Bush, who has influenced the format of this

publication, as well as the debates with Ana Alvarez

who reviewed our ideas and contributed with insight-

ful concepts.

This book compiles twenty-five interviews—or, five

for each one of the five cities—giving voice to different

stakeholders who have played an important role in the

rebuilding of these cities on a local scale. Each inter-

viewee generously shared their knowledge—unveiling

subjects that are key to understanding how the projects

are organized, the mechanisms behind them, as well as

providing arguments for the importance of small-scale

developments to face important challenges posed by

each one of these cities. All of the voices intertwine

and organize layers that allow a complex understand-

ing of the projects, highlighting their potential for the

city at large.

This publication has also benefited from the invalu-

able support of four people who had the chance to see

the projects in all five cities. Ricky Burdett, Olaf Jacobs,

Wolfgang Nowak, and Anthony Williams share their

point of view in interviews, helping us trace common

threads among the showcased community initiatives.

Olaf Jacobs produced the documentary Zukunft der

Städte (The Future of Cities), which brings us stories from

the community projects presented in this book, allowing

the general public to experience these projects closely.

Richard Sennett and his writings and lectures on

“cooperation” and “the open city,” as well as his re-

flections about some of the projects in São Paulo and

Istanbul, have strongly influenced the work on this

publication from the beginning.

His contribution serves as a theoretical background

for considering these projects. We also highly appreci-

ate his generous comments and advice in the process

of producing this book.

Paulo Ayres, who visualized each of the showcased

projects in illustrations created with Marcos L. Rosa

and Lindsay Bush and informed by all of the local

researchers. Working with him has been a delightful

experience. He has employed his expertise in graphic

drawings that illustrate the processes, mechanisms,

operational modes, as well as the impact and changes

in each one of them.

4 acknowledgements

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127 Mexico City Ana Álvarez


136 Miravalle Community Council

140 Cultural Center Consejo Agrarista

144 Recovering Spaces for Life


148 Weaving Efforts:

Working for the Common Good Francisco Javier Conde González

150 Reality Surpasses Us:

We Need to Be More Flexible and Porous Felipe Leal

152 Unfolding New Professional Profiles for

Bottom-up Urban Planning Arturo Mier y Terán

154 Cultural Acupuncture over the City Argel Gómez and Benjamín González

156 Braiding the Physical and the Social:

A New Social Contract for the City Jose Castillo

161 Cape Town Lindsay Bush


170 Mothers Unite

174 Rocklands Urban Abundance Center

178 Thrive


182 Incidental Urban Acupuncture Carol Jacobs

184 Breaking it Down to Build it Up Michael Krause

186 Reimagining the City from a Different Viewpoint Edgar Pieterse

188 Lighting the Fire within Us Malika Ndlovu

190 Going Local: The Lavender Hill Area Councilor Shaun August

Common Points

197 Four Interviews: Five Cities, One Gaze

198 The Significance of Space in Urban Society Ricky Burdett

200 Reporting from Local Initiatives Olaf Jacobs

202 Cities are an Expression of Human Needs Wolfgang Nowak

204 Focus on Results: Attention to Real Needs Anthony Williams

206 Project Categories, Programs and

Common Clouds

212 Final Considerations Marcos L. Rosa and Ute E. Weiland

221 Credits


10 Introductory Interview

Returning to the Roots Wolfgang Nowak

12 Initial Thoughts

Make the Invisible Visible Ute E. Weiland

14 Foreword

The Community Richard Sennett

18 Editorial

An Urban Trend: Residents Taking Ownership

of their Environment Marcos L. Rosa, Ute E. Weiland, with Ana Álvarez,

Lindsay Bush, Demet Mutman, Priya Shankar

Five Cities

23 Introduction to Five Cities

25 Mumbai Priya Shankar


34 Mumbai Waterfronts Center

38 Triratna Prerana Mandal

42 Urban Design Research Institute


46 Dreams, Dignity and Changing Realities:

The Story of a Community Toilet Dilip Kadam, Dayanand Jadhav, Dayanand Mohite

48 Network, Intermediate, Integrate:

Reaching out to the Grassroots Seema Redkar

50 Elastic Urbanism:

Sustainability and Informality in the City Rahul Mehrotra

52 Making Voices Heard: Art and Activism Shabama Azmi

54 Democratizing Public Space P. K. Das

59 São Paulo Marcos L. Rosa


68 Union Building

72 ACAIA Institute

76 Biourban


80 Workshops as a Communication Facilitator:

Understanding Community Needs Ana Cristina Cintra Camargo

82 Preexistence in Socially Vulnerable Areas Elisabete França

84 Scaling Up Micro Actions Fernando de Mello Franco

86 How to Live Together Lisette Lagnado

88 The Challenge of Derelict and Residual Spaces.

Is Anyone Thinking on the Local Level? Nevoral Alves Bucheroni

93 Istanbul Demet Mutman


102 Music for Peace

106 Nurtepe First Step Cooperative

110 Children of Hope—Youth House


114 Presence and Vision of a Grass Roots Initiative Yeliz Yalın Baki

116 New Planning Approaches for Building Up Cities Erhan Demirdizen

118 Action and Participation in Planning Özlem Ünsal

120 Curating Artists and Cultural Practices Behiç Ak

122 Advocating Sustainable and Participatory Models Aslı Kıyak Ingin

8 index

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Why go to five cities to award best practices

such as the ones we can see in this book? What

can we do with what we found?

I think the most urgent problem we face is our cities—

it is a global problem. You cannot rethink cities without

acknowledging the experience of grassroots projects

that are designed by the people, not urban planners

and architects. The award allows us to compare all

these projects.

We found that there is a variety of creative initia-

tives indicating the different ways in which people

forge partnerships to create a better urban environ-

ment and, as a result, a better life for themselves and

their communities.

The Award looks for projects that bring together

partners and visions in the organization of a better

environment in some of the largest cities in the world.

Along with that, it is intended to serve as a platform

that organizes a network of urban initiatives at the

grass roots level.

I think we can encourage mayors and urban plan-

ners to look around their environment to see if there

is something happening. For me, it was interesting to

see that whenever we told mayors about these initia-

tives in their cities, they were surprised. They were

astonished about how many of these initiatives existed.

City leaders should link these initiatives together. Such

initiatives and those who manage them should be part

of urban planning and not excluded. If we want to re-

invent cities in the twenty-first century, this means re-

turning to the roots, linking urban planning with com-

munity initiatives in order to learn from each other. I

think we can learn a lot from the grassroots level.

What inspired the Deutsche Bank Urban Age


The idea for the award goes back to February 2006,

when we hosted an Urban Age conference in Mexico

City. I had an opportunity to visit a slum. Despite being

a really awful crime-ridden neighborhood, its inhab-

itants had nonetheless created a marketplace and a

school. They had tried to improve their own situation,

creating a new city inside a situation of hopelessness.

You find the same thing in Mumbai and São Paulo,

people resisting their environment by building some-

thing. This is what prompted us to create the Urban

Age Award. The aim of the award is to enable people

to find better solutions and become active citizens. I

am not one of these people, like a Florence Nightingale,

who stands and gives soup to the poor. What we want

is to enable the poor no longer to accept soup queues

and produce their own soup.

We encourage citizens to take forward their

projects, and sometimes we even enable mayors and

citizens to meet. We honor alliances that improve the

quality of life in cities and the prize celebrates the

shared responsibility between residents, companies,

NGOs, universities, public bodies, etc.

We remember that after coming back from Cape

Town earlier this year your first words were

“Déjà vu.” Can you tell us that story?

This is a fascinating story about Cape Town and about

all of the other cities. People start building their own

“city centers” inside big “deserts” of agglomerated

houses, they start building these oases based on the

same pattern: it is the tree in the center and around

this tree there are benches and gardens, and they plant

some crops and then there is the spiritual center, which

might be a library, or a school or some teaching or

health facility, and the kitchen, where one learns how

to prepare a good meal. They also have small places,

squares, playgrounds where there is entertainment.

These are safe environments where people can meet.

What fascinated me, if you start in Mumbai’s

Triratna Prerna Mandal, and then go to Mexico City’s

Miravalle, or even to the Sao Paulo’s Instituto Acaia, or

to any other of these five cities, you can find a “center”

with a facility, the square, an area that is somehow

protected, secured not by a fence, but by the common

will that collectively does something. Today, if you

travel from the center outside of the city, which does

not have clear borders, suddenly the city becomes just

an agglomeration of houses, there is nothing else of

what makes a city—there is nothing. And if you look

at a famous picture of Mexico City that depicts “the

endless city,” it looks like a horror vision of the city

that started to sprawl and is not a village but an ocean

of hopelessness where people live. My idea and what

fascinated me is that inside this ocean of dwellings,

people started to build what could be the beginning of a

new city. And you could see this, for instance, in India’s

slum of Khotwadi, inside of which a community project

started building a city. In Miravalle, another initiative

looks like the center of a village. We like Paris because

if you go away from the large boulevards you will find

little centers, with markets, trees and restaurants, and

these cities are cities with different centers. This is

also the charm of Berlin. In that sense, the vision of

that “endless city” is not a vision of horror. If you look

carefully, you see that people are starting to build their

own cities or centers. It is different from the faceless

cities being built by star architects and investors, with

the skyscrapers and shopping centers. These small

centers are surrounded by people who build their

own “city within the city,” one that is surrounded by

several others centers alike. They are the reinvention

of cities inside of areas that we call slums, favelas,

gecekondus, barrios, townships. Indeed, their efforts

make sense, because they do not destroy the existing,

but build on it.

Returning to the RootsWolfgang Nowak was the initiator of the Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award

10 introductory interview

Wolfgang Nowak is Director of the Alfred Herrhausen Society, the International

Forum of Deutsche Bank. Wolfgang Nowak initiated the Urban

Age program, an international investigation into the future of the

world’s mega-cities in the twenty-first century jointly organized

with the London School of Economics. He has held various

senior positions in Germany’s state and federal governments,

France’s Centre national de la recherche scientifique (French

National Center for Scientific Research) in Paris, and UNESCO.

After unification, he was State Secretary of Education in Saxony

from 1990 to 1994. In addition, he was Director-General for

Political Analysis and Planning at the German Federal Chancel-

lery from 1999 to 2002. He lectures and publishes widely on

academic issues and is a regular commentator for German

television and newspapers. He is honorary Vice President of the

British think tank Policy Network, Senior Fellow of the Brookings

Institution in Washington, and Fellow at the NRW-School of

Governance at the University of Duisburg-Essen.

The Alfred Herrhausen SocietyNamed after Alfred Herrhausen, a German banker and former

chairman of Deutsche Bank who was assassinated in a roadside

bomb attack in 1989, the non-profit Alfred Herrhausen Society

(AHS) is a corporate social responsibility initiative of Deutsche

Bank. Founded in 1992, its work focuses on new forms of

governance as a response to the challenges of the 21st century.

The Urban Age conference series and award program is one of

three major initiatives supported by AHS. Broadly speaking,

the AHS seeks traces of the future in the present, and working

with partners in government, academia and business, aims to

conceptualize relevant themes for analysis and debate globally.

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construction of the city, as well as to document and to

share it. These activities received considerable media

coverage, which informed the civil society about the

potential of those initiatives and about their impact on

citizen’s lives.

The mapping has taken place ever since. Even

though most of the projects are modest in size, the

procedure organizes a network that reveals innovative

modes of spatial organization and disseminates this

information to other stakeholders.

On a critical note, it is important to remember

that the award has been successfully communicated

through public relations activities and extensive

documentation; to reach and induce local authorities

to get involved, however, it requires a strong net-

work between decision-makers and active citizens, a

temporal alliance to make use of the dedication that

was experienced in desperate environments. In other

words, it needs urban planning that is willing to benefit

from the open spaces that the participating projects

have created despite adverse circumstances.

This was accomplished in Cape Town for the first

time, where a vigorous Governor, an interested mu-

nicipality, and the Cape Town Partnership were willing

to interlink the 250 applying projects not only with

each other, but also with the City of Cape Town and the

Provincial Government. The result was an alliance that

connects in a sustainable way what had not been con-

nected before.

The Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award is designed

to initiate such developments; it can make visible that

the borders between historical urban quarters and

slums do not symbolize walls between citizens and

slum dwellers. Active citizenship exists even where the

concept itself is unknown.

After five cities, five awards, and hundreds of pro-

jects documented during these years, the compiled ma-

terial allows us to critically reflect on commonalities

between the projects, about their exemplariness, their

potential, as well as about their impact and innovation.

“Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never

have been seen.” (Robert Bresson, director)

Cities—and megacities in particular—have become way

too complex to be governed from a centrally located

city hall. Nowadays, successful urban politics are large-

ly based on temporary alliances, created for the solu-

tion of concrete challenges. With different stakeholders

partaking, they prevent the alienation of citizens from

one another. Alienation has already seized whole living

districts of this world’s megacities; suggesting they

form part of the city by labeling them “city districts”

would certainly be wrong. They are isolated from the

traditional quarters, not only geographically but also

through sordid living conditions, high crime rates, and

inadequate housing situations.

With the Urban Age conferences, organized jointly

with the London School of Economics, Alfred Herrhaus-

en Society has established a network of architects, ur-

ban planners, mayors, scientists, and NGOs, in order to

find solutions for the cities of the twenty-first century.

With the help of the Urban Age Award, this “network

from the top” is supposed to be complemented by a

“network from the bottom” to merge these to a better

overall picture of the respective urban region.

Starting in 2007, the Deutsche Bank Urban Age

Award distinguishes “partnerships of shared respon-

sibility” between citizens, politicians, the economy,

and NGOs, which contribute to an improved quality of

living in their cities. The award was designed to en-

courage people to assume responsibility for their living

environment. It is awarded annually, usually in the city

that hosts the Urban Age conference of that year. After

an open application process, an independent interna-

tional jury awards the prize, which is worth 100,000

USD, to the winning project.

The overall aim of the Deutsche Bank Urban Age

Award is to make the invisible visible, to show what

potential there is in the slums, townships, barrios,

gecekondus, or favelas of this world, and to constitute

a lobby for those who have never had one.

For the implementation of the project, a local Award

Manager (from the field of political science, architec-

ture, or urban planning) is assigned for the fieldwork

in each city. Their overall function has been to trace

projects in which people proactively improve their en-

vironment by forging partnerships and sharing respon-

sibilities. While coordinating the award, each Manager

has been in constant contact with those initiatives,

learning about their aims and methods, visiting their

sites, and documenting their work.

Their first task has always been to communicate the

award to a network of different stakeholders—local au-

thorities and administration, academia, journalists, art-

ists and designers, NGOs, community associations, etc.

In a second step, they created a platform for networks

of different societal parts that are active in shaping the

urban environment. These platforms were designed to

mobilize the civil society of the respective city as well

as to circulate the call for initiatives.

The Award Managers were sent on the ground in

order to be in direct contact with a network of local ac-

tors involved in collective practices. The whole process

of organizing the award provides an enormous poten-

tial for field research, as it allows exploring a number

of projects in the urban local sphere.

By the immediate observation of these initiatives,

the researcher no longer contemplates the world

passively; he or she rather starts to experience it

actively through the contact with people active in

their own environment. In every city, the fieldwork

continued with the search for local leadership im-

mersed in their realities, or in the scale of their own


In São Paulo in 2008, corresponding projects were

located by systemic mapping, and subsequently related

to the dimensions of the city as a whole for the first

time. Furthermore, the intensive investigation of the

local projects started to produce actual knowledge; the

amount of information gathered from there was un-

foreseen until that moment. It opened up opportunities

to reveal practices, to pinpoint fields of opportunity

for actions, and to highlight their importance to the

12 initial tHougHts

Make the Invisible VisibleUte E. Weiland has coordinated the award process in all five cities

Ute Elisabeth Weiland has been the Deputy Director of the Alfred Herrhausen Society,

Deutsche Bank’s international forum since 2007, a member of

the Executive Board of the Urban Age conference series at the

London School of Economics since 2004, and since 1 January

2010 member of the Governing Board of LSE Cities.

In 1997, she co-founded the Erich Pommer Institute for Me-

dia Law and Media Management at the University of Potsdam

and was its deputy managing director until 2003. Born in the

former German Democratic Republic, she graduated from the

Academy of Music in Weimar. After unification, she became

chief of staff to the Secretary of State for education in Saxony.

Ute E. Weiland is a member of the German-Israeli Young Lead-

ers Exchange of the Bertelsmann Foundation and young leader

of the Atlantik Brücke.

Page 7: Handmade Urbanism

the 1960s, those political gains didn’t figure so much

in their own thinking about their personal survival; if

a door opens, you do not automatically walk through

it. Yet when we got down to the grit of discussing our

own children’s adolescent angst, few people applied

Scripture to that perennial, particular hard case. So

too at work; rather than moralizing, people think

flexibly and adaptively about concrete behaviour.

On the job, for the first time, many of these young

African-Americans were working side by side with

whites, and they had to feel their way. Even twenty

years later they had to do so, as when my child-

hood next-door neighbour became the supervisor of

a group of mostly white subordinates in the motor

bureau of Chicago.

And then there was the matter of cooperation.

As children, the ‘fuck you’ version of cooperation

dominated our lives, since all gangs in the community

subscribed to it, and the gangs were powerful. In the

immediate post-Second World War era, gangs dealt in

petty theft rather than in drugs, as they would a gener-

ation later; small children were sent to ‘front’ shoplift-

ing, since, if these children were caught, they could not

be sent to jail. To avoid being sucked into gang life, kids

had to find other ways of associating with one another,

ways that flew under the radar-screen, as it were,

of the gang’s control. This meant hanging out in bus

shelters or other places than those marked out as gang

turf, or staying late at school, or heading directly to the

settlement house. A place of refuge meant somewhere

you could talk about parents, do homework together,

or play checkers, all intermissions from ‘fuck you’

aggression. These intermissions in retrospect seemed

enormously important, since the experiences planted

the seed for the kind of behaviour, open rather than

defensive, which had served people to make their way

outside the community.

Now some of those who had survived by leaving

wanted to ‘give something back’, in the words of a

childhood neighbour, a foreman in the city’s sanitation

department, but the youngsters in the project a gen-

eration later were hostile to people who offered them-

selves as helping hands, as ‘role models’. As always,

the message ‘If I can do it, so can you’ can be turned

around: ‘If I made good, why aren’t you succeeding?

What’s wrong with you?’ So the role model’s offer to

give something back to the community, to reach out,

was rejected by the young people in the community

who most needed help.

All three of these issues—the fragility of morale,

conviction, cooperation—were familiar to me, but for

me as a white boy they cut a different way. My mother

and I moved to the housing project when my father left

in my infancy and left us penniless, but we lived there

only about seven years; as soon as our family fortunes

returned, we moved out. The community posed dan-

gers for me but not mortal dangers. Perhaps thanks to

this distance, the reunion sparked in me the desire to

understand how the three pieces of unfinished busi-

ness among my childhood friends might be seen in a

larger context.


Self-sacrificing, long-term, wilful and so fragile: these

measures of commitment make it an experience

inseparable from the ways we understand ourselves.

We might want to reframe these experiences by saying

that strong commitment entails a duty to oneself.

And then shift again the oppressive weight of that

word ‘duty’ by thinking of commitment as a road map,

the map of what you should do with your life.

Max Weber sought to explain this kind of sustaining

commitment by the single German word Beruf, which

roughly translates into English as a ‘vocation’ or a ‘call-

ing’. These English words are saturated with religious

overtones from the time of the Great Unsettling.

The medieval Catholic imagined a religious vocation

as the monk’s decision to withdraw from the world;

for others, remaining engaged in society, choice didn’t

enter the picture in the same way; faith was natural-

Practising Commitment

I would like to visit the scene of a settlement house in

Chicago where informal cooperation helped provide a

social anchor for poor children like myself. Coopera-

tion’s difficulties, pleasures and consequences appeared

among the people who passed through this dilapidated,

bustling building on the city’s Near West Side. Or so it

seemed to me, when decades later I returned to share

a weekend, sponsored by the settlement house, with

thirty or so African-American adults who had grown up

in this small corner of the Chicago ghetto.1

Memory played the same trick on my childhood

neighbours that it does on everyone; the experience of

years of change can be compressed in the memory of a

face or a room. The black children I grew up with had a

compelling reason to remember in this way. They were

survivors. Their childhoods disorganized by poverty,

doubting as adolescents that they had much of value

in themselves to offer the larger world, they puzzled

later in life about why they survived while so many

of their childhood mates had succumbed to addiction,

crime or lives lived on the margins. So they singled out

a person, place or event as a transforming experience

for themselves, as a talisman. The settlement house be-

came a talisman, as did the strict local Catholic school

and the sports club run by an organization called the

Police Athletic League.

My childhood companions were not heroic; they did

not rise from rags to riches, becoming racial exem-

plars of the American Dream. Only a few made it to

university; most steadied themselves enough to get

through secondary school, thereafter taking jobs as

secretaries, firemen, store-keepers or functionaries in

local government. Their gains, which might seem mod-

est to an outsider, were to them enormous. Over the

four days of our reunion, I went to visit some of their

homes, and recognized domestic signs of the journey

we had all taken: tidy backyards with well-tended

plants, unlike the broken-bottle-strewn play areas

surrounded by chain-link fences we had known as

children; domestic interiors stuffed with knick-knacks

and carefully brushed furniture, again a contrast to the

bare, scuffed interiors which before had counted for us

as ‘home’.

At the settlement-house reunion, people spoke with

wonder at what had happened to the neighbourhood

since we had all left. It had sunk further than any of us

could have imagined, and was now a vast archipelago

of abandoned houses, isolated apartment towers in

which the elevators stank of urine and shit, a place

where no policemen responded to telephone calls for

help and most adolescents carried knives or guns. The

magic talismans of a place or a face seemed even more

required to explain the luck of escape.

The administrators of the settlement house, like the

elderly cop representing the Police Athletic League,

were of course happy to hear these testimonials to

their saving presence, but too realistic to believe

entirely in their own transforming potency: many kids

who banged on instruments in the settlement house or

played basketball on a nearby paved court eventually

wound up in jail. And the past remained unfinished

business for the survivors; issues they faced as chil-

dren they continued to face as adults. That unfinished

business falls under three headings.

The first concerns morale, the matter of keeping

one’s spirits up in difficult circumstances. So simple

to state, morale was less clear to explain in practice,

since my neighbours had every rational reason to suc-

cumb to low spirits as children, and even now could

still wake up at night, when worried about an unpaid

bill or a problem at work, thinking the whole edifice of

their adult lives might suddenly collapse like a house

of cards.

The second issue concerns conviction. At our gath-

ering, people declared they had survived thanks to

strong, guiding convictions—all were devoted church-

goers, and all had faith in family writ large. Though

the African-American adults had passed through, and

benefited from, the American civil rights upheavals of

The CommunityRichard Sennett is Professor of Sociology at LSE and New York University and author of ‘The Craftsman’

14 Foreword

Page 8: Handmade Urbanism

This publication intends to make the mechanisms

of these projects legible, to draft their complexity

systematically and clarify their strategies and opera-

tional modes:

In response to what do projects start? Which partner-

ships were created? What are the main challenges in

implementing a collaborative project? Was there a desire

to improve the urban environment? How did these im-

provements take shape?

The Spirit of Entrepreneurship

With these questions in mind, this publication allows

one to dive into some of the projects showcased for

each city. Analysis of the projects is intended to reveal

the driving logics of problematic urban environments

as they are read by their residents and users.

What some may describe as naive gestures, simple

measures employed to fight serious problems prove

highly effective in using existing minimal resources

to catalyze social and economic gains. As Arturo Mier

y Terán says, referring to Mexico City, “In the places

where these projects are being carried out, one can

clearly see a change.” Without aiming to romanticize

the contexts where the projects take place, we under-

stand that, as modest as some of these initiatives may

be, they are successfully improving residents’ lives and

transforming collective space in cities.

This book consists of a collection of photographs, the

documentation of these initiatives, an action protocol

depicted through illustrations, and a set of interviews

drawing out different perspectives on the subject.

The mode of enquiry was systematically repeated in

each city, from Mumbai to Cape Town.

It showcases fifteen projects, three from each of the

five cities. This gives us a wider perspective that allows

us to compare these cities.

Detailed illustrations made individually for each

project depict their operational modes, reveal the ac-

tors involved, and the organizational steps that were

taken. These drawings extract commonalities through

the reoccurrence of similar programs, organized dif-

ferently according to local challenges and overlapping

each other in interesting schemes. The situations aris-

ing out of these actions are resourceful experiments in

city-shaping that demonstrate the power of our shared

“humanness” and its capacity to cut across physical,

cultural, and geographical differences.

The Capacity of Negotiating and Building


More than just narrating the stories of these projects,

this book intends to organize a platform for discussion

that engages different stakeholders in conceptualizing

the impact of local initiatives at various levels:

What is the importance of “bottom-up” urbanism and

what are its operational mechanisms at this scale? What

is the attitude of municipalities towards urban improve-

ment and the redressing of inequality? Can grassroots

complement the efforts of the public sector to integrate

the city and improve livability in all areas? Is there a

move towards integrating bottom-up with top-down

planning initiatives? What are the long-term prospects

for bottom-up practices? What future scenarios might be


Having started responding to urgent needs, these

community initiatives had become evident in the

nineteen-eighties and nineties and later evolved from

independent to negotiating and demanding co-respon-

sibility to institutions and the government.

A series of interviews deepens the discussion,

inviting representatives in each city to reflect on these

practices and bringing different perspectives to the

table: grassroots projects and local leaderships, the

government, academia and researchers, artists and

cultural figures, and individuals connected to the local

challenges of each city.

Increasingly, people across the globe are engaging in

improving the urban environments they live in. They

act in response to urgent issues and compelling needs

such as shelter, security, employment, health, and edu-

cation. Community-based initiatives indicate the ability

of citizens to present solutions to challenges posed

by everyday life, and use creativity to transform and

multiply existing resources.

Inadvertently political by nature, these initiatives

are a response to the incapability of today’s cities to

cope with urban challenges via traditional planning

culture and its instruments. They invite different ac-

tors to cooperate towards a new urban scheme driven

by participation and a proactive attitude. They build

collective space, collectively. They reveal a shared layer

of the city that is complex, incremental and difficult to

articulate, as it does not organize systems, but rather

operates on a local level, fulfilling micro-agendas

through direct action.

Community Initiatives

This book investigates a series of grassroots initiatives

that provide social infrastructures to neighborhoods

with shortages of all kinds. It is the product of a five-

year program (2007 to 2012) that used the platform of

the Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award to compile and

map out community projects in five cities in emerging

countries: Mumbai, São Paulo, Istanbul, Mexico City,

and Cape Town. In each one of the five cities, the award

called for existing projects that:

• were already implemented and functioning, and

demonstrated engagement and innovation

• shared responsibility for building collective space

• proved their ability to forge partnerships with dif-

ferent stakeholders: local and cultural associations,

community leaders, residents, users, NGOs, artists,

architects, activists, government, planning insti-

tutes, businesses, academia, etc.

• benefited communities, improving quality of life and the

urban environment in their neighborhoods and cities.

The 741 initiatives that applied for consideration

cross every sector. Projects deal with collective built

space, the recovery of public space, communal clean-

ing of garbage dumps, sanitation programs, slum

upgrade, and housing retrofit. A large proportion

relates to the environment, through waste manage-

ment programs, recycling, greening, and urban ag-

riculture practices that make available high-quality,

fresh, affordable produce in disadvantaged neighbor-

hoods. Some are of an economic nature, through

shared entrepreneurial activities that work to reduce


Many projects activate public or collective space by

promoting leisure activities such as sports, recre-

ational, and cultural events—sometimes leading to

the improvement of these spaces and the construc-

tion of new facilities. By creating local startups,

services, and infrastructures, these initiatives have

a positive impact on their neighborhoods, enhanc-

ing social cohesion. Local organization often gives

rise to a community center, a collective kitchen, or

a social enterprise—structures that work as focal

points within existing social networks. They offer

classes, courses, skills training, child care, and health

programs that address the symptoms of poor urban

environments (poverty, substance abuse, violence,

and crime), and support and empower individuals to

study, find work, and become active and enterprising

in their daily lives.

Not all of these categories, programs and mecha-

nisms are necessarily obvious at first glance. For

example, a peaceful meeting space with a tree and

a bench can hide a great complexity. This simple

arrangement of objects can host a number of overlap-

ping programs, actions that change and adapt accord-

ing to local demands, populating an open framework.

An Urban Trend: Residents Taking Ownership of their Environment Marcos L. Rosa, Ute E. Weiland, with Ana Álvarez, Lindsay Bush, Demet Mutman, Priya Shankar

18 editorial

Page 9: Handmade Urbanism

Five Cities20 editorial

Embedded Productive Capacities

“We are recognizing what an immense natural resource

is right there to help the transformation, to generate

income and shared entrepreneurship.” (Malika)

Despite their geographic and temporal distinctions,

all of these actions rely on a collaborative process

that is, in each case, dominant and fundamental. They

explore the capacity for production within urban

settlements, contesting the model of urban vs. rural, or

agricultural vs. industrial vs. service economies. These

projects demonstrate how the agricultural, industrial,

and service economies that historically divide the evo-

lution of our cities, nowadays coexist in urban areas.

Incorporating these initiatives into mainstream

planning would require a drastic change in the concep-

tion of city. In this new form of planning, metropolitan

systems would need to not only support the service

economy, but also allow for production: urban farming,

small-scale manufacturing, social enterprises, creative

practices, informal economies, and so on.

How can we make efficient use of what we have?

How do we engineer a future based on the productive

capacities of our cities? How can we build a framework

accessible enough to enable and encourage people to take

part? How might a developed scenario look?

Are these temporary projects, and how might they

develop over time? Can they impact upon the urban fabric

in the future? What is their collective productive capacity

to generate change?

Participatory Modes for Future Scenarios

The book outlines existing operations, identifies in-

novative tools and planning instruments, and seeks

to shape grammars of action. Based on this, it aims to

explore possible future scenarios that could emerge

from these localized practices. Could they be scaled up?

Might they make a larger and more systemic impact?

Investigating small-scale and sometimes invisible

urban processes can reveal not only opportunities for

action, but methods of operation that could be relevant

to others. This approach suggests a transversal way of

thinking about planning, one that acknowledges the

equal importance of all the different voices compiled

here. It drafts arguments that might lead to partici-

patory models, and envisages a scenario where the

knowledge and findings compiled from these real world

experiences can begin to feed back into planning and

policy. It is not a finished work, but rather an open pro-

cess of investigation that gives rise to further inquiry.

Page 10: Handmade Urbanism

Mumbai5 x 3 Initiatives

Three projects from each city are presented here

through photography, a text-based portrait, and an

illustration. We explain why these projects began and

what inspired them, illustrate where they are located,

what they do (programs and activities), and what

situations they generate, how they developed and how

their outcomes have impacted upon the community.

These snapshots aim to make visible the mechanisms

through which these projects operate: how they mo-

bilize the community to contribute, how they create

partnerships and leverage support, how they built on

existing capacity to sustain themselves, and how they

benefit—both directly and indirectly—the users, resi-

dents, and the urban environment itself.

The illustration organizes a systematic comparison

among different initiatives in different cities, making

use of common elements through which civil society

improves the living conditions and upgrades spaces. In

the drawings, one can find these elements be rearticu-

lated differently in every project, thus generating

diverse urban situations, making use of local potential.

5 x 5 Voices | Interviews

A set of interviews intends to unveil key aspects in the

process of implementing the initiatives and to draft

common threads among them. The interviews reveal

different perspectives on the same topics for every

city, not only organizing local voices around a common

platform, but also prompting for similarities in the

ways our cities—and citizens—are evolving to address

urban challenges. The five voices are:

Community: insiders, local activists and leaderships,

local residents, non-governmental and non-profit organi-

zations, cultural agents, and activators

Government: governmental agencies, public offices,

official secretaries, municipal representatives and their


Academia: teachers, theorists, architects, planners,

and researchers who investigate and plan cities

Arts and culture: curators, artists, and cultural

agents involved with local projects.

Intermediaries: those operating at the middle level

(between top-down and bottom-up interventions),

intermediating scales and different layers of knowledge

and action


The last part of each city’s chapter is a photo essay

that showcases some of the other initiatives compiled

in that city. These images illustrate a much broader

range of projects of similar nature, suggesting further

commonalities between community initiatives in the

five metropolitan regions.

24 Five cities introduction

Priya Shankar

Page 11: Handmade Urbanism

26 mumbai ProFile Population [metro/city]

20.75 million

12.4 million

Area occupied [metro/city]

1,176 km2

438 km2

Gross domestic product (GDP)

209 [$bn at PPPs]

Average density [metro/city]

17,637 Inhabitants/km2

20,038 Inhabitants/km2


Maharashtrians, North Indians,

South Indians, Hindus, Muslims,

Buddhists, Christians, Jains,

Sikhs, Parsis

Page 12: Handmade Urbanism

30 mumbai overview

Projects compiled in Mumbai demonstrate the remark-

able initiative, creativity, and tenacity of citizens from

different walks of life to address the challenges in their

city. These initiatives respond to the nature of the city—

in particular, to the large degree of informality and the

constraints of space due to its specific geography.

The seventy-four submissions are concentrated

primarily in the city of Mumbai rather than in the

wider metropolitan region, although they are spread

across different parts of the city. They reflect a variety

of concerns, but the most prevalent are public space,

housing, education, and sanitation. They demonstrate

the involvement of multiple stakeholders—from local

communities to the city government to private actors.

Much of the city has grown informally; and it shows

a mixed geography with rich and poor settlements

existing side by side in various parts of the city. The

nature of both the growth and governance of the city

has made even basic public service delivery difficult

in many areas. Therefore, a number of projects are

concerned with cleaning, waste management, and

recycling. At the same time, the geography of the city

has prevented outward expansion, leading to incredible

levels of density and limited open space. As a result,

several initiatives are concerned with public and com-

munity spaces.


Triratna Prerana Mandal is a community toilet that

evolved into a comprehensive community center, pro-

viding educational and entrepreneurial activities.


Mumbai Waterfronts Center reclaims the city’s wa-

terfronts by constructing promenades and improving

beaches, making them usable as open, public spaces

for all.


Urban Design Research Institute has worked to pre-

serve and improve the city’s historic downtown core as

a quality urban space and cultural hub.

Participatory Developments in Mumbai




3 km

Page 13: Handmade Urbanism

38 mumbai initiatives

In the Khotwadi informal settlement in Mumbai’s Santa

Cruz district, an area not far from the airport, Triratna

Prerana Mandal (TPM) began as just a group of boys

hanging out together and playing cricket. In 2002, it

transformed into a “community-body organization,”

which in Mumbai parlance means a residents’ asso-

ciation of slum-dwellers that partners with the local

government in civic activities.

Community toilets were constructed in the area as

part of the Slum Sanitation Program, which was funded

by the World Bank, led by the Municipal Corporation of

Greater Mumbai (MCGM), and implemented by SPARC

(a major NGO). TPM was meant to maintain the toilets

constructed for the residents in its local shantytown.

But TPM didn’t just maintain toilets. The group utilized

the toilet premises to set up its office, from where it

started a range of activities. The first floor of the toilet

complex was made into a space for a computer lab,

where computer classes were run and English lan-

guage instruction provided. The space is also used as a

kitchen where women cook for schoolchildren as part

of a government-related employment program.

TPM has now “adopted” a local derelict building in

the area, where it has established a gym, yoga classes,

dance classes, and expanded its women’s self-help and

skill groups. It has installed solar panels on its commu-

nity toilet building, generating its own electricity, and

has also set aside space for rainwater harvesting. It is

involved in a number of recycling, waste sorting, and

gardening activities, improving the environment in its


In an area that many would dismiss as a “slum,”

the project demonstrates the ingenuity, capacities,

and capability of the local community to improve its

environment and circumstances through partnerships

and alliances. It shows how even basic infrastructure

and limited space (the community toilet building) can

provide an impetus for much wider community activ-

ism and urban change.

Triratna Prerana Mandal

Page 14: Handmade Urbanism

to their needs and demands rather than designing

abstract projects. But this is only the start and we have

to go ahead and do many more things.

How has the project changed or grown? What

are the next goals? Where do you envision the

project five years from now?

The award was vital in helping us achieve recogni-

tion and visibility, and in helping us reach out to other

new partners and figures to support our activities. We

have expanded our work a lot since then. We now have

solar energy panels and a stronger rainwater harvest-

ing system, making our project more sustainable. Our

waste segregation center has expanded so that we can

help with much more recycling and waste manage-

ment. Partly due to the recognition from the award,

the BMC agreed to let us “adopt” the neighboring park

and derelict building there. We have revitalized this

building and set up a gym, yoga classes, dance classes,

tailoring classes, and a table tennis and sports center

in the space. Our women’s self-help group has also

increased its activities, which now include tailoring

and grinding flour, in addition to its earlier cooking for

schools project. We have a better-equipped computer

lab now and are working on setting up a library. Since

the refurbishment, the toilets are also better. We would

like to improve the park and building to become a re-

ally nice community area. Although we have done some

work on it, there’s still much to be done—both in terms

of gardening and renovating the building. We would

also like to use our experience to help create successful

community toilets in other areas, especially near the

railway lands. We’ve been thinking about a biogas plant

but need to explore the technology and get support.

We’ve also been thinking about collaborating more with

the local municipal school on educational activities.

It was the space that provided us the inspiration to start

this work (the women’s self-help group). In our homes

in the slum, in this neighborhood, there was no space to

start any work. We have this space above the toilet so we

thought we need to utilize it. We women had so many

problems—going to bad toilets or having no access to toi-

lets. And not having any finances, always struggling. We

thought we women could get together and do something,

so we founded our women’s organization. We help each

other and have more confidence now. And dignity. People

respect our work and they respect us. We have made our

own society, our own community.

Deepa Mohite is part of the Triratna Mahila Kalyan Sarva Seva

Sanstha, a women’s self-help group affiliated with Triratna Pre-

rana Mandal

46 mumbai interview community

How did the project start? What motivated you

to become engaged?

We started out as a cricket club. Later, we began other

activities such as cleaning the area. This slum is our

neighborhood. We are living in it and we found it

wrong to be in such a dirty environment. We real-

ized that illnesses and diseases spread through filth,

so we started to work on it ourselves. After a while,

it became a habit to keep things clean. We wanted to

improve the area and take pride in it. When the slum

sanitation program started in Mumbai, people from

large NGOs and the municipal corporation (BMC) came

to visit us and we got involved in providing a commu-

nity toilet for the area because this matched well with

our aims.

Which partnerships were created to strengthen

your project? What needs did they fulfill and

when were they formed?

Although we had existed as an informal group for a

while, the community toilet project started as a result

of partnerships. The World Bank provided funding for

the slum sanitation program and the BMC implemented

it on a citywide basis. Major NGOs such as SPARC were

involved. For us, the most significant partnerships have

been with the local community and the BMC. They have

made the project feasible. As we have progressed, we

have also sought out new partners for specific needs,

such as for our computer lab or for women’s training


Was community support important to the setup

and continuation of the project and how was it

mobilized? What challenges did you face and

how were they overcome?

Even when we were just a cricket club, people would

help us, and community support was significant for our

work in cleaning the area. When we started the toilet

project, community support became essential because

all of the maintenance would be through contributions

from the local community. We needed to make the

project sustainable and we needed to convince people

that it would be beneficial for them. Ten to fifteen of us

worked on it at the start. Everyday, after our daily jobs,

we would each visit five to six households to talk to

people. We would explain the impacts of bad sanitation

on health and what the benefits of the project would

be. Through this outreach, we usually managed to

convince three to four families each on a regular basis.

But many were opposed to this. They had seen too

many projects fail and were also used to getting things

for free. But once the toilet was built and they saw how

clean it was, even those who had earlier resisted began

to use it and realized what a difference it made.

Did the desire to improve the urban environ-

ment play a role from the outset? How do you

assess this achievement?

From the start, we thought about improving our living

environment but we weren’t able to focus on it. This

only became concrete later on. We would clean aspects

of the area; we began planting some trees and plants.

We tried to remove garbage. The support of our part-

ners has been vital in what we’ve achieved. But there

were also frustrations along the way. For example,

when we first started using the space above the toilet

for other activities, this was considered illegal. The

idea came to us because we never had space for our

meetings and an office atop the toilet was symbolically

important in demonstrating its cleanliness. We faced

difficulties with this but now the use of the top room

has been legalized and even been turned into a policy

for other areas. What we’ve realized is that what is

more important than the person who builds the toilet

is the person who maintains the toilet. And it’s also

important to find out what people want and respond

Dreams, Dignity, and Changing Realities: The Story of a Community ToiletDilip Kadam and Dayanand Jadhav and Dayanand Mohite are involved in Triratna Prerana Mandal, a community-

based organization

Page 15: Handmade Urbanism

Marcos L. Rosa

São Paulo58 mumbai biograPHies

Dilip Kadam is President of Triratna Prerna Mandal (TPM),

Dayanand Jadhav is Executive President of TPM, and

Dayanand Mohite is Secretary of TPM. Dilip Kadam studied

until the tenth grade and does occasional work in the certifi-

cate office of Mumbai University. Dayanand Jadhav also studied

until the tenth grade and now works as an electrical contractor.

Dayanand Mohite graduated from high school and works with

Jet Airways at the Mumbai airport. They all grew up and live

in the Khotwadi informal settlement in Mumbai and together,

along with other members of the local community, founded

Triratna Prerna Mandal.

Seema Redkar is an Officer on Special Duty, Municipal Corporation of Greater

Mumbai (MCGM.) She is working with the Solid Waste Man-

agement department, in charge of a program called Advance

Locality Management (ALM), which focuses on good gover-

nance and increased citizen participation. She has worked with

the slum upgradation program and slum sanitation program,

funded by the World Bank for MCGM. She has been involved in

community development work with a focus on education and

urban poverty alleviation and is also committed to voluntary

work, mentoring several local community organizations.

Rahul Mehrotra is a practicing architect and his firm, RMA Architects, which

was founded in 1990 in Mumbai, has executed many archi-

tectural projects in India. He has also written extensively on

issues to do with architecture, conservation, and urbanism in

India. His latest book is Architecture in India Since 1990 (2011).

He has taught at the University of Michigan and at the School

of Architecture and Urban Planning at the Massachusetts

Institute of Technology. Currently, Rahul Mehrotra is Professor

and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design at

the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. He was

a member of the jury for the Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award

in 2007.

Shabana Azmi is a renowned actress and social activist committed to

women’s rights, housing rights, and inter-religious dialogue.

Nivarra Hakk in Mumbai and the Mijwan Welfare Society in

rural Northern India are two major social initiatives that she

has been involved in. She was a member of the Rajya Sabha,

the upper house of the Indian parliament and has also been

a Goodwill Ambassador for UNFPA. Her latest films are Ka-

lvpriksh, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and Midnight’s Children.

She was on the jury for the Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award

in 2007.

P. K. Das is an architect and activist. He has aimed to establish connec-

tions between architecture and people by involving them in a

participatory planning process. His work includes organizing

slum dwellers for better living and evolving affordable hous-

ing models, engaging in policy framework for mass housing,

reclaiming public space in Mumbai by developing the wa-

terfronts, urban planning, architectural and interior design

projects. He is Chairperson of the Mumbai Waterfronts Center

and founder of P.K. Das & Associates architectural practice. He

has written and lectured widely and recently curated the Open

Mumbai exhibition.

Chapter author and interviewer

Priya Shankar is a sociopolitical researcher, writer, and commentator. She

is currently Senior Researcher and Project Developer at the

Alfred Herrhausen Society. She helped conceptualize, frame,

and initiate the Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award as well as the

Foresight project on the rise of the BRICS. Her research inter-

ests are centered on issues of governance, globalization, and

development. She has edited a series of Foresight readers and

contributed to other publications. Her writings have appeared

in New Statesman, Global Policy, Internationale Politik, Estadao

São Paulo, Times of India, India Today and others. She worked at

the think tank, Policy Network and with the Urban Age project

at the London School of Economics. She previously worked

with educational projects in informal settlements and youth

NGOs in Delhi. She holds an undergraduate degree from Delhi

University and a postgraduate degree from Oxford University,

both in history.

Members of the Jury for the Award in Mumbai

Richard Burdett

Director, Urban Age & Centennial Professor in Architecture and

Urbanism, London School of Economics

Shabana Azmi Actor and social activist

Rahul Mehrotra

Architect and Professor of Urban Planning and Design, Harvard


Suketu Mehta

Author and Associate Professor, New York University

Enrique Norten

Founder, TEN Arquitectos, New York and Mexico City & Miler

Chair of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania

Anthony Williams

Former Mayor of Washington, DC and is the Executive Director

of the Global Government

Page 16: Handmade Urbanism

60 são Paulo ProFile Population [metro/city]

19.9 million

10.8 million

Area occupied [metro/city]

8,000 km2

1,500 km2

Gross domestic product (GDP)

388 [$bn at PPPs]

Average density [metro/city]

2,420 Inhabitants/km2

7,139 Inhabitants/km2


Indigenous, Portuguese,

Spanish, Italians, Japanese,

African,Lebanese, Syria,

Korean, South Americans,


Page 17: Handmade Urbanism

64 são Paulo overview

Projects compiled in São Paulo show how self-organi-

zation responds to urgent needs, generating quality col-

lective spaces that encourage community participation.

We found 133 initiatives concentrated primarily in

the central area, but spread over the whole metropoli-

tan area. They test the collective use of space through

cultural, arts, and education production, as well as the

creation of recreational opportunities, recycling alter-

natives, social housing, etc.

The rapid urbanization process, experienced the late

twentieth century, faced major problems related to the

lack of infrastructure—from electricity and water to

education and culture. This is still an ongoing process,

which has fragmented the city, producing urban waste-

lands and residual spaces of different natures; it has

also polarized wealth. This urbanization process has

created both a verifiable lack of quality spaces for hu-

man coexistence, and unused space with the potential

to host urban creative practices. In São Paulo, these are

drivers to a restructuring of the urban environment

committed to the level of the user.


Edificio União (Union Building) is a formerly occu-

pied high-rise in the center of the city, which has been

successfully converted into residences for forty-two

families, including a communal space.


Instituto Acaia is a cultural facility, with a nursery

and a workshop, which has carved a common space

within the dense slum tissue.


Biourban transformed the pathways of the Mauro

slum, stimulating inhabitants to activate unused spaces

and upgrade them.

Urban Creative Practices in São Paulo



5 km

Page 18: Handmade Urbanism

76 são Paulo initiatives

Pioneered by the young sociology student Jeff Ander-

son, the initiative intended to improve life in slums,

through social action and do-it-yourself measures,

in which he and members of the community were


The project engaged in a series of aesthetic meas-

ures that have transformed the spatial quality of the

neighborhood within a short period of time. They

include the cleaning up of small spaces and areas in

front of peoples’ homes, creating flower beds in place

of concrete curbs, using color and recycled materials to

humanize the façades of buildings and exposed infra-

structures, creating public artworks, and the staging of

collective activities such as painting sessions. All mate-

rials used in the project come from waste and garbage

found in the neighborhood.

The project spread throughout the entire Mauro

favela—a compact and dense slum in an inner-city area

of São Paulo—with mixed use and typologies, suffering

from socioenvironmental degradation and violence.

Hailing from a nearby neighborhood, Jeff Anderson

moved to a small house in the slum to carry out a resi-

dency research project. The collective activity began

with the installation of a library open to the residents,

and followed with the organization of workshops that

transformed waste into objects that supported daily

activities and beautified the paths and alleys.

The activities have led to a stronger sense of com-

munity and to an intense use of the open space (street

and alleys), which gave rise to new situations created

by the articulation of the created objects and daily

activities. The use of open space and the collective

contacts has had a positive impact on the built environ-

ment and its safety.


Page 19: Handmade Urbanism

in a similar manner: there was a demand, particularly

for drying clothes, since there is a shortage of space

to do this.

How has the project changed or grown? What

are the next goals? Where do you envision the

project five years from now?

Realizing the unpreparedness of older youth—aged

fourteen and older—to face the world, we decided to

increase the educational classes after the workshops.

We also increased the cultural repertoire on Fridays,

offering pocket cinema and concerts open to the com-

munity, in an effort to get people to mix. In addition,

the Santa Cruz School (a private school) developed a

partnership, in which the ethics and citizenship class

happens here; however, they do not come to offer

something for students, but come learn by working

side by side with students—one loses the fear of the


Is there a dialogue with other stakeholders

(municipality, for instance)? What impact does

this dialogue have on the project?

The Secretary of Social Housing maintains the policy

of removing these slums. We are aware of how this

happens. In the case of the slum “da Linha,” there were

improvements, but the city intends to remove them,

not to urbanize the existing settlement. The architect

responsible visited to understand what works, to get

acquainted with the laundries, the local atelier, so that

work remains if the slum is removed or redeveloped in

a new settlement. The idea of the laundry was very good. It generates

movement, people are closer to each other … you know,

for me it makes my body shake, I like to work and I am

busy then. I do the laundry, run the daily errands at home

and come back to dry them. It helped to organize my life.

Soraia Alves de Oliveira, 33, lives at Favela da Linha and runs the

new laundry, which is part of the initiative.

80 são Paulo interview community

How did the project start? What motivated you

to become engaged?

The project began with the sculptor Elisa Bracher, who

had her workshop in Vila Leopoldina, which was on the

way of children who lived in wooden shacks near the

CEAGESP. The project began in response to the great

sociocultural and economic discrepancy that exists in

São Paulo. In 1997, Elisa opened the gates of her studio,

offering a carpentry workshop for these children.

Which partnerships were created to strengthen

your project? What needs did these partner-

ships fulfill and how/when were they formed?

You can only propose a project to a municipal secretary

or to a major funder after you’ve struggled about four

to five years for the work to gain consistency, and get

the numbers to present the project. In our case, the

first five years were financed by Elisa’s family, which

gave us ample freedom to work. And then came the

partnership with the Secretary of Participation and

Partnership and later with the Secretary of Education,

for example. Another important thing is that the pro-

jects themselves define what to do, and are not created

to fit the interests of a sponsor. We are not flexible in

that, since it could jeopardize the work.

Was community support important to the setup

and continuation of the project, and how was

this mobilized? Which challenges did you face

and how were they overcome?

In the early years, we had little support from the

community and many years later, having lunch with a

community agent, she explained something important

to me: it is believed that when people go to the com-

munities, they think they know what the community

needs. I think we have a very respectful relationship

with the community. We do not know, and we are al-

ways learning. Action is always caused by observation

and a demand that does not come from us, but from the

process. That’s what we learned and continue learning

here. Their support is crucial, since the work only exists

if it is aligned with community interests, with their

desire, and that makes sense.

Your project creates a small plaza in the middle

of a dense slum in São Paulo, offering diverse

activities, such as playground, tree shadow,

benches, etc. Did the desire to improve the

urban environment play a role from the outset?

How do you assess this achievement?

The work was born here at the Institute, with the chil-

dren coming to the atelier, where we received them. In

2004, a boy arrived with a message from the commu-

nity saying that from that moment on we could enter

the favela (slum). In 2005, the work began weekly in a

small area in the favela. We spread a cloth on the floor

and took a basket with graphic material.

This happened where the atelier shack is located

today. That was the only space where the narrow alleys

widened, allowing the activity to take place without

disturbing their routine. In the first contact, some chil-

dren and mothers joined and eventually those meetings

started to take place three times a week. Back then,

that space was not built, but was full of garbage. We

started cleaning it very slowly, until one day we organ-

ized the population in a collective effort, which filled

two garbage containers. Twice a week we also offered

nursing, a different approach to the atelier, because

there are many people who do not have access or who

are not authorized to the use of the public health sys-

tem. The improvements followed with the purchase

and renovation of the shack—expanding with permis-

sion from whoever owned the plaza. The playground

came when they wanted a space for children, and dis-

appeared when it no longer made sense. Today, there

is a big bench where they sit. The laundry appeared

Workshops as a Communication Facilitator: Understanding Community NeedsAna Cristina Cintra Camargo, Director of the ACAIA Institute

Page 20: Handmade Urbanism

How can the impact of grassroots projects be

maximized? How might artists and cultural

practitioners contribute to this?

For me, the best “cooperation” should take place in

the educational field. I’ll explain: the artist can teach

workshops, give lectures, present their work, and

expose themselves as subject and participative citizen.

He must know his place at the wheel. I imagine their

ideas fertilizing projects like the CEU (Unified Educa-

tional Centers), with creative workshops linked to the

municipal education program, making regular visits to


We urgently need to learn how to work with conflict and

to keep these tensions in the public space, to learn how

to make them agencies, update them and incorporate

them into theories, urban practices; and critical art—the

sensitive experience as micro-resistance on or in public

space—might indeed be a big help. Perhaps artists, who

already work critically with these “hotspots,” can ef-

fectively help us to invent … to arrive at a more incorpo-

rated, dissenting and vivacious urbanism.

Paola Berenstein Jacques, architect and urbanist, is a professor at

the Architecture Faculty of the UFBA, coordinator of the Urban

Laboratory (http://www.laboratoriourbano.ufba.br) and co-

organizer of the platform Corpocidade (http://www.corpocidade.


86 são Paulo interview arts & culture

Do you think it is possible that art and culture

(artistic & cultural production), in some form,

provide the “spark” for beginning a grassroots

initiative? In which form?

Yes, but only as a “kickoff,” because once it config-

ures a daily and repetitive practice, we are leaving

the sphere of the investigative art and entering the

field of the crystallization of forms, a phenomena that

has other names such as tradition, folklore, etc. What

I understand as culture is an amalgam of different


How does the artist/cultural activist play a role

as a communicator, bridging different parts and

intermediating conversations and negotiations

that would otherwise rarely take place?

It is desirable that the artist does not let himself be

“domesticated” by the institutional rules. Grassroots,

for me, makes more sense when I think of musical

manifestations (such as samba and rap), than the artist

who express himself through images. This is the differ-

ence between the street graffiti, which effectively has

political and social connotations, and does not allow

itself to become institutionalized, and the other graf-

fiti, which today has became a product as any other, to

serve the frivolous and aestheticizing embellishment.

My generation did not use the word “negotiation,”

but an institutional critique that marked my formation

was done in the dead of night because they were times

of military regime. The group 3Nós3 covered public

monuments without negotiating anything with those in

power! Other artists that influenced me when I started

working were Julio Plaza and José Resende, whose ideo-

logical statement has always been anti-communicative.

To show, to point out, and to comment are ways to

intervene. One must understand that there is artwork

of more direct intervention—such as Jamac on the

outskirts of São Paulo, presented at the 27th Biennial of

São Paulo in 2006)—but also films and cartoons play a

role in addressing urban problems.

Many projects count on artists to identify ur-

ban challenges and present creative responses

to them. What is your personal experience of

how arts and culture can improve urban life?

“How to Live Together,” title of the 27th São Paulo Art

Biennale, involved artists dealing with urban problems

and challenges.

The work of Renata Lucas (Matemática Rápida),

though almost imperceptible because it mimicked

existing elements of the urban situation, was the one

closest to urban intervention. She shed light on local

problems (the uneven pavement, poor lighting, lack

of green), and managed simultaneously with much

simplicity to also bring a solution, albeit on a mi-

croscale. In the case of artists in residence, I think the

gain was of another kind: artists like Marjetica Potrc

(Acre), Francesco Iodice and Shimabuku (in São Paulo)

produced works inspired so strongly in the context,

that when exposed abroad contribute to the dissemina-

tion of symbolic content. They operate outside of their

places of origin. This is also part of an economy that

reverberates about reality.

Do you think there is something particular

about the culture of São Paulo that contributes

to the nature of the projects?

Only later, I was in contact with practices outside São

Paulo, where it seems that the formalist Greenbergian

tradition have dominated the scene for too long. In

cities such as Vienna, Berlin, and New York, I learned

about artistic practices aimed at local communities.

Characteristically, São Paulo is overly market-oriented.

That’s changing, although it is still a city that has the

most powerful galleries, which nowadays excessively

participate in art fairs, formatting the “back to the

object,” for the collector.

“How to Live Together”Lisette Lagnado is an independent curator, professor at Santa Marcelina Faculty

Page 21: Handmade Urbanism

Demet Mutman

Istanbul92 são Paulo biograPHies

Ana Cristina Cintra Camargo is currently one of the directors of the Ateliê ACAIA. She has

been in the atelier since the beginning of its activities in 1997,

when the artist Elisa Bracher decided to open her workshop

space to some children from surrounding poor communities.

Initially working as a psychologist, she engaged in thinking

forms of therapeutic work out of the traditional settings, and in

the organization of the physical and psychical space of ACAIA,

aiming to listen to and train the group of educators from the


Elisabete França is an architect and urbanist, and has twenty-five years of expe-

rience in urban planning, social housing, slum upgrading, and

management of participatory projects. Her PhD thesis is on the

slums of São Paulo (1980–2008). She was the Social Housing

Superintendent and Deputy Secretary of the Municipality of

São Paulo until 2012, where she coordinated the activities of

the Slum Upgrading programs, Water Source Program, Cortiço

(Slum Tenement) Requalification Program, Social Renting,

among others, assisting more than 160, 000 families. França is

author and editor of several publications on architecture and


Fernando de Mello Franco is an architect and PhD at Facudade de Arquitetura e Urbanis-

mo da Universidade de São Paulo. He was professor at USP São

Carlos, USJT, Mackenzie, and Harvard. He is founding partner

at MMBB Architects in São Paulo. Currently, he is Curator at

URBEM—Instituto de Estudos e Urbanismo para a Metrópole,

based in São Paulo.

Lisette Lagnado has her PhD in philosophy from the University of São Paulo.

She was the general curator of the 27a São Paulo Biennale

(2006) and of “Drifts and Derivations” at the Museo Nacional

Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madri (2010). She coordinated

the Leonilson Project (1993–96) and the Hélio Oiticica Project

(1999–2002), initiatives that systematize the artists’ archives.

She has written several articles and essays. In 2013, she will

present the curatory of the 33a edition at the Panorama of the

Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo.

Nevoral Alves Bucheroni is the Deputy mayor (Subprefeito) of the Sé district, one of

São Paulo’s thirty-one administrative districts, subordinate to

the Secretary of coordination of Subprefeituras. He worked on

the Coordination of Urban Safety City Hall (Coordenadoria de

Segurança Urbana da Prefeitura, 2005–08). He is colonel in the

Reserve Military Police and formerly served in diverse units

of the Military Police. He graduated with a degree in electric

engineering and business administration, with extra training in

the Police Academy, with extensions in technical, operational,

and community police.

Chapter author and interviewer

Marcos L. Rosa received his diploma in architecture and urban planning from

the University of São Paulo. He received a scholarship from

the European Union for his PhD thesis at the TU Munich. He

has been a guest lecturer and researcher at the Swiss Federal

Institute of Technology in Zurich, Department of Architecture

and Urban Planning. Marcos organized the DBUA Award in São

Paulo, in 2008, when he set up a research platform based on

the 133 compiled projects. He is the author of a publication of

that research entitled Microplanning, Urban Creative Practices

(São Paulo, 2011). He exhibited worldwide, among which, in the

Rotterdam International Architecture Biennale 2010 and in the

International Biennale in São Paulo 2011. He wrote and contrib-

uted to several international publications. He was awarded the

Young Architects Award from the Brazilian Architects Institute

for Microplanning. He works as an independent designer and

won the first prize for “Collective Retrofit” at the 2009 Alcoa

Design Prize and the Prestes Maia Award for “Urban Paran-

golé,” among others. Both his practical work and research

studies stand for an interdisciplinary and integrative approach

in the fields of architecture, urban design, and urban planning.

His current research focuses on the operational mechanisms

embedded in these projects and their scaling potential within

existing and proposed urban infrastructural networks.

Members of the Jury for the Award in São Paulo:

Richard Burdett

Director, Urban Age & Centennial Professor in Architecture and

Urbanism, London School of Economics

Tata Amaral Brazilian filmmaker

Lisette Lagnado

Art critic and professor at Faculdade Santa Marcelina

Fernando de Mello Franco

Founder MMBB Architects

Raí Souza Vieira de Oliveira

Former soccer player, co-founder and director of the “Foun-

dation Gol de Letra”, a UNESCO model for supporting at-risk

children worldwide

Anthony Williams

Former Mayor of Washington, DC and is the Executive Director

of the Global Government

Page 22: Handmade Urbanism

94 istanbul ProFile Population [city]

12.5 million

Area occupied [city]

5,343 km2

Gross domestic product (GDP)

182 [$bn at PPPs]

Average density [metro/city]

2,622 Inhabitants/km2


Romans, Greeks, Armenians,

Jews, Arabs, Gypsies,

Caucasian, Balkans, Turks

Page 23: Handmade Urbanism

108 navigation x

HeadlineAUThOR’s Name

Author’s position in the project etc.

Functions / program: women’s capacity building

and community center, skills training, income

generation, workshop activities, child care, recre-

ational activities, and leisure.

Benefits to the Community: offers a cultural

facility with workshops, child care space, a small

backyard, garden, and mural; fosters interaction in

a learning environment and increases solidarity

Positive impact on the built environment: visibility of the community and attachment to

the neighborhood via the physical presence of the

center; users feel safer in their neighborhood.

People involved: cooperative is run by a group

of community women and the neighborhood’s


nurtePe First steP cooPerative 2004 ≥ 2012108 istanbul initiatives

Page 24: Handmade Urbanism

How do you see these projects impacting on the

urban fabric in the next five to ten years? Do

they have the capacity to make a difference?

I am drawn to pessimism based on a dark scenario,

where the city is shaped by the persistent, oppres-

sive methods that eventually destroy all civil initia-

tives. On the other hand, I would base my optimistic

prediction on non-government initiatives, which are

realized through encouraging local projects, learning

from various accomplishments, and strengthened by

international connections. Small initiatives, which act

for their own rights, can do more consciously regard-

ing their communal needs, eventually leading the way

to healthier cities. Ten years ahead, I would wish to

see that these small initiatives, which are born today,

are still alive, with their motivational resources

strengthened, their strategies sharpened, and having

secured a firm and well-defined place inside the gov-

ernmental frame.

In Turkey, a mayor’s use of authority is not always trans-

parent. Meanwhile, the demands on behalf of civic groups

for increased municipal authority in the name of national

decentralization and participatory democracy have at

times exacerbated this misuse of discretionary powers.

This is because Turkey’s city administrations have not

been completely democratized yet, and strong municipal

authority has created, in most cases, local fiefdoms rather

than widespread civic engagement.

Ilhan Tekeli, city and regional planner at the Middle East Techni-

cal University and member of the Turkish Academy of Sciences

118 istanbul interview academia

What trends dis you recognize in the grassroots

projects in Istanbul? Do you think they unveil

fields of opportunity for urban design?

Grassroots initiatives tend to differ as resistance and

local (working with women and children) organiza-

tions, and their impact differs depending on their

objectives. Their biggest problems are raising funds

and having their statements heard by the ruling

mechanisms. Despite that, various civil organizations

focus and embrace the city’s current needs. I believe

that this approach has potential, however, the criti-

cal missing ingredient is the reliable legal base, which

would enable the realization of such formations. The

needs and requirements of a participatory community,

which is formed by diverse crowds and actors, have to

be brought to life through an implementable project.

“Negotiation” in fact, embodies all these concepts.

Some of the projects are directly having an

impact on the built environment and create

new spatial qualities. Would you identify these

as potential planning tools? How do you think

they could inspire or give feedback into archi-

tectural/ urban planning practices? And policy?

Of course it is possible to enable the local initiatives’

impact on the built environment; however, rather

than seeing them as a “tool,” local initiatives should

become a “subject” and “actor,” within a well-defined

system. Mixing these actors in the planning process

and making their needs a part of the urban planning

might guarantee and improve the quality of life and the

environment in the city.

Small-scale interventions indeed have potential,

however, in order to achieve sustainable interventions,

we need two things: a revolution in the governmental

system, and a civil community that is determined and

persistent regarding its demands. Even though its tools

might not necessarily be equally strong as the govern-

mental mechanisms, urban community has to develop

pressure mechanisms, which are as strong as possible.

The urban community, the governmental mechanisms,

and the cities of today are trying to catch up with

new strategies. Interventionist decisions are being

made, new tools and units are brought to life, and the

power difference among the actors during this process

increases rapidly. The increasing pressure creates even

more fragments, which in turn breaks down the “resis-

tance,” inevitably diminishing the collective movement.

Do solutions germinating in the communities

contribute to livability in some areas? To which

pressing issues do they respond? If so, how?

It is important to emphasize that their action responds

to the lack of participation in planning. If these kinds

of initiatives start to become a compulsory element

of the urban planning process, and if such a transfor-

mation indeed happens, then, the “citizen” not only

embraces a key element to improve his/her life quality,

but also takes on responsibility to achieve quality of

life. When the fulfilling of “citizen” demands is guar-

anteed, the form of his/her existence in the city will

inevitably improve as well.

Which projects would you say have good poten-

tial for replicability? What features should they

exhibit in order to be replicable?

In order for the local projects to be replicable, their

success has to be proven. This does not only rely

on civil initiative. The goals have to be realized. An

initiative can feed on another initiative’s experience—

successful or not—and reshape itself. This, in turn, can

create some sort of database. This kind of experience

transfer is actually a type of mobility, a state of experi-

ence transforming itself for repetition; something that

should be able to make the governmental mechanisms

content. This kind of exchange requires the existence

of a platform where different actors can put forward

their diverse experiences on diverse grounds. For that

to happen, the problems in the system’s methodology

must be fixed in the context of “governmental culture.”

Action and Participation in PlanningÖzlem Ünsal works closely with Istanbul-based civil initiatives and neighborhood organizations

Page 25: Handmade Urbanism

nity to its system. Yet, it is highly critical for the “local

statement” and micro-visions to increase, unite, and

transform into a powerful and single voice.

What is your role in combining the missing

links of top to down or bottom up? How do you


There are many missing links. Primarily, there is a

communication gap and unawareness between the

institutions. At this point, our mission is to closely

monitor the processes in order to inform the institu-

tions. More importantly, I spend time with the commu-

nity, in order to better understand the spatial, social,

and economic infrastructures, and to cooperate with

them in order to achieve participatory resolution to the

existing problems.

My intention is to make the “existing” visible; to

conduct participatory meetings; to cultivate new vi-

sions through these meetings; to support and even

improve the participation of diverse social fragments;

and to reach to a larger audience through these newly

cultivated visions.

How would you define a good planning model

for the city of Istanbul? What is the difference

from today’s practice?

When considering urban practices, it is not only the

plans that come to mind, but also field management,

heritage zoning plans, hierarchy, and inter-institutional

relationships. These, in turn, transform into a more

intricate and sophisticated system. Most of the time,

the community cannot understand nor perceive the

patterns in-between these non-transparent and sophis-

ticated relationships; thus, decisions are made under

ambiguity. The mechanisms have to be simplified and

made transparent so that the local communities can

understand these patterns, decisions, and their impli-

cations. At this very point, my role is, in fact to expose

these gaps and disconnections. New steps should be

taken in light of the feedback and lessons learned from

existing actions. In other words, the subject, objective

and method of a project should be created and under-

lined through participative action.

How do we gain participation? We do try to get attention

through press releases and Hasanpasa Gaswork festivals.

Through these small-scale interventions, the initiation

would possibly develop however there are absolute facts

that are cutting the sustainability of the process. If there

is a political issue, such as strategic planning included

among the process, then an obstacle appears on the road.

We aim to work with the politicians, however, we are

seen as competitors for a plot of the city.

Nesrin Uçar, volunteer for the Revitalization of Hasanpasa Gas-

works Neighborhood Initiative, private interview by D. Mutman,

April, 2010.

122 istanbul interview mediation

What is the role of culture, art, economy, poli-

tics, politicians, stakeholders, and citizens for

rebuilding a city?

Politicians must transform this debate into a broad

participatory public platform. An open system would

enable culture and arts to provide an integrationist

impact, shaped by both the environment and the com-

munity. The community, on the other hand, must come

out of its passive position to generate its own state-

ment and put forward its own vision on the reconstruc-

tion of their city. Rather than the generic solutions

imposed and executed by the authorities, original and

local approaches developed by civil initiatives must be


The existence of a sustainable economy must be

composed of a system that has close relationships with

the local dynamics inside the city and supports the

existence of smaller production units. There is also the

need for an economic vision, which takes into consid-

eration the micro-dynamics and relates and supports

them with the macro-dynamics.

You are one of the main actors causing an

impact on the built environment, what is your


Basically, my duty is to actively stand against the

ongoing transformation in the city and try to show

the decision-maker mechanisms alternative solutions.

In other words, I try to make the “invisible,” “vis-

ible,” or to reveal that the cities own dynamics can

suggest alternatives to the current transformation.

From an architect’s perspective, I try to expose the

architectural identity and the economic, social, and

physical life forms that exist during the urbanization

process. I also concentrate on how existing macro and

micro settlements can be supported by those existing


How do you think civil initiatives could feed

back into the planning process?

Civil initiatives and the meetings/workshops we take

part in as individual participants progress too slowly.

The community still does not perceive its own value;

and the people are not aware that they have the power

to make a statement. Thus, at this point, it is still not

easy for “urban awareness” to take shape. While the

top-down systems progress rapidly with the impact

of the decisions that are being taken, the impact of

bottom-up systems is unfortunately not as efficient.

Even though micro-scale approaches are more imple-

mentable and sustainable, a participatory planning is

still not possible regardless of many strategies that

have been tried to clear the way for such an action. In

order for the participatory action to have an impact on

urban and strategic planning, administrative traditions

have to change and the administrative mechanisms

have to be redesigned for enabling it.

In that sense, are there any policies being

developed to merge top-down and bottom-up

practices to any extent?

Unfortunately, there is no such merging or reconcil-

ing political moves at the moment. However, at the

Sulukule Platform, we worked very hard to create such

reconciliation during the Sulukule demolition pro-

cess. We did our best to ensure the solution would be

achieved through the participation of the residents, but

unfortunately, it did not happen.

There is a very powerful vertical relationship be-

tween the higher authorities and the local authority

during the process, where the decisions are executed

from the top down. While the local authority is ex-

pected to represent a diverse and multifaceted com-

munity, it inevitably becomes a mere reflection of the

ruling party. The ruling party, in turn, cannot incorpo-

rate and mix the dynamism coming from the commu-

Advocating Sustainable and Participatory ModelsAslı Kıyak Ingin is architect, designer, and activist

Page 26: Handmade Urbanism

Mexico CityAna Álvarez

126 istanbul biograPHies

Yeliz Yalın Baki is co-founder of Barıs Için Müzik (Music for Peace), which is

a privately financed social project of Mehmet Selim Baki. As

a devoted volunteer and an academician, she supported the

initiative from 2004 to 2011. In 2012, the initiative became the

Barıs Için Müzik Foundation, and she has been its manager

since then.

Erhan Demirdizen is an urban planner and lecturer, with a Masters degree in

urban policy planning and local governments. He has worked at

several sections of the Ministry of Public Works and Settle-

ment, as well as at several local authorities. Besides being a

board member of the Chamber of Urban Planners in Ankara,

he was respectively a member, general secretary and head of

the Chamber of Urban Planners, Istanbul branch. He was also a

member of a publishing board for several urban, planning and

city related journals.

Özlem Ünsal is a PhD candidate at City University of London, Department

of Sociology. Among her main research interests are neoliberal

urban policies, grassroots resistance movements, and rights

to the city. Her thesis focuses on neighborhood movements,

originating from the inner-city poverty and conservation zones

of Istanbul. As part of her doctoral research, she works closely

with the volunteers for Istanbul-based civil initiatives and

neighborhood organizations, critical of current urban change.

Behiç Ak is a cartoon artist, playwright, children’s book author, director,

and architect. His children’s books and cartoons have been

published in Turkey, Germany, Japan, Korea, and China, and

featured in several exhibitions worldwide. His documentary

film, The History of Banning in Turkish Cinema—The Black Cur-

tain, won the best documentary film award in Ankara in 1994.

He also received an honorary award in 2012 for “Contribution

to Architecture,” from the Chamber of Architects for his car-

toons, writings, plays, and his position on environmental and

architectural issues.

Aslı Kıyak Ingin architect, designer, and activist. She works in various fields—

such as design, architecture, city, production and art—with

a focus on social, cultural, and economic aspects. She is also

active in the city where urban regeneration or gentrification

developments take place, by advocating sustainable and partic-

ipatory models for the alternative visions. She is the president

of the NGO, Human Settlement Association; and also developed

the concept of the Made in Sishane project and initiative, as

well as participatory and sustainable practices in order to stop

the demolishment of Sulukule.

Chapter author and interviewer

Demet Mutmanis an architect who focuses on cities, urban development strat-

egies, and possibilities of alternative spatial transformations

by using short-term activities. She has a PhD from Istanbul

Technical University, where she researched alternative models

of urban transformation by examining short-term activities

and designs as spatial catalysts. In 2009, she was responsible

for the management of the Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award

Istanbul. She is part of the Archis Interventions Divided Cities

Network, which concentrates on the politics of space within

divided regions that do not necessarily have visible borderlines.

Mutman currently works at T.C. Maltepe University Faculty of

Architecture in Istanbul and focuses on architectural and urban

design, alternative readings of the city, and public spaces.

Members of the Jury for the Award in Istanbul:

Richard Burdett

Director, Urban Age & Centennial Professor in Architecture and

Urbanism, London School of Economics

Arzuhan Dogan Yalçindag

Chair, Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association


Çaglar Keyder

Professor of Sociology, Bosphorus University

Behiç Ak

Cartoonist, author, architect

Enrique Norten

Founder, TEN Arquitectos, New York and Mexico City & Miler

Chair of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania

Anthony Williams

Former Mayor of Washington, DC and is the Executive Director

of the Global Government

Han Tümertekin

Architect, Mimarlar Design, & Visiting Professor, Harvard

Graduate School of Design

Page 27: Handmade Urbanism

128 mexico city ProFile Average density [metro/city]

9,300 Inhabitants/km2

5,937 Inhabitants/km2


Indigenous, Spanish, British,

Irish, Italian,German, French,

Dutch, Syria, Lebanon, Chinese,

Korean, South and Central

American, Mexican

Population [metro/city]

20.4 million

11.2 million

Area occupied [metro/city]

7,854 km2

1,495 km2

Gross domestic product (GDP)

390 [$bn at PPPs]

Page 28: Handmade Urbanism

144 mexico city initiatives

Santa Fe is a neighborhood on the west side of Mexico

City characterized by extreme socioeconomic contrasts:

one can find an “edge city” with office towers that em-

body Mexico’s participation in the global economy and

shanty towns over ravines existing side by side.

In 2005, Iberoamericana University—a private insti-

tution located in Santa Fe—created the Coordination of

Social Responsibility to build a bridge of cooperation

between the different university departments and the

marginalized areas of the surroundings. Among other

initiatives, they fostered the project Recovering Spaces

for Life, which focuses on the recovery of public spaces

in the neighboring ravines, through different activities

that create a sense of belonging in dwellers and pro-

motes the leadership of community members.

Under the guidance of the university, different lo-

cal groups worked together to recover the riverbank,

which was previously used as a sewer. They fixed the

façades of houses along one kilometer of the river

and built a green pedestrian corridor that goes from

the riverbank to a formerly abandoned alley uphill,

now accessible to disabled people and featuring a

playground. They also built a greenhouse for grow-

ing tomatoes in what used to be a garbage dump, and

transformed a residual space in a corner street with

stairs into an open cultural forum. They also run pro-

grams for psychosocial risks prevention, technological

literacy, job training; and they created a network that

allows the people from those marginalized neighbor-

hoods to find jobs at the business area of Santa Fe.

Recovering Spaces for Life shows how in highly seg-

regated societies, such as Mexico City, bridges among

apparently untouchable sectors can be built and used

to transform reality.

Recovering Spaces for Life

Page 29: Handmade Urbanism

need to have flexible tools to adapt. I am quite self-

critical about most of the borough and partial pro-

grams because they become so rigid that they tend to

complicate rather than rationalize the problems, often

pushing people towards informality. I think we need

to become more porous in those programs to allow

grassroots initiatives to find their place in official plan-

ning. On the other hand, the authority has missed the

opportunity to communicate its vision for urban de-

velopment. And for better or worse, it is the authority

that has the panoramic vision and technical knowledge.

Local projects can greatly enrich urban development

with their timely and deeper sight, but they might not

have the complete overview.

How do you see the development of local

bottom-up initiatives in the long term? What

possible development scenarios might be envis-

aged for the future?

All of these initiatives—Miravalle, Codeco—suggest

that Mexico City is like an hydraulic system with many

rusty closed valves, which only need to be oiled and

opened for an amazing flow to come. We have to use

the local culture and look at the everyday city—the

little square, the garden, the remaining corner, the bas-

ketball court—to dignify them and create activities.

I think we need to work on that scale.

Public infrastructure is gaining a new role in how we

design and envision the future of our city. I think that his-

torically, Mexico City has been a place of neighborhoods

and we should move back to that. For instance, something

we have lost and should try to recover, are the markets.

We have 325 public markets built during the nineteen-six-

ties and nineteen-seventies, which were created for many

reasons; of course economic and supply reasons, but also

to build community. These are big opportunities: 325 mar-

kets organized all around the territory. These spaces have

an amazing potential to be transformed into real public

spaces, they can be more permeable, grow, have parallel

services. That is the kind of infrastructure that brings

communities together, because those are places where

many things happen.

Laura Janka is an Advisor for the Department of Housing and

Urban Development.

150 mexico city interview government

Can you summarize the current attitude/policy

of the municipality towards urban improve-

ment and the redressing of inequality?

Stop the city expansion over conservation land and

give all the normative elements to make it grow in-

ward. We are working for a compact, vertical, shared,

inclusive, and extroverted city, improving the existing

infrastructure and offering social housing in the central

city to take people out of risk zones and give them

property certainty. We are also broadening the concept

of the public realm, looking at it in a more holistic way,

with high-quality infrastructure as a priority.

Do you think grassroots can complement the

efforts of the public sector to integrate the city

and improve livability in all areas? If so, how?

I think we should overcome the extremely formal

vision about public policies connected with urban plan-

ning. Almost all cities have their urban development

departments and programs, but in most cases, they

are a set of charters and norms consolidated within

the institutional policies and the limits of government

action. That is not bad, but we shouldn’t miss the other

perspective that comes from a more refined observer,

which is the specific citizen. The problem with those

general programs is that they standardize the physical

and social conditions of cities, when it is really not like

that, not even in developed cities. And those who live

in physical or social marginalization are in many cases

the ones who find new non-formal or non-traditional

ways of organizing space.

In Mexico City we have incorporated roundtables or

committees that serve local proposals from all kinds

of organizations. It all has to be based on dialogue, on

understanding the other side, on acknowledging that

there is a degree of specificity that doesn’t allow us to

do things mechanically.

Which governmental agencies/programs recog-

nize the importance of community-led initia-


At the borough level it varies a lot, for it depends to a

great extent on the sensibility of the authorities. But at

the city’s central government level, there are several

entities: the Social Development Department, which

supports initiatives from vulnerable groups; the Insti-

tute of Housing serves many such initiatives, because

there is a lot of housing in risk zones; and finally us,

the Department of Housing and Urban Development,

which in many cases has to legalize or relocate infor-

mal settlements.

How does this recognition affect the planning

process in these areas? Can you give an ex-


Citizens proposed to us a very interesting legal status

of “family condominium.” In Mexico City, the condo-

minium generally consists of a building divided into

clearly defined spaces with several owners. However,

it is common to have a property for a family of fifteen

members with three or four couples and where each

uses a room or set of rooms. Land use would say it

is single-family property, but it is not, because it is

a subdivided family. So now family condominium is

recognized as a subdivided property and this helps in

services and credits for house improvements.

Do you see scope for change to current plan-

ning methods based on the experiences of such

projects? Do you think that there is a move in

government towards integrating bottom-up

with top-down planning initiatives?

Most of the urban planning is still based on the nine-

teen-eighties urban zoning, without an understanding

of social problems. But it is not enough to draw things

on a map, because reality always surpasses us and we

Reality Surpasses Us: We Need to Be more Flexible and PorousFelipe Leal is Head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development

Page 30: Handmade Urbanism

a broadening of the stakeholders, but also a broadening

of topics—understanding that urbanity and the experi-

ence of the city happen in many arenas.

When one looks at these successful grass-

roots initiatives it is inevitable to think about

replicating them. How should replicability be


I believe that replicability can mean many things. It

can mean the enthusiasm for social engagement and

the possibility of transformation. It is also about find-

ing the way in which the scale of different programs

gets played out physically. And it is not a matter of

just identifying a successful formula—think of el Faro

de Oriente—and sort of using it as a cookie-cutter but

about actually finding the specific contingencies of

groups, site, geographies, and problems and redefining

what an urban action and urban intervention means to-

day. The other issue of replicability has to do with the

rapport of different stakeholders. I would say the form

social projects take in the next few years will have to

do with ingenuity in finding new social relationships. Many of these projects are in the fringes of the margin-

alized areas of the city—in suburbs with severe access

restrictions. So if they were able to develop themselves

separately from the center, I think their potential is

very large; they have a great power. And the problems

throughout the city are similar, so solutions can also be

similar, however they must be created within communi-

ties; they cannot come or be imposed from the outside.

Expansion cannot come from the top, because horizontal

structures are what make these projects deeply rooted in

communities. In fact, the most consolidated projects, the

ones that have been able to expand beyond basic needs

and open the social tissue to incorporate other actors, are

the projects with long trajectories, but also with horizon-

tal and open structures.

Betsabe Romero is a visual artist and jury member Deutsche Bank

Urban Age Award—Mexico City 2012

156 mexico city interview mediation

Did the set of grassroots projects compiled by

the award open another perspective over the


I think that the range, scope, and geography of the pro-

posals showed the multiplicities of the city: multiple

geographies, topics, and groups—both highly organized

and sometimes less organized—but above all multiple

stakeholders involved in the definition and production

of what an urban project means. In a way, the award

showed how many Mexico Cities there are and this

diversity talks about a vitality that was not present

twenty or thirty years ago.

What was the most remarkable thing about the

award process?

When one goes below the radar, one finds and discov-

ers that there are many narratives already taking place

in the city, some of them supported by social programs

of the local governments and in some cases by the fed-

eral government, but also other narratives taking place

by NGOs that we do not necessarily associate with the

visible urban actions. I find this incredibly refreshing in

the context of Mexico. It is fundamental to assume that

the production of politics, the production of citizen-

ship, the production of the polis, of the discussion of

conflicts and resolutions in the city can involve many

diverse agents, and not only traditional ones. The other

remarkable thing is that all these projects have strong

physical components—a school over here, a set of steps

going down to a ravine, a shed that it is used to cover

a plaza and next to a communal kitchen—that produce

social relationships. And I don’t mean to minimize

other forms of social transformation, but to go back to

some of the arguments of the Urban Age project: space

matters and sometimes it matters more than we give

credit for.

To what extent do these grassroots initiatives

have a role in creating new citizenship besides

having physical impact?

I think that as much as space produces new kind of

citizenship, new citizens produce a different kind of

space, and it is not a causality. It is not a chicken or

egg dilemma, it is truly a correlation between how

new, informed citizens can create new and better

forms of city. And in that regard, those kind of new

spaces of the city—let us think of a community kitchen,

of a PET recycling facilities, of a plaza that is now

used for dancing lessons—those forms of occupation

empower citizens in different ways: from nutrition and

fitness to social and leisure activities, from economic

retribution to learning. And I like this relationship in

which it is not the physical that precedes the social, but

is actually more of a braid. In braiding the two is that a

new kind of citizenship is being created.

Mexico City has a strong tradition of bottom-up

initiatives, partly because it is pretty much a

self-made city, but also because after the 1985

earthquake civil society became very active.

What was new about the projects compiled in


I would say there is a new social contract when it

comes to urban projects and this social contract

involves different forms of resistance but also differ-

ent forms of engagement. If I have to say, the big shift

from the nineteen-sixties, seventies, and eighties to

the transformation of the city today has to do with

when the stakeholders have determined it is important

to resist, and when it is important to engage. I think

it was quite emblematic that the final projects were

not projects created in absolute autonomy. They were

projects that shift from autonomy to engagement. They

showed different levels of maturity, but the oldest

projects have a learning curve, which includes not only

Braiding the Physical and the Social: A New Social Contract for the City Jose Castillo is an architect, principal of Arquitectura 911SC, and visiting professor at Harvard Graduate

School of Design

Page 31: Handmade Urbanism

Cape TownLindsay Bush

160 mexico city biograPHies

Francisco Javier Conde González Doctorate in Education from the National Autonomous Universi-

ty of Mexico. Conde has been working for the Miravalles Marist

School for thirteen years and has promoted educational environ-

ment programs and social development in the area. Founding

member of Miravalle Community Council, created in 2007.

Felipe LealDegree in Architecture from the National Autonomous Univer-

sity of Mexico (UNAM). Head of the Department of Housing

and Urban Development in Mexico City. First Public Space

Authority in the Federal District. Honorary member of the Na-

tional Academy of Architecture. Coordinator of Special Projects

at UNAM, an area that fostered the inclusion of the Central

University Campus in UNESCO’s World Heritage List and that

created a new transport system within the university campus.

Principal of the School of Architecture at the National Autono-

mous University of Mexico from 1997–2005. Broadcaster of the

radio program “Architecture in Space and Time.”

Arturo Mier y TeránDegree in Architecture from the National Autonomous Univer-

sity of Mexico (UNAM) with a Masters in Urban Design and

Regional Planning from the University of Edinburgh, and PhD

candidate in urban planning at UNAM. Researcher, professor,

and lecturer at different national and international universi-

ties. Since 1990, Director of Technology and Habitat in Large

Cities, HABITEC. He is currently a technical advisor on various

projects of the Federal District Government Housing Improve-

ment Program and Community Program for Neighborhood


Argel GómezVisual artist, graphic designer, and cultural promoter. Current

coordinator of Central del Pueblo, a new cultural space in down-

town Mexico City. He managed the arts and handcrafts work-

shops at Faro de Oriente, a cultural center in Mexico City, which

has become a referent for cultural public policies. At the Faro,

Gómez edited six books about cultural policies and teaching

experiences in the art field. He studied a postgraduate curse of

cultural policies given by Organization of Ibero-American States.

Benjamín GonzálezCultural manager. Cofounder and former principal of Faro

de Oriente Cultural Center. Former director of Culture at the

Greater Metropolitan Municipality of Ecatepec and current

principal of Central del Pueblo Cultural Center.

Jose CastilloDegree in Architecture from the Universidad Iberoamericana

and Doctorate in Design from Harvard University. With Saidee

Springall, he is the principal of Arquitectura 911sc, a practice

based in Mexico City. His writings have been published exten-

sively in international journals and publications. He is a profes-

sor at the Universidad Iberoamericana’s School of Architecture

in Mexico City and visiting professor at Harvard University’s

Graduate School of Design. Since 2005, Castillo has been cura-

tor of various international exhibitions. He is a member of the

Advisory board of SCIFI at SCI-Arc and of the advisory board of

Urban Age.

Chapter Author and Interviewer:

Ana ÁlvarezResearcher, editor, curator, and manager of interdisciplinary

projects, focusing on the urban and cultural contemporary

life of Mexico City. She graduated with a degree in Mathemat-

ics from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, but

since 2003 has been engaged in exploring, portraying, and

narrating her hometown. Founding member of Citámbulos,

an interdisciplinary collective of urban researchers formed by

Fionn Petch, Valentina Rojas Loa, Christian von Wissel. With a

special focus on daily life and street-level urban phenomena,

the collective first published Citamblers: the Incidence of the

Remarkable, Guide to the Marvels of Mexico City and has since

then produced several national and international publications,

exhibitions, workshops, dérives, urban interventions, reaching

a wide variety of audiences and spaces—including the National

Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, the German Center of

Architecture in Berlin, and the Swiss Museum of Architecture

in Basel. She also worked as coordinator and curatorial advi-

sor in Mexico City for the international exhibition Our Cities,

Ourselves, which was sponsored by the Institute of Transporta-

tion and Development Policy. She was the coordinator of the

Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award in Mexico City.

Members of the Jury for the Award in Mexico City:

Vanessa Bauche

Actress and social activist

Richard Burdett

Director, Urban Age & Centennial Professor in Architecture and

Urbanism, London School of Economics

Jose Castillo

Architect, co-founder of arquitectura 911sc, professor at School

of Architecture, Universidad Iberoamericana

Denise Dresser

Writer, political anaylist and academic, professor of political

science at Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México

Enrique Norten

Founder, TEN Arquitectos, New York and Mexico City & Miler

Chair of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania

Betsabeé Romero

Visual artist

Anthony Williams

Former Mayor of Washington, DC and is the Executive Director

of the Global Government

Han Tümertekin

Architect, Mimarlar Design, & Visiting Professor, Harvard

Graduate School of Design

Page 32: Handmade Urbanism

162 caPe town ProFile Population [city]

3.74 million

Area occupied [city]

2,454 km2

Gross domestic product (GDP)

103 [$bn at PPPs]

Average density [metro/city]

1,425 Inhabitants/km2


Khoisan, Dutch, English, French,

Madagascar, Mauritius, Ceylon,

India, Malaysia, Indonesia,

Germans, Portuguese, Italians,

Chinese, Xhosa, Zulu, Other

Africans, South Africans,

Page 33: Handmade Urbanism

1652Jan van Riebeeck estab-

lishes a way-station for

ships. Town laid out on

a Dutch grid pattern and

farmlands established.

1688French Huguenots ar-


1660–180640,000 slaves are

imported from West

Africa, Madagascar,

India, Ceylon, Malaya,

and Indonesia to work

on farms.

1814Capital of the British

Cape Colony. Urban

growth continues hap-

hazardly at the hands of


1836The Great Trek: 10,000

Dutch families leave the

Colony to travel north.

1865–1905Immigration: working-

class immigrants arrive

from all over Europe to

settle in the city.

German farmers de-

velop Philippi for market


1870s–80sTrade to the port is

increased by Highveld

gold rush.

Segregation begins,

as native Africans are

moved to Ndabeni.

1910Legislative capital of the

Union of South Africa is

Cape Town.

1910–1941Suburban development

along racial lines is

influenced by the British

garden city movement,

and the oversized, zoned

planning of Modernism.

1924Growth of planned

townships on the Cape

Flats: slums Act allows

for forced removals in

the inner city.

1930s-40sForeshore reclamation

begins, linking harbor to

the central city.

1948Urban planning aims

for complete “separate

development”: National

Party elected on a plat-

form of Apartheid,

leading to the Group

Areas Act.

1950sSlum clearance acceler-

ates, forcing thousands

into hostels and tented

“emergency camps.”

1960sLarge industrial areas

grow up on the outskirts

of the city. Railway lines

and roads are used to

strategically separate


1965District Six declared

a whites-only region

and 60,000 forcibly

removed, many to Lav-

ender Hill and surround-


1970s–80sSteady growth of Cape

Flats townships and

informal settlements,

most notably Khayelit-

sha and Mitchell’s

Plain. Violent clashes

and forced removals


1988Touristic development

of the V&A Waterfront.

It becomes the country’s

most popular tourist

destination with 1.5 mil-

lion visitors monthly.

1990Abolishment of the last

of the Apartheid laws by

President F.W. De Klerk.

1990sUrban sprawl: end of

influx control leads to

rural migration and

rapid growth of under-

serviced, overcrowded

Cape Flats settlements.

Informal economy and

violence levels boom

due to unemployment

and inequality.

Gated communities for

the rich spring up in

response to widespread


1994First democratic elec-

tion in South Africa sees

Nelson Mandela elected


2000sCentral City Improve-

ment District (CCID)

established with a focus

on safety and urban


Integrated Development

Plan (IDP), a 5-year gov-

ernment plan, lays solid

framework for urban


2010–11Soccer World Cup builds

on infrastructure and

public space improve-

ments underway in

the city. World Design

Capital 2014 bid won by

Cape Town.

168 caPe town time line and PoPulation growtH

1600 1700 1800 1900 2000




Page 34: Handmade Urbanism

170 caPe town initiatives

Born in a mother’s home in 2007, Mothers Unite pro-

vides an alternative for children aged three to fifteen: a

safe haven from the gangs, drugs, and violence charac-

terizing street and home environments in the Lavender

Hill area.

A core volunteer staff of six mothers from the

neighborhood provides 120 kids with educational

programs and healthy meals, three afternoons a week.

Programs include storytelling, literacy, computers, and

art therapy.

Operating on the grounds of the municipal Sea-

winds Multipurpose Hall, they have built an “infra-

structure village” from donated shipping containers,

arranged around the perimeter to create an oasis-like

space. Facilities include a number of activity rooms, a

library, kitchen, office, sheltered area, playground, and

vegetable gardens. Mothers Unite have partnered with

a range of organizations: securing donations-in-kind

from international aid agencies, corporations, and the

Church; working with other NGOs to train gardeners

and plant trees, and with universities to start training

in emergency first aid response. Their newest addi-

tions are a wendy house training and yoga center, and

a retrofitted container with toilets.

In an area suffering from high levels of unemploy-

ment, poverty, and domestic violence, the project’s

success lies in the way it addresses the family unit.

Through providing a safe place for children to play, ex-

plore, and develop, the mothers reach out to families to

encourage a commitment to community development,

and children have shown great improvements in both

social interaction and school performance.

Mothers Unite

Page 35: Handmade Urbanism

In Cape Town, most of the land occupied by

projects belongs to the public sector. Many who

take the initiative to “just do it” start out as

lawbreakers, yet support from the government

has generally followed. What is your opinion

on this?

With nearly a third of people living in informal settle-

ments, it’s almost the norm that you have to begin as

a lawbreaker. Within any government framework, it

is very difficult to move change, so you need to have

those champions … change always requires action.

Government is realizing that their policies are not

always applicable on the ground and that people have

needed to embark on a “detour” to get things done,

however criminal or violent activities cannot be seen

as a solution to our current problems.

Government organizations face grave difficulties—such

as lack of capacity and finance, politicization of service

delivery, vexed inter-governmental relations, cumbersome

decision-making processes, and lack of flexibility—which

inhibit cross-cutting analysis and decision making. While

there is a strong argument for civil society organizations

to become more involved in local development processes,

many have been demobilized, have few resources, or are

themselves divided. Private sector organizations have re-

sources, but are often out of touch with the complexities

of community and city needs. In many cities, cross-sector

partnerships are becoming increasingly popular in areas

of policy making and implementation that were previ-

ously the primary domain of the state. Partnerships, it is

argued, can be seen as a “new model of governance.”

Andrew Boraine, CEO of the Cape Town Partnership and DBUAA

2012 jury member

184 caPe town interview government

Can you summarize the current attitude/policy

of the municipality towards urban improve-

ment and the redressing of inequality?

We are seeing a big shift from a sectoral focus to an

area-based focus. Most of the project entries were

around people making a change in a particular small

area in their neighborhood. The city has understood

this as a positive thing, and it becomes apparent in

their strategy document, the IDP. The VPUU is a good

example as its neighborhoods are still manageable for

the city, yet the level of detail makes it possible for

people to understand and influence the process.

Do you think grassroots can complement the

efforts of the public sector to integrate the city

and improve livability in all areas? If so, how?

From my perspective certainly, grassroots initiatives

are important. Again it’s a question of a scale that

people understand and feel comfortable working with.

Most of these programs have tried to combine strategy

with implementation, and that’s often the missing link

within the City: the IDP tries to do it, but it’s often very

difficult because line departments work in sectoral ar-

eas. We have to recognize the value of cross-pollinating

between strategy and local knowledge.

Which governmental agencies/programs re-

cognize the importance of community-led

initiatives? How does this affect the planning

process in these areas? Can you give an example?

With the shift in approach, funding is increasingly

allocated on a local-area basis according to need. The

city has gained the support of Province and National

Treasury to work in transversal teams and follow

proper methodology, so they begin with a baseline

survey followed by a Community Action Plan, and then

seek funding accordingly—that’s a positive move. An

example is the Neighborhood Development Partnership

grants—where the city seeks national funding for focus

areas—and international funding as with the VPUU.

We need to establish who the intermediary is between

government, the public sector, and the community,

because in practice they are often unable to communi-

cate. A forum where different stakeholders can talk to

each other is key to any development strategy.

Do you see scope for change to current plan-

ning methods based on the experience of such

projects? Do you think there is a move towards

integrating bottom-up with top-down planning


A current international trend is the “people’s budget,”

translated in Cape Town as Ward allocations. VPUU,

for example, uses a Social Development Fund that’s

linked to a local development strategy (the Community

Action Plan) and to the broader IDP, opening up many

more possibilities. Again, it is about scale. Govern-

ment favors large-scale projects, and bottom-up initia-

tives require small, localized interventions and invest-

ments. That vehicle needs to be found and the Ward

allocation is a good start. As 99% of these projects sit

within the framework of the IDP, they certainly play

an important role.

How do you see the development of local

bottom-up initiatives in the long term? What

possible development scenarios might be envis-

aged for the future?

I believe the bottom-up approach is the best way to

embed democracy in South Africa and fulfill the man-

date of the Constitution. We are moving from a closed

system in the past into a society that is much more

open and equal, and the bottom-up approach is part of

this shift. What is difficult is for the public sector to

be open enough to allow these initiatives to flourish.

However, I do think there are many opportunities to be

found in the IDP, especially if we focus on that inter-

mediary between government and grassroots.

Breaking it Down to Build it UpMichael Krause is team leader of the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) program

Page 36: Handmade Urbanism

Common Points

194 caPe town biograPHies

Carol JacobsCarol is a proud single mother of three who lives in an RDP

house in Seawinds, a neighborhood in the Lavender Hill area.

She finished grade seven and went on to initiate Mothers

Unite, an inspiring, award-winning organization that is gaining

increasing recognition for rebuilding a community through the

hearts and minds of its children.

Michael KrauseMichael is a place-maker who believes in negotiating solutions

to shape urban environments. He grew up in East Germany,

studied Urban Design and Spatial Planning, and relocated to

South Africa in 1995. Since 2006, he has led a highly dedicated

transversal team of people to implement and develop the VPUU

program, which has had significant impact on crime in parts of

Khayelitsha, creating safe, vibrant public spaces in one of the

city’s poorest areas.

Edgar Pieterse Director of the African Center for Cities at UCT, Edgar is a na-

tive Capetonian whose research and publications cover such

themes as African urbanism, cultural planning, regional and

macro development, and governance. He fills several teaching

and advisory roles and holds the DST/NRF SA Chair in Urban


Malika NdlovuMalika is an internationally published South African poet, play-

wright, performer, and arts activist. She has lived most of her

adult life in Cape Town, has wide range of experience in arts

management and currently operates as an independent artist

under the brand New Moon Ventures, working towards healing

through creativity.

Councilor Shaun August Shaun August grew up playing on the streets of Lavender Hill.

His strong organizational skills, discipline, and familiarity

with the criminal element come from ten years as a warden at

Pollsmoor prison. A committed family man, he is well known

in the community and was elected as the Democratic Alliance

Councilor for his very own Ward 67.

Chapter Author and Interviewer:

Lindsay BushLindsay is an architect and urban designer who recently

relocated to Cape Town to manage the 2012 DBUA Award.

Born, raised, and educated in Durban, her family emigrated

to Australia in the mid-nineteen-nineties and she chose to

stay behind. She has traveled widely, working and studying in

numerous places around the world. Her professional interests

include urban regeneration, housing, community and educa-

tional spaces, and the in-situ upgrade of informal settlements.

Lindsay’s work has been profiled in several local publications

and her most recent contribution was to the book Building

Brazil compiled by the MAS Urban Design researchers at the

ETH in Zürich. Since the award, she has been living in Cape

Town, setting up a legacy network called Urban Agents, and in

the coming years will be applying her skillset to the facilita-

tion of the World Design Capital 2014 Ward projects. Lindsay

is passionate, energetic, and fiercely optimistic about the

future of her beloved country.

Members of the Jury for the Award in Cape Town

Andrew Boraine

Chief executive of the Cape Town Partnership, adjunct profes-

sor at African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town

Richard Burdett

Director Urban Age & Centennial Professor in Architecture and

Urbanism, London School of Economics

Malika Ndlovu

Poet, playwright, performer and arts consultant

Enrique Norten

Founder, TEN Arquitectos, New York and Mexico City & Miler

Chair of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania

Edgar Pieterse

Director of African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town

Nonfundo Walaza

Civil rights campaigner and clinical psychologist, chief execu-

tive of Desmond Tutu Peace Center

Anthony Williams

Former Mayor of Washington, DC and is the Executive Director

of the Global Government

Page 37: Handmade Urbanism

202 common Points interview

Town’s Mothers Unite, for example. It could become

an aflourishing, fantastic center for that area, which is

secure, inviting, and has something to offer through an

educational project hosted in a civic space. That is the

vision of one center, which would also be connected to

other “centers” throughout that city.

In your view, what do the projects associated

with the DBUA Award achieve? What simi-

larities and differences stood out between the

projects in different cities?

These projects are very similar. There is always a

meeting place, a garden, a kitchen, an educational

facility; a place where people come together to learn,

to teach, to share and exchange experiences and ideas,

and to be citizens. In most of the cities, we found these

similar formations. In my opinion, the only difference

was in Istanbul, where these spaces seemed to be

introverted; there we found a music school for young

students that learn how to play an instrument.

If we look back to the first settlements in human

history, it has always been about providing residents

with safety, food, a spiritual center; and one might also

notice the similarity of their plans. I think cities are the

expression of human needs and that we have a “plan”

of what a city should be inside us.

Overall, do you think these initiatives have

been successful? If so, what key lessons might

we learn from them?

Cities are no longer built for humans, they are built

for investors. They have become like machines, not to

house people and to create an environment that en-

ables them to live a better quality of life. They consist

of iconic buildings designed by star architects but are

in the danger of becoming as boring as shopping malls.

Every mayor seems to be happy to have these super-

stars designing cities, but they are only designing sky-

lines. Instead of concentrating on skylines, we should

be building cities thinking of human needs and ground

realities. It is not only the investor and the architect

who should participate in planning. It is important to

engage and involve the people who live there as well.

Finally, we should have an assessment of what is being

built by the inhabitants themselves. We should ask: is

this environment enabling people to have a better life

or is it only creating static monument-like buildings

and urban environments? This is the lesson learned

from these initiatives, the tremendous power and

capability of what local residents and ordinary people

can do and achieve.

How do you see the potential for the develop-

ment of such projects impacting cities in the

future? Are they scalable and/or replicable?

Or, which features that you recognize as being

specific to the nature of these projects have the

potential to develop further?

We should not replicate them. (We have replicated

shopping malls!) I imagine we should have a thousand

different “centers,” like in the jungle where we find a

diversity of beautiful new plants. These initiatives are

a great experiment of people finding out what a better

city can be. They imply the argument that we should

enable people to initiate and build something, not ex-

actly replicating them, but encouraging their participa-

tion within a framework.

I think we should protect those community initia-

tives, which keep cities livable and enrich them. We

should protect them from investors. We should take

these initiatives as a reference and learn from them.

Can you envision possible future scenarios re-

sulting from the pioneerism displayed in these


If we want to be successful, the city of the twenty-first

century cannot, for instance, have only one center.

These cities can be enriched by having multiple, dif-

ferent centers built by a multitude of people with

different backgrounds. I don’t mean to build ghettos,

but many centers where different communities and

ethnicities can mix and thus foster diversity. In this

scenario, we should have a multitude of city centers

created by citizens. This could look a bit like the dif-

ferent markets in different neighborhoods—which are

all very attractive, as we know from London, Paris,

Berlin or São Paulo—that greatly enrich a city. See Cape

Cities Are an Expression of Human Needs Wolfgang Nowak was the initiator of the Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award

Wolfgang Nowak is Director of the Alfred Herrhausen Society, the International

Forum of Deutsche Bank. Wolfgang Nowak initiated the Urban

Age program, an international investigation into the future of the

world’s mega-cities in the twenty-first century jointly organized

with the London School of Economics. He has held various

senior positions in Germany’s state and federal governments,

France’s Centre national de la recherche scientifique (French

National Center for Scientific Research) in Paris, and UNESCO.

After unification, he was State Secretary of Education in Saxony

from 1990 to 1994. In addition, he was Director-General for

Political Analysis and Planning at the German Federal Chancel-

lery from 1999 to 2002. He lectures and publishes widely on

academic issues and is a regular commentator for German

television and newspapers. He is honorary Vice President of the

British think tank Policy Network, Senior Fellow of the Brookings

Institution in Washington, and Fellow at the NRW-School of

Governance at the University of Duisburg-Essen.

Page 38: Handmade Urbanism

and facilities. The social mechanisms behind these

initiatives reveal new modes of negotiation, participa-

tion, and cooperation. Spatially, they reveal fields: the

spaces they occupy, in which they install or take place.

Their tactical nature produces operational knowledge

through the design of strategies that change specific

spots, applied over short or longer timeframes. They

rarely design to determine, tending rather to arrange

open, flexible frameworks that can evolve over time

and accommodate several overlapping programs. These

three aspects introduce perspectives that give us clues

as to how we may begin to approach modifying the

planning “status quo.”

Making Community Initiatives Visible

A marked improvement can be seen to result from

each of the initiatives profiled in this book. They re-

move garbage, plant new trees and gardens, organize

community meeting places, upgrade open spaces for

activities, construct clean toilets, build playgrounds,

libraries, and classrooms for workshops and skills

training. They have added value to the built environ-

ment, whether by conscious acts or by experimental

evolution over time. They upgrade derelict spaces

into more harmonious and beautiful places, creating

qualities that forge encounters and coexistence, and

transform residents’ perceptions of everyday life. We

are interested in understanding how these processes

take place, how the operative notion of the “common”

is generated. It is our intention to make the processes

visible, document them and share the compiled


The community initiatives showcased in this book

present enormous potential to catalyze urban change,

based not only on their accomplishments, but also

on what they can teach us. Their mechanisms and

operational models have the potential to feed back

into the architecture and urban planning disciplines,

augmenting the palette of tools with which they shape

the city. A new culture of planning and design informed

by grassroots initiatives would involve assembling a

more inclusive, transversal, transparent, and porous

framework inside which these projects could flourish.

These initiatives also have potential to impact upon

urban policy, and can provide valuable lessons for

governance, not least around strategies for community


Based on the material compiled for each of the five

cities, we would like to draft some conclusions that

might point out pathways towards the planning and

construction of this open, inclusive, participatory city.

We aim to identify and pull together common threads,

assess the potential of their combined efforts and find-

ings, and indicate actors that might lead the way in

developing possible new scenarios.

1. The Social Mechanisms and Operational Modes of Community Initiatives

Recognizing Problems, Unveiling Potential,

Inspiring Solutions

Projects start in response to issues that directly affect

people’s lives. The nature and intensity of problems

varies from city to city, as do the projects and pro-

grams implemented to solve them.

In Mumbai, the lack of sanitation, the prevalence

of disease, and the lack of communal space and

services in slums are the sort of problems that act

as strong motivators for community projects. As ob-

served, sanitation and recovery programs often start

by cleaning an area with the help of a community, an

important step as it tackles not only the problem of

waste, but also the culture of littering and dumping

on the city’s streets and vacant lots. Jeff Anderson

who started Biourban (p. 76) in São Paulo explains

how the cleaning of those garbage dumps repre-

sents a sudden change in attitude towards collective

space; a change that fosters community organization

and further translates into physical improvements

such as the addition of plants, urban furniture and

playgrounds—new meeting spaces that are used by

residents like small, open-air living rooms.

In Cape Town, Carol Jacobs of Mothers Unite (p. 182)

explains how the reality of hungry kids playing in the

street with nowhere to do homework or research,

inspired her to make the first move. A high number of

education and skills training programs, often combined

with urban farming, address the city’s most pressing

issues. Problems of similar nature have inspired action

in Mexico City. Communities realized they were los-

ing areas for much-needed public space and services,

and reacted by defending and appropriating existing

derelict land to create facilities for health, food, work,


The discussion around participatory processes in urban

planning is by no means a new one. In recent decades

however, we notice an increasingly humanistic ap-

proach towards the revindication of cities.

It can be seen in the work of art collectives with

local communities during the nineteen-nineties (Bour-

riaud, 1998; Kester, 2004; Bishop, 2006), and more

pronouncedly in the last decade in architecture, urban

design, and urbanism: community initiatives, “Do-it-

yourself” building, and other means by which tactical

knowledge is implemented and tested on site (Smith,

2007; Borasi and Zardini, 2008; Christiaanse, 2010; Seji-

ma, 2010; Lepik, 2010; Ho, 2012). These processes allow

for direct and proactive participation in the construc-

tion and adaptation of cities according to local needs.

For a whole host of reasons, governments have been

unable to provide for large portions of their cities’

inhabitants. Imbalances are rife: some have too much,

while others have too little, and the latter can justifi-

ably become distrustful of or lose faith in governance,

its policies, and plans.

Does this motivate people to participate, to make

their voices heard and be actively involved in the inher-

ently political process of city-making? Both in spite of

poor relationships, and because of sound partnerships

with municipal governments, citizens are becoming


When we talk about active participation, civil soci-

ety is becoming increasingly engaged in actions that

aim to improve the common urban environment. The

nineteen-sixties was a decade in which a participa-

tory culture was marked by radical political moments

and demonstrations that made a call for participation

(Debord, 1961), focused in the everyday (Lefebvre,

1947, 1961,1981; de Certeau, 1980), and this gave rise

to participatory urban design and planning. Concepts

of open frameworks that invite interaction have been

translated in visions such as Constant Nieuwenhuys’

New Babylon (1959–54), and in Yona Friedman’s La Ville

Spatiale (1960), among many others. Authors such as

Jane Jacobs were dedicated to the study of the neigh-

borhood scale and diversity in local design (1961). Jan

Gehl’s work in Copenhagen demonstrates the success

of “cities designed for people,” (1987, 2010) and par-

ticipatory experiences and processes have also found

fertile ground in developing countries such as Brazil

(Lagnado, 2006; França, 2012). Yet, with a few excep-

tions, participatory planning has, to a great extent,

remained in the realm of theory. In light of a growing

culture of participation, could we then propose that we

are moving from a theoretical discourse to a practical


Small-scale, self-driven community initiatives

provide immediate solutions to urgent, everyday

problems, in the form of social innovation. Do they also

contribute towards a better scenario? Can they effect

positive transformation? Will these initiatives remain

local, or will they be incorporated by governmental

frameworks and policies? Should these innovations

influence the rules that determine the way we act in,

educate, govern, plan, and build our cities?

The innovation here is not necessarily about a

final product, or about physical built space. These are

important pioneer testing grounds, where process is

paramount. They uncover inventive ways of reading

and responding to urban realities, and present learning

opportunities by way of exchange in observing other

cultures, experiences, and cities. They reveal the fragil-

ity of a deterministic urban model that relies on aged

instruments and regulations that fail to respond to the

complexity inherent in our cities. What kind of plan-

ning knowledge might we draft from these projects?

We might start by questioning the importance of

these initiatives to the adaptation of urban space.

Politically, they are fundamental to unveil real demands

and make legible flaws in current policy, a prereq-

uisite to moving forward. Socially, they act as soft

infrastructure, working with the city at a local level

to provide neighborhoods with much-needed services

Final ConsiderationsMarcos L. Rosa and Ute E. Weiland, editors

212 common Points

Page 39: Handmade Urbanism

4 NavigatioN X

HeadlineAUThOR’s Name

Author’s position in the project etc.