Design Prose

Building Social System Based on Human Capital

Posted in Built Environment, Ethics, Sustainability by designprose on November 4, 2011

Imagine a society based on maximizing and leveraging human capital to the core. In such a system, all human beings will be all inclusive, along with their skills, services in their natural form than that is not based on conditioned environment as a produce of accelerated infusion of technology, globalization and homogenization. In such a system, individuals exist in their natural form and nurture the skills and talents that come to them naturally, from their inner spirit, and the same is offered to a social system for consumption as well. This system eliminates environment build around financial capitals and gains and diminishes importance of paper money significantly. Experiments based on such thinking are already underway and one such example is Time Banks whose mission states:

The mission of TimeBanks is to nurture and expand a movement that promotes equality and builds caring community economies through inclusive exchange of time and talent.

Their core principles are outlined as:

Assets: No more throw-away people. Every human being has the capacity to be a builder and contributor.

Redefining Work: No more taking the contribution of women, children, families, immigrants, for granted. No more free rides for the market economy extracted by subordination, discrimination and exploitation. Work must be redefined to include whatever it takes to rear healthy children, make neighborhoods safe and vibrant, and care for the frail and vulnerable.

Reciprocity: Stop creating dependencies; stop devaluing those whom you help while you profit from their troubles. The impulse to give back is universal. Whenever possible, we must replace one-way acts of largesse in whatever form with two-way transactions. “You need me” becomes “We need each other.”

Social Capital: No more dis-investing in families, neighborhoods and communities. No more economic and social strip-mining. Social Networks require ongoing investments of social capital generated by trust, reciprocity and civic engagement.

Now imagine, with this paradigm shift what kind of societies might emerge. How will it affect industries, with people included in it, in technology, built environment, human ties, human anxiety and the related aspects. The example that I can immediately think of from this is the way health care built environments will be affected. Its current subconscious intention of producing industrialized model of hospitals which encourages healthcare farms, sea of beds and numerous scarcely understood treatments devoid of individual care and need that it might need to heal the actual problem than fueling the giant pharmaceuticals multinational agenda, which ultimately, no matter how much its been denied, is based on dollar figures growth charts and profitability. Think about it.

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Migration: A Force in Defining and Shaping Urbanism

Posted in City Scapes, Ethics, Human Rights, Sustainability, Uncategorized, Urbanism by designprose on August 22, 2010

Consider city of New Jersey without Indians, Phoenix without Mexicans or Bombay without Parsis. All these cities have had strong presence of these migrated communities and have, in the process, contributed to the urban landscape in form of their settlements, cultures, rituals, religious practices,

festivals, celebrations and preferences. Migration remains a strong

force in ways urban spaces react and amalgamate these evolving identities. More often than not, migration has no specific predictable pattern and reasons can vary from conquest, to exploration, to access to improved economic opportunities. And settlements are dynamic and take several years or centuries to evolve. Such is the evolution that transformation is a combination of what migrants bring along with them and what they adopt from locally. This architectural adaptation is often an organic process and makes itself clear only with time and the mode of progression or degression of communities cannot be predicted with a definitive foresight.

Urban identity is defined by it’s inhabitants and is largely contributed by different degree of migrants. So while, city of  Mesa, in Arizona remains largely symbolized to Hohokam and now with Mexicans, it remains an emerging urban dwelling often dotted with vernacular architecture amidst growing affluence through economic development and Mesa Arts Center and several business centers make up for a promising growth. Opportunities created through these developments will attract migrants for a newer identity to, once a dilapidated city. Neighboring cities like Phoenix, Tempe have had more vibrantly diverse settlements and this primarily has been contributed through diverse student population from Arizona state university and large IT sectors currently housed in Phoenix and Chandler. This being said, Mesa will benefit by virtue of being in second degree of separation from these Cities.

The scenario is quite different in a city like Bombay, the financial capital of India. Bombay has remained a culturally rich and truly metropolitan in nature but at the same time has managed to attract maximum number of distressed migrants. Distress because these migrants leave their place of origin in desperation in search of livelihood and means to survival. In the process, they contribute richly to the thriving economy, by keeping the cost low. This is mainly offered in the form of cheap labor, low cost of settlements, low wages. This works well for the already affluent class to keep the business operative cost low but in the process it abuses this entire generation of migrants and compromises contribute to exploitation. This presents the governing bodies to regulate in form of policies but that area is still under transformation and dramatic changes. Whether cities like Bombay will be able to address these issues in time will be an interesting study. Although, what it does to the urban landscape in a scenario like this that you see extreme form of disparity in settlements. Compare a dwelling which uses common toilet and water supply shared by many to the fancy sky-scraper within a stone throw distance.

The transition between the two is a knee-jerk one and brings the non-uniform, lop-sided policies too much in to your face. Accelerated migration and uprooting people from their place of origin has seen ghastly impacts and is evident in everyday living in the form of sub-standard infrastructure, poor sanitation, compromised resource allocation, dilapidated, over-populated buildings and much more and much worse. In effect, the city does not speak to it’s dweller in unison or cohesion. It becomes a classic case of inebriated organic development without a conscious foresight of what future expectations should be from the City.

Just like we cannot predict and plan migration in totality, we cannot build a canvas perfect artist impression of the building or urban settlements either. As that impression is devoid of dynamic forces like culture and economic growth. But what we can do is have a critical eye towards capitalism of resources and demand more distributive allocations. Hoarding of economic growth will benefit only a selected affluent few that will sow the seeds of a future uprising and a nasty rebel when this dis-balance will topple itself. Too much poverty and too much affluence cannot co-exist peacefully for a long time, sustainably.

Ethics in Labor Work of Construction Industry

Posted in Architecture, Ethics, Human Rights by designprose on March 25, 2010

Labor work in construction industry falls under unskilled physical tasks and is often done by people who do not have formal education, college/degree acquired skills, and belong to lower strata of economy and privileges. This remains true to even developed nations like United States and Germany. Developing countries like Bangladesh and India have umpteen poverty-stricken folks who willingly accept meager daily wages and absolutely uninhabitable living conditions on the sites due to lack of other mode of income generation. Whereas in United States, like other labor intensive jobs, brings workers from Mexico and South America while Germany does so from eastern Europe. Much research and intervention has happened to evolve the practice of architecture from the perspective architects and builders, in terms of fair practice, trends and technology. Although, negligible work has been seen in the area of labor workers, even though it remains an inextricable aspect, for a project to come to fruition. No amount of higher education, savvy design labs, CAD/BIM technology, smartest project management tools and skills is bringing self-sufficiency sans labor workers who execute the project. They often remain an integral but abused parameter of architectural practice.

Calling physical labor work, unskilled, has been detrimental to the reality and has saved an added cost which should have been incurred to the project. It’s been hidden. Dirt, heat, sun, filth and insanitation form for a inhospitable working conditions and remain unhealthy and unhygienic for survival and longevity of workers. Working on higher heights or with corrosive materials lead to hazardous conditions and hotbed for illnesses, infections and injuries. Yet, mostly all the workers work there without any medical support. Once, they are injured or infected, they are out of the game. Unusable. Sadly enough, there is such a massive supply of poverty-stricken folks who are dying to meet their basic need of food that it hardly matter and thus need to understand them and their needs does not arise. Easily replaceable and dispensible.

If one has to observe the trend of construction workers, we will notice that more often than not, they are migrants. They have either migrated within the country or have crossed borders where economy is surging and showing prospects through developmental projects. Uprooted from the place they belong, they move in great numbers in a promise of  daily wages which will give access to food and to keep themselves alive and hopeful. The living conditions and wages rarely provide anything that will take them beyond fulfilling basic needs. Yet, they do not mind doing such jobs because the local place where they belonged and it’s economy may not be even providing that. Means of livelihood, access to meet basic needs of food, shelter, education, healthcare remain unavailable and hence choice of migration is made, even though if it comes with an ingrained sense of exploitation and drudgery. Migrant labor workers lack provision of dignified shelter and either live on sites in self created temporary shack and shanty arrangements of tarpaulin or labor camp, box sort of an arrangement away from the site to keep the human ugliness of out of site from the beautiful building that is emerging. New building will serve as a shining symbol of economic growth, fancy development and sign of prosperity. Cost of human abuse through labor work is hidden well in the building cost  or if at all it surges in the front, we have trained our eyes  to look away from it.