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The incremental development scheme provided by a non-governmental organization gives the extreme urban poor a chance to settle on land before building a house or acquiring infrastructure. With this, the traditional way of land-occupation was followed instead of the modern way which was unaffordable for the poorest of society. By a simple grid and organisation of land, an unplanned growth of a slum was prevented to increase the living standards for the needed.
‘Standards are imposed to safeguard public health, but, if standards are enforced in a low-income housing scheme, the poor cannot afford to live in the scheme and are forced to live in illegal settlements below acceptable conditions.’
In the 1980s the amount of homeless people in Hyderabad grew immensely due to extreme urban poverty. A non-governmental organization, Hyderabad Development Authority (HDA) was founded to deal with this problem. The organization came up with a new scheme, called The Incremental Development Scheme of Hyderabad, to reach their homeless clients and give them the chance to own their own property. The idea of the scheme was that people first settle on the land, and a proper house and acquiring infrastructure would be built afterwards. With this they followed the scheme of illegal settlements, where occupiers settle on vacant ground before constructing their shelter. This approach guaranteed an easy entry to the project for households in most urgent need of shelter. The incrementally approach was not only used for housing but also for infrastructure and therefor discarded almost all standards, which decreased the need of loans to residents. ‘The urban poor could, then, construct their houses under planned conditions, while, in principle, maintaining the same “freedom to build” they had in the squatter settlements.’
Hyderabad Development Authority (HDA) approached the government of Pakistan to provide the land, which was required for the project. As soon as the government agreed to cooperate, the land, a flat area close to the town of Hyderabad and the industrial area of Kotri, was divided in around 3000 plots organized in 52 blocks. Immigrants entering Hyderabad had to register by the HAD. After screening and a down payment, they were assigned to a plot of land. Within two weeks after receiving a plot of land, the families had to start with the construction of their house, otherwise the allotment was cancelled and the plot was re-given to another family. To own the plot of land the entire costs of land will be paid during the following eight years. As soon as a total block of plots was allocated, the residents chose a community leader. He or she would remain contact with HDA and had the responsibility for the maintenance of communal services. Each family was responsible for their own plot.
The only design done by the initiators of HDA, was the division of the land. A conventional geometrical grid had to provide a clear organisation of the migrants. Besides, the limited time-management made it impossible to do an extensive research for an alternative grid. The priority was given to deliver the plots rather than an innovative design for the grid.
On these strictly divided plots, the residents had the freedom to build their houses to their own needs. There were no restrictions to size, form, height nor materials. The only restriction they had was their own limited budget. As a result of this restriction in the beginning the houses existed mainly of a simple, wooden, reeds or cardboard shelter. Slowly these simple shelters were transforming into more solid houses from brickwork or cement.
In this project the distinction between the design by HDA and the informal design by the residents is very clear. The strict grid, with water and electricity facilities and the infrastructure, are designed by the architectural team, while the residents are totally free in the style of their homes.
Hyderabad is located on the Lower Indus Plain in the Sind Desert area, well known for its arid climate. The climatic difference between winter and summer can be extreme, from a maximum temperature of 41°C in summer and minimum temperatures of only 11°C in winter. Also the variantion during a day can be enormous and be more than 20 degrees. The micro-climate is hot and dry. The only rains, if any, falls in July and is caused by cyclonic winds coming from the Persian Gulf. Humidity is variable and highest in the month of August. The lowest humidity occurs during the month of May.
To achieve a certain coolness, wide roads are planted with trees and flowering plans. There is high open and built space ratio, with many low-rise buildings. The comprising indoor and outdoor house forms, building materials and small window openings provide the climatic performance of the houses.