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View of cricket and kite-flying field
View of cricket and kite-flying field

Concept, individual place as secure base
Concept, individual place as secure base

Series of six sleeping modules of different heights to suit different ages
Series of six sleeping modules of different heights to suit different ages

Smart module. 1:1 scale model
Smart module. 1:1 scale model

Section
Section

Floor plan showing organization of rooms
Floor plan showing organization of rooms

View of square
View of square

View of a boys' bedroom
View of a boys' bedroom




PROJECTINDEX
 
INDIAN STAR - LITTLE SPOTS FOR THE SMALL ONES
Rotterdamse Academie van Bouwkunst
ARCHITECTURE

A home for street children in Chennai (India), built using a flexible, modular construction system.
For my final-year project I came into contact with a Dutch organization providing development aid in India. This organization asked me to design a new home for 120 street children in the megacity of Chennai. This specific request was to inform my final-year project.
During my explorations of Chennai I discovered not just the appalling misery prevailing in the city's slums but that there were also places of an exceptional quality. In the pattern of narrow streets, the places of encounter tended to be unexpected. I also discovered the freedom the children enjoy in the open community where monitoring and the measure of safety it brings seem part and parcel. After my visit to India I understood that the task was not to provide a design complete in all its parts. In India it is not customary to plan far ahead. Solutions are made to fit each situation, given that needs are always changing. The upshot is that after five years it all gets demolished to make room for something new.
In order to meet the obtaining circumstances I developed a construction system consisting of rectangular modules that can be connected in a variety of ways. These precast concrete elements can be disassembled like Lego bricks and be deployed for various ends, one being a place for children to sleep. A child's mattress gave me the frame of reference for the dimensions of the modules. These have six different heights related to the body length of children from 4 to 18 years. Unlike the children's homes usually come across these days, where they live and sleep together, the precast elements provide them with a safe place of their own that can be personalized and where possessions can be stored away safely. The mouldings on the outer side leave room for pipes and wiring. In similar vein, the semicircular incisions allow the modules to be combined using bamboo rods into a structural wall.
It was using that construction system that I designed a home for street children. The unorthodox plan reflects the quality of the structure informing a slum, where private and communal spill over into one another. This aspect returns in the way the internal courtyard has tiny streets and squares openly connecting it to the dwelling unit, the living room and ultimately to the dormitory of sleeping modules. A tent roof spans it all, giving protection against rain and sun. A second layer of muslin protects each dwelling unit against insects. These solutions fully expose the complex to the wind which cools it all down.
I pressed on with this project after graduating. The development aid organization and I are at present drawing up plans to get the home built using traditional means of construction. At the same time I am working with partner companies to develop the building construction system further. I am convinced that it can be applied at a much broader scale, say as an alternative for the way slums grow, all over the world.