The Thirteenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2011
Berkeley Prize 2011

Acellam Benard Proposal

Taking Architecture To The Urban Poor

Having witnessed the Lord’s Resistance rebel insurgency that ravaged Northern Uganda for nearly two decades, I grew up conscious of the human plight as regards to shelter. Although I haven’t lived in internally displaced peoples’ camps, I have close relatives with despicable tales about living conditions in them. My middle income parents struggled to sustain our large family in the urban areas that were relatively safe. While in the town, we were forced to move from one rented home to another and we didn’t have a lot of choices regarding the quality of services offered. Some of my most dreaded memories are when the landlords came for their rent and my parents didn’t have- memories that are still incredibly vivid in my mind. The circumstances of my childhood ignited in me a passion for humanitarian architecture. “I must make a difference!” I often told myself. Therefore my admission letter to Architecture school was like a written consent for me to begin the journey to realizing my dreams. I believe I’m a part of something much bigger than just my course! It is this desire to positively impact the lives of people in disadvantaged communities that I hope to fulfill at the Global Studio Bhopal, 2011.

“Owing to the rapid growth of our urban settlement and neglect of rural settlements several factors affect the man-made environment. Nearly 75% of our urban population cannot afford decent houses. Weaker sections of our society cannot afford even to pay subsidized rents… Architects should be conscious of the needs and aspirations of all sections of our society, be they economically poor, physically disabled or socially handicapped…” (Prof Madhav Deobhakta , Architectural Practice in India) The preceding quote indicates that Architects are standing on a burning platform surrounded by flames of socio-economic challenges. Although it depicts the situation in India, similar or even worse scenarios are being experienced elsewhere in the world. In Uganda a recent UNDP report indicates serious concerns over the poverty, human rights, and governance issues in the urban areas, especially among the population living in slums and marginalized groups such as women. The world appears to be racing at a breakneck speed to become an urban entity at the expense of living conditions in them and the available resources are being over-strained. The situation is even worse in conflict-ridden regions were forced migration of fleeing population have led to an influx of people to urban areas. In addition socio-economic issues like unemployment and land disputes have resulted into unprecedented urbanization challenges in most parts of the world.

Global Studio 2011 seeks to address issues of sustainable and inclusive urbanization through participatory planning and design, collaborative research and will also foster an on-going program of innovative urban work. I hope to be a part of this endeavor to acquire the necessary skills to create positive change especially in my home town Gulu where make-shift corrugated iron sheet buildings and grass-thatched huts exist even within the municipal precincts. This poses dire risks to the occupants most of whom are still recovering from Post-War time trauma. Bhopal, capital of the vast state of Madhya Pradesh in Northern India is host to Global Studio 2011. International students, academics and professionals from all over the world will come together with local universities, local government, NGOs and CBOs to reassure people with miscarried hope for better living conditions in the urban areas that there is a way out. The studio’s program involves a series of events that will commence with the People Building Better Cities conference (July 4-6), professional workshops (July 7-8) and its grand finale is a participatory hands-on design and planning studio (July 7-21). These events will commission a three year program of work in India. The PBBC conference and the hands-on studio are particularly open to international students among others. I particularly would like be a part of this studio’s informal, bottom-up, people led approach that I believe encourages openness from the side of local people hence offering them a voice in shaping their own destiny.

The activities of the studio strive to support the poverty alleviating objectives of the of the UN millennium development goals. However particular emphasis is on Goal 7 which seeks to; “Ensure Environmental Sustainability and the target to improve living conditions of about 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.” and Goal 8 which aims at developing a “Global Partnership for Development.” I intend to use the opportunity to reach out and be a part of the campaign to better peoples’ lives. I would like to understand the situation in Bhopal and other places around the world and relate it through benchmarking to that in Gulu and other urban areas in Uganda where slums seem to have become a normal site. I also intend to find answers to a seemingly doomed problem of street children, the possible ways of settling them.

As a student, this will be an opportunity to learn, get acquainted with professionals both from the field of architecture and other disciplines and build friendships. I will use it to find mentors and draw inspiration from them on ways to approach my studies and also offer more insights on the realities of the profession. This opportunity will make me a more complete package to offer to the society; as an advisor and a confidant once I graduate.

With a rich civilization and a wealth of culture and history, India is the perfect place to further my research in the essay competition theme, “Valuing the Sacred”. I intend to get a more detailed understanding of the social significance of sacred spaces and the different approaches in their preservation. I hope to find answers to questions like; how can we encourage the general populace to value them? What community resources can be used to insure their preservation? What would happen if we allowed them to sink into oblivion? For my essay I proposed widespread education and improved security as some of the other measures to insure their preservation. In Uganda, sacred spaces have of recent come under threat as evidenced by the burning of the Kasubi Tombs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in March 2010 by arsonists who up to now have not been apprehended. I hope to get useful knowledge and perhaps resources to participate in the preservation process of some of the sacred sites.

As a student participant in the studio, my role will be to document by taking notes and photographing. Draft and issue questionnaires to other participants and the community members and as well maintain a detailed sketch book.

During my free time I will visit the lakes and mosques. I would particularly like to visit the Khajuraho group of monuments, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and many other heritage buildings in and around the city. I will participate in social activities so as to learn more about the Indian culture. I envisage a focused, enriching and fun-packed time in India.

Anticipated budget; Global Studio fees, required- program accommodation, food and program costs approximate 1100USD Living allowances and costs for self directed tour of the city after studio(three days)-total 1000 USD, Overall total is 2100USD Itinerary; 07/02/2011;Kampala-Entebbe by airport taxi 20 USD; Entebbe-Bhopal via Ethiopian Airlines-993.60USD,Flight departs at 5:15PM and arrives at 8:00Pm, 07/03/2011 settles in, Monday 07/04/2011 starts Global Studio Programs.07/22/2011-07/24/2011- self -directed tour of Bhopal.07/25/2011 Return trip from Bhopal Airport to Entebbe Airport-Kampala.


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