More than half of the world's population now lives in large cities, and most of those cities' inhabitants struggle to survive in slums. A challenge for many architects is finding original and sustainable solutions that will improve living conditions in these areas. The new website www.urbaninform.net is a network site for architects, artists and other large and small urban developers. Via the site they can make mini-documentaries that explain their projects. The initial objective is sharing know-how and learning from one another's experience.
When the site was launched on 1 September 2009 it already boasted more than fifty short films from throughout the world, and more than 120 organisations had already joined the platform. Particularly interesting are projects in Africa, Latin American and Asia in which recycled materials are used. These vary from entire houses from San Diego being rebuilt in Tijuana, Mexico to a pilot project in India's Ahmedabad in which waste materials including plastic, glass and aluminium are used to create building materials. Some projects are highly ambitious, for example Productive Public Space in Nairobi, which is a combination of construction activities and employment projects.
In this project, public spaces like toilets, kitchens and showers are being constructed, simultaneously creating jobs for the local population and using the natural resources available in the vicinity. Some developers, including architects who hope to erect an extremely costly cultural centre in Rio de Janeiro's favelas to bring the population into contact with culture, also use the site to raise funds.
First and foremost, however, Urbaninform is a sympathetic platform for pioneers wanting to share their discoveries. The men in Iran, for example, whose film demonstrate step-by-step how to use materials like bamboo and rice plants to construct earthquake-resistant, durable homes. The costs? Less than €600 per house.
Urbaninform is supported by the Hivos-NCDO Culture Fund. The internet platform will be presented 25 September 2009 during the Knowledge Exchange Forum Access to Knowledge – Access to the City in the Netherlands Architecture Institute during the 4th Architecture Biennale Rotterdam.