Lessons from homegrown neighbourhoods to sustainable architecture

A project in parnertship : Crenau Laboratory, Capacites, New Black Digital

Guest post by Andres Sanchez Arias

The Architecture Inverse project is the result of two previous research projects in the informal settlements of Ciudad Bolivar (Bogotá) in 2012 – 2013, and Dharavi (Mumbai) in 2013 -2014, conducted by the Crenau Laboratory “Centre de Recherche Architectures Urbanités Nantais” of the Nantes School of Architecture. In these projects, we explored methodological tools using interdisciplinary methods linked to architecture, ethnography, sociology and geography, to understand the particular contexts and propose sustainable solutions that could both meet the needs of the inhabitants and adapt to the existent urban fabric.

As a follow-up to these experiences, Architecture Inverse aims to uncover the social dynamics around the production and construction of housing, infrastructure and public spaces in the informal sectors. Through the understanding and analysis of these social dynamics we can derive the bases to create contextual and sustainable processes and projects to build housing and spaces that respond the local needs of the people.

Architecture Inverse explores five geographical contexts: South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Philippines and South Korea. These locations have been chosen in different geographical, social and cultural contexts, with the goal of comparing the different ways in which inhabitants have responded to different factors such as weather conditions, utilization of available resources, socio-economic factors, as well as the development of their daily activities.

Based in the last research experiences, the methodological research structure was applied to a month of work in each country and the methods and activities proposed were:

Exploration of context: A literature review is conducted before reaching each country. During the first week we made alliances with several local and national organizations and we explore the context to city scale.

Fieldwork: During the weeks 2 and 3, a fieldwork and an immersion in a specific sector is done. Living in a neighborhood and use methods of urban ethnography in order to understand the dynamics around certain activities. These methods include: Living with a family and discover the dynamics of the place through daily experiences. Photographic register and video recording, mapping, interviews, architectural surveys.

Analysis and articulation of the collected data: In last week the collected data are analyzed and articulated through tools such as the Urban transect. This tool not only allows to articulate objective and subjective data collected, but to analyze and communicate the results to the different stakeholders involved.

In this project the term “Informal Settlement/Neighborhood” is re-evaluated showing there are complex dynamics that must be valued and studied in these sectors. Thus, the preferred term used in this research is Homegrown Neighborhoods or Barrios Caseros, a term proposed by URBZ Mumbai emphasizing the fact that this neighborhoods were built by local builders in response to the residents’ needs.

The results of this research allow to highlight the social dynamics as tools in building sustainable housing policies. Each context presents a specific topic and are presented trough 6 video episodes that will reflect the experience and observation in different location and countries:

Country and Episode Name

  1. Colombia – Francia [Homegrown Neighborhoods]
  2. South Africa: Formal-Plug-In-Formal  [Housing]
  3. Brazil: Mutirao  [Auto-gestion – Auto-construction]
  4. Bangladesh: Social Dynamics  [The social structures and the creation of spaces]
  5. Philippines: Synergies – Dynamics  [Community organizations]
  6. South Korea: Dynamic city, Static city  [Sustainable cities]


Following is the introductory video to Architecture Inverse Research project:


Stay tuned for the video episodes to come!

For more information, please refer to :

Crenau Laboratory: http://www.crenau.archi.fr/?q=en

Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/architectureinverse


Foto Andres 2Andrés Sanchez Arias

Andrés is an architect from the Catholic University of Leuven and Sciences and Techniques of Urban Environments ENSA Nantes, France, who specializes in Architecture and Sustainable Development. He has worked with CRENAU Nantes Laboratory and capacities-University of Nantes France- in fields of study related to the improvement of housing and the recognition of social dynamics as tools to generate sustainable solutions that meet the needs of communities and current environmental demands, particularly in relation to the creation of housing, infrastructure and spaces in self-constructed informal settlements. Fieldwork: Bogota (Colombia), Mumbai (India), Port Elizabeth (South Africa), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Manila (Philippines), Seoul (South Korea).


Arquitecto especializado en Arquitectura y Desarrollo Sostenible de la Universidad Católica de Lovaina y en Ciencias y Técnicas de Ambientes Urbanos de la ENSA Nantes. A trabajado vinculado al Laboratorio CRENAU Nantes y con Capacites-Universidad de Nantes Francia, en campos de estudio relacionados con el mejoramiento de la vivienda y en temas enfocados a reconocer las dinámicas sociales entorno a la conformación de la vivienda, de la infraestructura y los espacios públicos en los sectores autoconstruidos, como herramientas para generar soluciones sostenibles que se adapten a las necesidades de las comunidades y a las exigencias medioambientales actuales. Trabajos de terreno en: Bogotá (Colombia), Mumbai (India), Port Elizabeth (Sudáfrica), Sao Paulo (Brasil), Dhaka (Bangladés) y Manila (Filipinas), Seúl


2 thoughts on “Architecture Inverse [intr0]

  1. Pingback: Architecture Inverse [episode1] | {FAVEL issues}

  2. Pingback: Architecture Inverse [episode2] | {FAVEL issues}

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