Addis Ketema - Weaving the Urban Fabric : Understanding the Significance of Community
Abel Feleke / 2016 RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Scholar-Australia
Drawings, plans, elevations
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’Weaving the Urban Fabric: Examining the Significance of Community’ is part of my research project as the 2016 recipient of the RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship. Over a period of 120 days I visited the informal communities of Addis Ketema – Addis Ababa, Rocinha – Rio De Janeiro, Dharavi – Mumbai and Gangxia – Shenzhen to learn more about the strong social networks which exist at the foundation of informal settlements, places often referred to as ‘slums’. Informal settlements have dense social networks which are sustained by rich and frequent interaction. This heightened sense of community continues to underpin the spontaneous and resilient development of slum cities and prompts further examination of the vibrant nature and idiosyncratic complexities of slum living. This global investigation starting from my grandmother’s former township in Addis Ababa, offers a shift from the conventional interpretations of the slum as only a breeding ground for discontent and disease, instead looking to unravel the lessons we can learn from the strong sense of community that binds these informal settlements. We are social creatures, therefore when examining urbanism it is not adequate to consider the built environment as a single entity instead we should seek to understand the intricacy of the dynamic social networks that have evolved. Rather than imposing independent architectural interventions upon the urban fabric it is necessary to weave a response amongst the existing social topologies. This film is not an attempt at romanticizing informal settlements, in the future developments of cities on the African continent it is crucial that the existing social relationship between communities and the built environment be understood in order to effectively empower people through sensitive engagements within the existing urban fabric. In the search for architecture which is representative of the Africa’s cultural diversity it is essential to engage with the existing traditions of living and spatial understandings of the people who exist as the foundation of our cities. Thank you to the community of Addis Ketema, Khalid and Zoedi for allowing me to create this short film.
3 word address features
To summarise in three words what I came across within my study, is the necessity to facilitate; Tradition - Respecting traditions of living in examining the existing understanding of space. Throughout Addis Ketema there exists a common understanding of scale and proportion. The culture of habitation that already exists within a location must be studied and engages with in order to engage with each sites unique spatial dialect. Community - Collective participation and action are fundamental in empowering site and community that already coexist within a location. It is only from open and respectful dialogue with members of an existing residence that any meaningful interventions can be created or suggested. Communication - This exists at the foundation of design. It is fundamental that design propositions act as a medium for exchange, allowing for a discourse and interactions to take place between residents, aiding in the development of a communal consciousness.
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