Communities in unexpected places that are thriving

Interesting Engineering

If you thought that communities could only thrive in neighbourhoods in suburbia amidst shopping malls and all the luxury conveniences that you could imagine, think again. Iwan Baan took a look at some communities in unexpected places that are thriving and these communities grew long after the architects had designed them and been built. For instance in Caracas, Venezuela, around 70% of the population living there reside in slums, that when viewed from above take on the appearance of draped silk over the hills in the city.

ted-talk-iwan-baan-020[Image Source: Iwan Ban]

Baan is known for taking some of the most breath-taking photos following Hurricane Sandy hitting lower Manhattan, now he has shown off a series of photos that are of communities that thrive in the most unexpected of places. Baan captured photos of Chandigarh, India. People of the city have taken over buildings that were created by Le Corbusier, the architects, in ways that were never expected.

We are then shown Caracas and its inhabitants who have taken over a 45 story building and essentially turned it into a miniature city. Baan then shows us a slum in Nigeria that has been built on water, a thriving Cairo community that rests among recycling heaps, and finally over to China where there is an entire village located underground.

In total, Bann has captured 154 photos and he shows these off in quick fire succession during his talk that has everyone who sees and hears it marvelling at the ingenuity of people.

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In the middle of Caracas lies an office tower of 45 storeys that stands unfinished. The building was being constructed in 1993 when the developer of it passed away. The economy crashed in the following year and the Torre David building was left as it stands. Eight years ago people began to move into what was now a construction site that had been abandoned. Today the Torre David is classed as being the largest vertical slum in the world.

ted-talk-iwan-baan-034[Image Source: Iwan Ban]

As you might imagine from a building that was never finished, it is a shell basically with no working lifts or escalators, which means it’s a long walk up to the top of the forty five storey building. Those who are less physically aided along with the elderly have made their home on the lower floors, while those more able bodied located themselves on the top floors. So that the building takes on the appearance of an apartment building, the public spaces, have been given a coat of paint.

ted-talk-iwan-baan-043[Image Source: Iwan Ban]

In Caracas it is not unusual for the average temperature to climb to 28 degrees and due to this the residents of the tower block have come up with some ingenious ways of inducing airflow around the building. Holes have been made in walls and these act as the air conditioning or circulation system. They also double up as shortcuts for those living in the tower block.

ted-talk-iwan-baan-045[Image Source: Iwan Ban]

Families have their own apartments, or spaces, in the building and they mark out their territory using whatever they have to hand or can find. For instance in this photo you can see that the make shift walls have been decorated with old newspapers.

ted-talk-iwan-baan-053[Image Source: Iwan Ban]

Each of the spaces has been tenderly designed and decorated with a great deal of love with possessions of the people living there.

ted-talk-iwan-baan-061[Image Source: Iwan Ban]

The building even functions as a system of micro-economies and each of the floors of the building has its own services and shops. There is a grocery store, a church and residents even have their own gym on the 30th floor of the building, the weight equipment has been designed using the elevator equipment that was never used


[Image Source: Iwan Ban]

The building has turned into something of a beehive community with the tower being the skeleton for which each of the inhabitants to create their own space.

ted-talk-iwan-baan-078[Image Source: Iwan Ban]

Over in Lagos, Nigeria there is a place called Makoko, home to around 150,000 people who have built their homes and work on structures on stilts, meters above the Lagos Lagoon.

ted-talk-iwan-baan-083[Image Source: Iwan Ban]

This is just one prime example of the population growth in Nigeria along with showing the incredible ways that humans can adapt to what seems to be the most inhospitable of conditions in which to live.

Every aspect of life has been changed here to be able to meet the demands of living a life on water, from the movie theatre to a barber shop.

ted-talk-iwan-baan-091[Image Source: Iwan Ban]

Despite the fact that the community is clearly a disadvantaged one, there is still the need to have live music and this is by way of a band that plays as they wind their way down the lagoon, so that all residents along the way can enjoy.

ted-talk-iwan-baan-099[Image Source: Iwan Ban]

Residents of Makoko were faced with forced evictions by the government, who wanted to develop. Kunle Adeyemi, a local architect, built a school and today this structure is used by all of the community, it is a beacon that shines against the backdrop of the landscape when captured from above.

ted-talk-iwan-baan-111[Image Source: Iwan Ban]

In Cairo, Egypt, located under the cliffs you will come across the Zabaleen. This is a thriving community of Coptic Christians who have made their living thanks to the collections and recycling of waste from all the businesses and homes that are spread out over the city.

ted-talk-iwan-baan-116[Image Source: Iwan Ban]

Waste is collected, sorted and crushed and then turned over to a third party. The Zabaleen don’t focus on the waste, to them it is almost invisible.

ted-talk-iwan-baan-134[Image Source: Iwan Ban]

Whilst when on the street level it would seem that the whole area is in complete disarray, once you enter into one of the homes this is forgotten as you are met with interior designs that are very elaborate in decoration.


[Image Source: Iwan Ban]

Over in China in the provinces of Gansu, Henan and Shanxi there is a collection of what is termed as Yaodongs. These are underground cave homes which the residents have dug out for the Loess Plateau soil to make homes. In the early 2000s around 40 million people lived in the houses, seven meters below the ground.

ted-talk-iwan-baan-147[Image Source: Iwan Ban]

To build a home here it costs almost nothing at all. All you need are shovels and some good friends to help you dig out your home.

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