Inhabiting the machine
Like many cities across India, Chennai (capital of Tamil Nadu) has two tiers of slums — those with official government recognition and those without. Slums with official government recognition are then further categorised to either be objectionable or unobjectionable. Recognised slums receive government funding to provide new tenements and basic services on site. But recent studies have shown that 4.8 sq km of the Chennai metropolitan area are comprised of either unrecognised or objectionable slums. The current government strategy is to forcibly relocate families from unrecognised or objectionable slums to large-scale, high-rise settlement colonies on the distant outskirts of Chennai. Numerous civil society organisations, however, have documented that eviction and relocation results in extreme trauma for these families. The Transparent Chennai Project at the Institute for Financial Management and Research in Chennai argues that: “A far more reasonable strategy would be to once again implement the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Act in the spirit that it was written, and start to recognise slums and improve them in situ” (Raman and Narayan). This thesis proposes that architectural design can improve conditions for Chennai’s urban poor without resorting to forced relocation. It argues that a new framework for slum housing can be designed that is capable of: protecting slum dwellers from environmental disasters such as rising sea levels, storm surge, and tsunamis; mitigating environmental pollution to improve hygiene; and providing economic sources of fresh water and energy through sustainable means. It further argues that this framework can be achieved in a culturally sensitive manner by acknowledging traditional and historically significant regional architectural typologies.