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

Christina Monzer Proposal

Community Development and Bottom-Up Collaboration: Global Studio Bhopal

Growing up between Lebanon and Ukraine, moving to Los Angeles and more recently, to the Bay Area, my experiences with community have varied. I have witnessed how numerous communities are able to live, interact and utilize the space around them. I have also come to notice the lack of community due to detachment and distance between people in our rapidly industrializing and globalized world.

This past year I have begun to think about the importance of community to the social art of architecture. Not only do communities foster the need for dwellings, public spaces, places of work, leisure, etc. but it is also the collaboration of communities that allows for such places to be developed and to exist. Unfortunately, this type of collaboration has not reached much of the developing world. Currently, billions of people do not have adequate access to basic human needs such as food, water, shelter, education, sanitation, and healthcare, all of which should be instituted by a community based effort to ensure the best possible results.

Global Studio provides a means to addressing and attempting to solve the issues of communities in need by bringing international and local actors together through its “community-based action and research agenda.” The founder of Global Studio, Anna Rubbo writes in her 2010 piece, “Towards Equality, Social Inclusion and Human Development in Design Education: The Case of Global Studio 2005-2008? that Global Studio’s goals are to “develop processes, knowledge and skills that will enable future professionals to contribute to well-designed and well-planned equitable, sustainable and socially inclusive cities that support human development.” These objectives coincide directly with my personal academic and professional goals which aim to merge my undergraduate Development Studies degree with future City and Regional Planning Master’s and PhD programs I plan to apply to in the coming years.

Global Studio’s focus on bottom-up action and collaboration between the local community and students, academics and organizations from a variety of fields and backgrounds signifies its efforts to provide well balanced solutions to issues addressed by the Millennium Development Goals, particularly Goal 7 (Ensure Environmental Sustainability and the target to ‘improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by 2020’) and Goal 8 (Develop a Global Partnership for Development). Bhopal, a smaller city in northern India with lower than average human development indicators is this year’s site for Global Studio which will also launch a “three year cross-disciplinary project in India.”

Bhopal is significantly affected by the Dow chemical disaster of the former Union Carbide plant on the edge of the city. Bhopal also has important heritage buildings that are currently “dilapidated and are the focus of one of [Global Studio Bhopal’s] projects.” In our Berkeley Prize Essay, Randa Tarabay and I argued for the preservation of an ancient space that brings communities together, the Byblos Souk in Lebanon, which we considered to be sacred because we found that it is not only its historical value that needs to be preserved but its potential to bring communities from all over Lebanon together. I think the projects that Global Studio plans to undertake in Bhopal are in line with some of our ideas for the Byblos Souk.

Even as a transfer student to UC Berkeley, my education has been invaluable, and has provided me with a strong knowledge and understanding of international development and underdevelopment and the reasons and theories behind it. My interdisciplinary degree has also given me the opportunity to take City & Regional Planning, Environmental Design, History, Anthropology and Geography courses which all have contributed to my enthusiasm about my current and future areas of study. My education has thus far provided me with essential tools to effectively participate in such an important project, but being able to partake in and learn from Global Studio Bhopal will undeniably further my future goals in promoting social welfare and sustainability and provide me with the skills that I will benefit me both educationally and professionally.

Global Studio Bhopal consists of three parts, for which all details and participants are not yet posted, but brief descriptions are provided on the Global Studio website. The first is the three-day People Building Better Cities conference at MANIT University Bhopal that begins the program (July 4-6th). This conference is open to “students, academics, professionals, NGOs and the wider community.” Deriving information from past Global Studio programs and Anna Rubbo’s publications, this conference would brief participants on the issues and projects at hand in Bhopal, all allow for dialogue between the various actors involved. This conference would not only be extremely educational and engaging but would introduce me to what is to come with the rest of the program.

Part two (July 7th-8th) consists of the Research/Professional Workshops, aimed at “improving people’s lives through design and planning” and are “of use to urban and related professionals, NGOs, academic and student researchers.” Participation in these workshops would supply me with an important experience in research techniques and in working with others in the fields I plan to enter into.

Finally, is the Hands-On Studio (July 7th-21st), “a cross disciplinary hands-on participatory design and planning studio” which “will will investigate various urban issues confronting the urban poor through the lens of participatory design and planning, as well as developing an associated research agenda.” I will have the possibility to work with approximately 15-17 other individuals along with an Indian and international mentor on projects which can improve people’s lives in Bhopal. This will give me the ability to put to use some of the knowledge I have gained in courses at UC Berkeley and gain fundamental skills in areas such as “initial and on-going community consultation, research, the development of proposals, and feedback to stakeholders,” which will undoubtedly be useful to me in the future.

A chance to participate in Global Studio Bhopal would allow me to channel my personal experiences growing up and spending time in the two developing countries my family is from, the knowledge I have gained from my diverse Development Studies education and my passion and motivation for better understanding the intricacies of city and project building into the collaborative effort that Global Studio stands for. This opportunity would develop my connection with communities in Bhopal and other vital actors in efforts to help improve lives of the residents of Bhopal, enhancing my ambitions to pursue a life-long career in working to create sustainable environments for communities in need.

Itinerary: 7/3: Arrive in Bhopal 7/4-6: Attend People Building Better Cities Conference at MANIT University Bhopal 7/7-8: Attend Research/Professional Workshops 7/7-21: Participate in Global Design Studio 7/22: Depart Bhopal 7/23-27: Arrive in Mumbai. As the 5th largest city in the world, I have become particularly interested in it since reading Mike Davis’s Planet of Slums. With the unique opportunity to travel to India, I would like to return back to the states via Mumbai and spend a few days there putting to use the knowledge I have gained from Global Studio in actively exploring the city (I will cover lodging/expenses myself, unless additional funds are available). 7/28: Return to Berkeley via San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

Expenses: Currently roundtrip flights from SFO to Bhopal for travel dates July 2-July 25 are approximately 2100USD (bing.com). I am likely to be in Beirut, Lebanon prior to the start of the program, from which roundtrip flights are currently 1050USD to Bhopal, and cancellation/change fees are generally 100-200USD (which I could cover myself, if needed). As noted GLOBAL STUDIO fees, costs for accommodation and anticipated food costs are approximately 1100USD. If funds are available, lodging/expenses in Mumbai- 200-300USD.

Sources: http://theglobalstudio.com/, http://theglobalstudio.com/publications/


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