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Slums: The Urban Contemporary of Vernacular Settlement?

Info: 9367 words (37 pages) Dissertation
Published: 11th Jan 2022

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Tagged: ArchitectureSocial Studies

Chapter 1: PREFACE


Shelter as we know is the space from which the world of architecture and building begins. The concept of a building itself came up from that basic idea, to protect ourselves the Homo sapiens from the vulgarities of climate. From caves to shelters built of leaves and sticks to the modern day villas, shelters have evolved a long way.  Where the poor still resort to build shelter out of the bare minimum materials to the rich who employ various technologies, we find various typologies of shelter. With cities emerging as the places to which people migrate from rural areas in hope of a better living there has been a significant increase in the need for shelters. When the needs are not met people often resort to building illegal shelters, giving birth to slums.

 The 1948 United Nation Universal Declaration of Human Rights identified housing, along with food and clothing, as a basic requirement for achieving an adequate standard of living.1 Despite this, almost one billion people, primarily in the developing world, live in urban slums and lack proper housing (United Nations, 2003).2 Most slum dwellers live in houses with dirt floors, poor-quality roofs, and walls constructed out of waste materials such as cardboard, tin and plastic. These houses do not provide proper protection against inclement weather, are not secure and are not pleasant to live in. Many have insufficient access to services such as clean water, sanitation and electricity (UN-Habitat, 2003 and Marx et al., 2013.

If we take Mumbai as an example, more than 60 % of the total population of the city lives in slum. It’s a scientifically proven fact that the  place of living has a direct impact on the psychological development of a human being, just consider the plight of the millions of people of city living in unsatisfactory environments. If we don’t take adequate steps to improve the lives of these millions we will be forging a nation of discontent people.

This paper looks into the need to view slums as an integral part of the city and not the darker side of the city. This paper aims at drawing a comparison between the vernacular settlements and slums. Its interesting to note that a broad analysis on the characteristics of slums and vernacular settlements shows glimpses of it inevitable kinship. Whereas the former is set in a rural context, the latter is its urban counterpart. This paper discusses the various characteristics on the basis of which we can evaluate whether a settlement qualifies as having vernacular characteristics.

QUESTION: Are slums the urban equivalent of vernacular settlements?

1.2 AIM:

With this dissertation i aim at identifying the parameters to compare a slum to a  vernacular settlement and understand to what extent the spontaneous settlements or slums as we call are relatable or is an urban contemporary to vernacular settlement.


  1. Define what is addressed as vernacular in the context of slums.
  2. Broad comparison of spontaneous settlements or slums and vernacular settlements.
  3. Identify parameters on the basis of which slums and vernacular settlements can be compared.
  4. To identify ways through which slums can be upgraded using vernacular trends.
  5. Encourage the slum dwellers to utilize their traditional know how of architecture.

1.4 SCOPE:

The study will emphasize on the need to view slums as an integral part of the city, which are often extremely successful in formal and perceptual terms and also in terms of supportiveness of culture. The common notion of the notoriety and nuisance associated with slums curtain the perceptual and formal qualities that exist which no designer has ever been able to reproduce in any rehabilitation programme. This dissertation looks into the cultural, traditional and other social causative factors along with the physical characteristics for scope of comparison. This is done so as to keep in mind the nonphysical aspects which are as important as the physical aspects in defining the quality of life in a squatter settlement. And often designers and planners who formulate plans to rehabilitate slum dwellers are sadly unsympathetic towards the non physical aspects mentioned above. It’s these characteristics both physical and non physical which emulates the connection between the vernacular and its urban counterpart. This dissertation aims at understanding to what extent a spontaneous settlement is relatable to a vernacular settlement. This paper also attempts at discussing few strategies to develop an existing spontaneous settlement on the trends of vernacular architecture.


  1. The study will focus on the slums around Delhi.
  2. The secondary case studies will be sourced from internet.
  3. The primary case study will be comparison of certain characteristics of a vernacular settlement to the slum studied.
  4. The strategies for developing slums on the vernacular trends might not be applicable in all slums


 The research will be based on a number of things.

  1. To begin with, to get a broad perspective of the issue to be addressed in the dissertation, books, dissertation, scholarly articles published on the topic has to be read and understood. This will help in identifying the scope of the study
  2. Frame the definition of urban vernacular in a manner which can be adopted for the study
  3. Case studies on vernacular, spontaneous and rehabilitated settlements to compare them on the basis of physical and non physical aspects.
  4. Identify strategies to develop slums on the vernacular grounds.
  5. Evaluate slums on the general characteristics of a vernacular settlement.
  6. Case study on slum with visible vernacular characteristics.
  7. Analyze the slums on the basis of parameters set and understand what are the common charecteristics of slums which are found across the slums studied.


The major aim of the study is to successfully identify slums as nothing less than the urban contemporary of vernacular settlement. The following methodology has been adopted for the same.

  1. The first part defines the keywords which are to be addressed in the paper. The vital definitions being vernacular, urban vernacular, spontaneous settlements, supportiveness of culture etc.
  2. The need to identify the slums as vernacular settlements and why rehabilitation schemes should keep that in mind has to be studied. This will be based on the interview of slum dwellers that have been rehabilitated. Why rehabilitation schemes fail on the basis of culture supportiveness, tradition will be studied and analyzed.
  3. Framework for comparing  the slums to the characteristic of a vernacular settlement will be framed (Rapoport). These parameters will be used to evaluate few slums in Delhi to check the relevance of the topic.(primary case studies)
  4. The ways in which a slum can be developed on the guidelines of   a vernacular settlement has to be studied and the effectiveness of implementation will be analyzed.
  5. Conclude with findings on whether the urban slums qualify as a worthy contemporary to vernacular settlements.

Chapter 2: WHAT ARE SLUMS?


As per India, under section-3 of the Slum Area Improvement and Clearance Act, 1956, slums are those residential areas where dwellings are unfit for human habitation by reasons of dilapidation, faulty arrangements, overcrowding,  and designs of such buildings, narrowness or faulty arrangement of streets, lack of ventilation, light, sanitation facilities or combination of these factors which are hazardous to life.

As per UN Habitat a slum is characterized by faulty housing, insufficient living area, and lack of access to basic necessities like drinking water, inadequate sanitation and insecure tenure. (Luhar, 2014)

“Since earliest times, men and women like those of the kingdom of nimrod described in genesis have tried to adapt to their surroundings to their need, clearing forest, growing crops, making weapons and tools. Building a shelter against sun, wind or rain is on e of the most fundamental of human need, essential to our physical and social life. But it is also an act which is important way goes beyond functional necessities; the response to climate and weather, the finding and shaping of building materials are creative partnership with natural world through which man develops his intellect and skills.” (C, 2012)

A slum is a rundown area of a city characterized by substandard housing and squalor and lacking in tenure security (UN-HABITAT). It can also be defined as a  as an overcrowded settlement which has poor-quality housing, inadequate access to safe water and sanitation, and insecurity of tenure (UN-Habitat, 2003).

The first published definition of slum reportedly occurs in the convict writer James Hardy Vaux’s 1812 Vocabulary of the Flash Language, where it is synonymous with “racket” or “criminal trade”. For nineteenth century liberals the moral dimension was decisive, and the slum was first and above all envisioned as a place where incorrigible and feral social “residuum” roots in immoral and often riotous splendour. (Abdulla C) . This gives us an idea as to how the people of the fortunate part or the brighter side of the city look at slum dwellers and settlements. For them slums are just the shadowy darker dingy side of the city where immoral happenings flourish. To be more exact the hell in their haven they so call their City.

Slums reflect the face of poverty, the financial inadequacy and inequality are the causes for slums to be what they are. The total number of people living in such conditions exceeds 50 % of the total population of the entire nation in several countries.

Besides the poor condition of  the houses where they live , Slumsusually do not have basic physical infrastructures networks such as potable water, wastewater, solid waste system, electricity, roads and emergency access, lack of basic community services such as, educational, health and social facilities, Social segregation between slums and better-off neighbourhoods increase the tensions in the poorer areas, and Unplanned developments of settlements increase the complication in the provision of services.( Tamer Abdel Aziz, Indjy M.Shawket)

In 2009, for the first time in human history, more people lived in cities than in villages.  This urbanization has been celebrated due to the associated rapid rise in productivity and thereby GDP growth, particularly, in the case of China and South Korea. The need for workforce is one factor which always welcomes the migrants to the urban side of the country. The ever expanding cities require people who can work in the construction field, however the needs of the migrants are rarely met by the employers. The facilities provided in the construction camps are not adequate and most often fails to accommodate the migrants. This results in them resorting to live in slums and adds to the growth of slums in cities, their rights to the city are always under question and doubt. they become slaves in the city with no proper tenural rights or facilities. When the city invites people for the development isn’t it also its responsibility to house them?, to make them part of the city.

The tragedy in housing in the city has all along been the fact that the plans and policies have continuously alienated the people. The capability of the slum-dwellers and their co-operatives in undertaking (direct) responsibility for the development of their own housing has been denied. (Das, 2003)

 However, there have been instances of urbanization without growth, such as in Brazil and certain African countries, where the quality of opportunities in cities, rather than the quantity of people, determines economic development. Decent housing and the supporting urban infrastructure are fundamental drivers of improving quality of life.


The city or the urban side has been seeing an explosive amount of migration from rural areas. They come in search of work and a better living. But most often people from rural areas are not able to financially support themselves in the living conditions of the city where the cost of living is beyond their payable capacity, this has given way to the growth of informal settlements or slums as you may call it.

These unprecedented rates of urbanization are direct effects of massive migratory movements as well as to natural growth, these phenomenon’s challenges urban planning and thereby causing environmental problems with wide reaching after effects. While the lack of basic infrastructure especially sanitation, drainage, access to energy and clean water supply and low quality of housing in general result in poor social and environmental conditions, high levels of unemployment and low income and these give rise to conflicts (Beatley, 2000; Smith & Hanson, 2003; Pamoja Trust, 2009). The situation is not helped by lack of supporting policies for effective urban planning and improvement.

According to UN-HABITAT, the world’s highest percentages of slum dwellers are in Ethiopia (99.4% of population), Chad (99.4%), Afghanistan (98.5%), and Nepal (92%),

Bombay with 10 to 12 million squatters and tenement dwellers, is the global capital of slum dwelling, followed by Mexico City and Dhaka (9 to 1 million each),

And then Lagos, Cairo, Karachi, Kinshasa-Brazzaville, Sao Paulo, and Delhi (6 to 8 million each).(Davis,2007)

Slums are generally found in poor and developing countries trying to come out of the economical inequality, colonial exploitation, political anarchy or so.

There are more than 200000 slums on earth, ranging in population from a few hundred to more than a million people. The five great metropolises of South Asia (Karachi, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Dhaka) alone contain about 15,000 distinct slum communities whose population exceeds 20 million. Rural–urban migration has been contentious in South Africa for more than a century, with the apartheid system the epitome of an oppressive, racially discriminatory system of controls on movement whose negative impacts are still felt today (Turok, 2014). When the apartheid system was disbanded, urbanisation speeded up but South Africa’s cities are still economically fractured and socially segregated. The durability of the urban form and the power of vested interests have reinforced persistent inequalities between the races and imposed economic costs, well into the democratic era.


Slums form and grow in many different parts of the world for many different reasons. Some causes include rapid rural-to-urban migration, high unemployment, poverty, informal economy, poor planning, politics, natural disasters, economic stagnation and depression and social conflicts. Strategies tried to reduce and transform slums in different countries, with varying degrees of success, include a combination of slum removal, slum relocation, slum upgrading, urban planning with city wide infrastructure development, and public housing project (Luhar, 2014). In most cases, urbanisation is closely linked to sustained economic growth, as nations’ share of GDP and employment moves from agriculture to industry and services, sectors that benefit from agglomeration in urban centres. In countries where most of the population is rural, agricultural production systems are increasingly based around large-scale, mechanised farming, and inadequate access to credit and technology put a strain on the capacity of smallholders to adapt to droughts and climate variability. Rural–urban migration is the result of these transformations, and a critical component of urbanisation (Cecilia Tacoli, 2014)

There are various causes for the creation and expansion of the slum; some of the causes are as follows:

Rural-urban migration: There has been a decline of over 30 % in the proportion of people working in agriculture over the last 50 years, while global population has increased by 250%. The major reason for the growth and creation of slums is rural-urban migration. Diverse income opportunities and better education to their child attracts people to the urban areas. However most of the time migrants are unable to get job immediately which leads to their financial shortage. On the other hand many cities fail in providing affordable housing to the large number or rural migrants and finally they settle for slums.

Urbanization: It is closely linked to the formation of slum. Rapid urbanization creates economic growth, opportunities and creates employment, this attracts the rural population to the cities. However as known poor urban infrastructure and insufficient housing, the local governments are unable to manage large population which gives rise to slum. The local government are unable to manage the large population due to poor urban infrastructure and insufficient housing

Colonialism and Segregation: The class division due to apartheid is an example of how colonialism pushed an entire race in to misery and poverty. This had implications in the economic background as well. The wounds of yesterday have healed but the scar still remains

Poverty: Urban poverty is also the major factor for the development of Slum. With migration of rural poor people, poverty is also migrating to urban area. The poor people arrives with hope, he or she normally has no access to basic amenities. For them slums are only the options to settle themselves. Poverty is strongly correlated to slum formation.

Politics: Many local and national level politicians for their political interest, subverted efforts to remove, reduce or upgrade slum into better housing options for the poor. During the second half of the 19th century, i.e. political parties of the French relied on votes of slum population and they are engaged in maintaining that voting bloc. Replacement and removal of slum created a conflict of interest, and politics prohibited efforts to remove, relocate or upgrade the slums into housing projects that are better than the slums. Similar situations are found in the slum of Brazil, slums of India, and slums of Kenya. Social Conflicts: Millions of Lebanese people formed slums throughout the civil war from 1975 to 1990, likewise in recent years; many slums have sprung around Kabul to accommodate rural Afghans escaping Taliban violence.

Informal economy: Development of informal economy creates employment opportunities and attracts workers. Informal economy is that part of economy which is neither registered as a business nor licensed,

Natural Disasters: People migrate from the affected areas to the temporary settlements setup for them by the authorities. Later on these areas are forgotten and overtime converts into slum areas

 Land degradation has been the main factor in the migration of subsistence farmers into the slums or shanty towns of major cities, producing desperate populations vulnerable to disease and natural disasters and prone to participate in crime and civil strife..such an exodus exacerbates the already dire urban problems.(H.U. Bijlani,1991)


A secure place to live, access to basic amenities such a s water , sanitation, health care, electricity and the right to undertake livelihood are the crucial safety networks for the urban poor. Often the government policies fail to address the actual needs of the slum dwellers. All the policies focus only on infrastructural part of the development whereas the actual policy should reflect a scheme which can pave way to empower the slum dwellers an inclusive manner. The focus should be on improving the living conditions. Providing infrastructural support alone doesn’t make things any better.

Governments have tried and built various project for the development of slums and it works well in the beginning stages of implementation, but later on when the dwellers run out of resources to maintain the building the living conditions are no better than before. Relocating them and building new infrastructure for them is not the solution to this issue. The idea of creating better living conditions for them is based on the understanding the current living conditions, not just physically but emotionally as well.( (Motasim, 2010),

“Their naked dinginess is often alien and unattractive while the honestly poor shack is often personal and warm” (Turner, 1977)

Government policies often fail to address the changing needs and behavioural patterns of the family. Often with the addition of new members through marriage or birth there is a need for expansion. In fact the spontaneous growth of a settlement is what makes the slums even more efficient than a consciously designed settlement.



Vernacular in the architectural context is defined as architecture concerned with domestic and functional rather than public or monumental buildings. The constraints of rigid social structures, climate & limited resources have been identified as key factors of vernacular environments. They have been widely admired for the distinct expression of these forces in their built environments (Neha Goel).

Vernacular architecture is largely associated with traditional practices and forms. Vernacular architecture is rooted in that soil in the sense that it is from there out of their necessities and bare minimum sources that indigenous population came up with a style that would become the most effective mode of construction in that particular area.

“Vernacular architecture comprises of dwellings and all other buildings of the people. Related to their environmental contexts and available resources, dwellings are customarily built utilizing traditional technologies. These forms are built to meet specific needs, accommodating the values, economies and ways of living of the cultures that produce them”. (Oliver 1997).Vernacular buildings are not built by architect but by society, with its relationship with the natural environment in mind, over generations. (krisprantono, 2003)

Vernacular architecture is surely a contradiction in terms. The vernacular is the unconscious work of craftsmen based on knowledge accumulated over generations, the very opposite of architecture, which involves a premeditated design process with a conscious appeal to the intellect. Yet, the term is convenient shorthand to describe an approach that adopts the spirit of the vernacular; if not its actual forms it is not intended to indicate a new style.( Tamer Abdel Aziz, Indjy M.Shawket)

Vernacular architecture is a contradiction in terms. It is built without a preconceived design and the builders employ a simple and more natural process of construction and technology which had been handed down from generation to generation over years. Hence, it can be defined as spontaneous, anonymous, indigenous & popular architecture, different from the mainstream architecture of trained modern architects. The end product of vernacular buildings is therefore, the meeting of local needs by means of local beliefs, nature, local materials and social interaction. These needs relate to their environment, to their respective economies and occupations, to their inheritances and their aspirations and to their relationships with other social groups. In most of these societies the people are too numerous to be accommodated in single shelters, so settlement location, organization and communication routes are of great importance. These factors depend on the nature and structure of the society.

Etymologically for anything to be considered vernacular, it has always been assumed that it must be native or unique to a specific place, produced without the need for imported components and processes, and possibly built by the individuals who occupy it. As culture and tradition are becoming less place rooted and more information based these particular attributes of the vernacular have to be recalibrated to reflect these changes.(IASTE)

We should not be left with belief that everything is vernacular yet nothing is vernacular anymore. The vernacular has not ended nor is it dead, what has to end is our preconceived notion as vernacular as the only harbinger of authenticity, as the container of a specific cultural meaning, as a static legacy of the past. What will or what should emerge is a project whose principal mission is dynamic interpretation and reinterpretation of this past in light of an ever changing present (Lindsay Asquith)


Vernacular environments like spontaneous settlement are much more culturally responsive than professionally designed environments as settings for lifestyles, appropriate behaviour, and so on. The major effect of environment on people is through choice; the same environment works better when selected than when is imposed.

To design culture supportive environments one need to know the relevant group, describe and analyse the relevant characteristics and understand how these interact with the various elements of the built environment and through what mechanisms. Generally what is supported are among other things, kinship groups and other social structures, a variety of intermediate institutions rituals and festivals, language food habits and a wide range of activity systems. These are supported by various physical elements and settings at different scales. Particular forms of cluster may reinforce group identity and preserve core cultural patterns such as institutions and language, in spontaneous settlements as in traditional vernacular settlements the group of settlers is self selected and generally attempts to create settings and elements that support components of culture regarded as important settings and many spontaneous settlements are outstandingly successful designs in the most traditional sense of the world. Clearly discussing formal qualities in isolation creates problems. One inevitably ignores the importance of the links between settings their perceptual qualities culture and behaviour. The creators and users of the settlement tend to emphasise nonphysical aspects of the environment quality profile. They emphasise even more the many variables completely outside

More often than not, vernacular houses are regarded as obstacles on the road to progress, which should be replaced by house types and living patterns that fit western notions of basic housing needs but which are adverse to the norms, wishes and values of the culture concerned.



The word spontaneous introduces its own difficulties however. In an important sense the term is incorrect because it implies self generation and absence of design. That of course is impossible. Spontaneous settlements like all human environments do not just happen; they are designed in the sense that purposeful changes are made to the physical environment through a series of choices among the alternatives available. I have described this is the choice model of design in this way they are like most environments , for example cultural landscapes which are hardly ever designed by a single person or even a team it comes as a result of many individuals over a long period of time. What makes them of general interest is that they add up to recognizable wholes.

If vernacular design is defined properly, spontaneous settlements can be shown to be its closest contemporary equivalent. The definition is based on a large number of characteristics and not every member of a type must have all the qualifying attributes. As a result, one finds a range of variations within defined limits, so that each member of the type possesses many of its characteristics, and each variable is shared by many members of the type. Thus no single character or attribute is both necessary for membership in the type.

It follows that environments also need to be defined by a large number of attributes or characteristics, not all of which will necessarily be present in any given case. The characteristics of framework are first divided into process and product characteristics. The former refer to the ways in which the environment created; the latter describe what the environment is its nature, qualities, and attributes. Both the process and product are then described in terms of multiple characteristics.

These characteristics are not ranked in order of importance. Their role in discriminating among environments is not necessarily a matter of the given characteristics being present or absent. Instead for most it’s a matter of degree and scale.

The following are the parameters for process characteristics (as framed by Amos Rapoport) 

  1. Identity of designers
  2. Intention of designer
  3. Anonymity of designers
  4. Reliance on a model with variations
  5. Presence of a single model
  6. Extent of sharing of model
  7. Nature of underlying schemata
  8. Consistency of use of a different parts of the house settlement system
  9. Relationship among models used in different environments
  10. Specifics of the choice model of design
  11. Congruence of the choice model with ideals of users
  12. Degree of congruence between environment and culture life style
  13. Use of implicit vs explicit design criteria
  14. Degree of self consciousness of the design process
  15. Degree of constancy vs change of the basic model
  16. Form of temporal change
  17. Extent of sharing of knowledge about design and construction

The following are the parameters for product characteristics (as framed by Amos Rapoport)

  1. Degree of cultural and place specificity
  2. Specific models, plan. Forms, and morphologies
  3. Nature of relationships among elements and the underlying rules
  4. Presence of specific formal qualities
  5. Use of specific materials textures and colours
  6. Nature of relation to landscape
  7. Effectiveness of response to climate
  8. Efficiency in use of resources
  9. Complexity due to place specificity
  10. Complexity due to the use of a single model with variations
  11. Clarity of the environment due to the order expressed by the model used
  12. Presence of stable equilibrium versus unstable equilibrium of high style
  13. Complexity due to variations over time
  14. Open endedness regarding activities
  15. Ability of settings to communicate effectively to users.


Since the topic is about comparison of a vernacular settlement to an urban slum on the framework mentioned above i have chosen to study a village in Gujarat and few slums in Delhi.Since it’s not a comparison between the case studies and more of an evaluation based on the framework for evaluating a settlement as vernacular, settlements in two different climatic conditions have been chosen to understand the applicability of framework in various climatic and geographic conditions. The case studies chosen were selected on the basis that extremes have to be studied fro understanding the situation better. the slums chosen for primary case study are very dense and whose living quality is very less.



Bidada village lies at the western most tip of India. It is situated in the southern coastal part of Kutch.


Kutch has a tropical monsoon climate with high average annual rainfall. The daily temperature variation is quite wide due to the presence of a vast desert. The central, western and southern coastal areas have hot and humid climate due to the proximity to the Arabian sea. The air is salty and the soil thick with salt. It is not suitable for cultivation.


The village has about 500-550 houses and people are of various caste and communities like Harijans, Muslims, Brahmins and Darbari. The major population is of Hindus, Jains and Muslims. People of same communities stay together forming different zones of the village. The Harijans and Muslims being non-vegetarians, have their houses in the wind direction away from the village so that odours emanating from flesh and meat preparations can be avoided by the rest of the village. (Udamale 2003)


Spatial pattern is that of long row type houses with narrow street network and dense population. The traditional settlement pattern responds to the hot and humid conditions very well (Udamale 2003).The narrow streets, common wall structures form a dense urban fabric that breathes through the smaller indoor open spaces like courtyards. The ratio of area of private territory to that of public territory is quite high. The close packing of dwellings reduces the external surfaces exposed to sun and results in maximum shading of private and open public spaces. The overall urban form is very compact with a combination of few flat and a mostly sloping roof forms.


It is observed that the housing typology differs in the spatial pattern. The socio cultural attitudes and other factors defining the social grouping gets translated into the spatial pattern with changing position of kitchen, definition of public and private spaces, use of courtyard, open to built relationship (Udamale 2003).The courtyard is used very effectively for various purposes such as defining privacy, to get light into the building, to link various public and private zones in the house. It majorly helps in negotiating the climate. It cools down the dwelling in the night by releasing the heat and allows the heat to penetrate during the winter.

  1. The main village or chowk is largest in size, from which main streets radiate.
  2. At the junction of major arterial streets, main street intersection chowks are formed.
  3. At the intersection of secondary streets, neighbourhood spaces are formed.
  4. Narrow streets terminate in formation of space around 5-6 houses which are door fronts or aangan.


Village settlement seems to grow in an organic manner, but it has a highly sophisticated rule system which guides its growth. These rules are determined by matters of privacy as they have adjacent roofs, windows and doors. They provide frameworks within which people can live together within close proximity. Streets are like water stream lines flowing smoothly in various directions. As they go ahead the width length goes on decreasing forming alleys in the village interiors.

They behave like channels of wind through the village, and are all aligned along the south west direction. They are cooled by the shadows of the street walls, creating a micro climate of the village. They are formed by staggering houses by few feet; width of a narrow street varies from 8‟ to 18‟, with houses having a frontage of 10‟ to 15‟ width. (Udamale, 2003).

A typical feature is that the entry to a dwelling is faced by a courtyard across the street. (Udamale 2003) This pattern repeats alternatively, to help achieve privacy and multidirectional flow of breeze and makes it dynamic and visually interesting. Main entrances never face in straight line, avoiding direct sight in the house.


Passive-cooling techniques used in the hot and humid region aims at increasing the air flow and reducing the heat gain. Due to water scarcity the evaporative cooling becomes very difficult.

Common walls - The high density of the urban form facilitates mutual shading keeping the vertical surfaces in shade throughout the long, hot days of summer except for the time when the sun is at the zenith.

Thick external walls - All the external walls are very thick working on the principle of thermal mass where the thickness of the brick wall delays the heat gain and works as thermal battery during the cold and dry winters.

Courtyard - The central square courtyard with high height to width ratio works in a typical manner. During the summer time throughout the hot summer day it is a shaded and in combination with the thick external walls delaying the heat gain keeps the interior cool. During the night the same courtyard becomes a heat sink and by natural convective cooling allows the hot air to be released outside.

Small wedge shaped opening on the outer walls - Due to the typical shape of this opening, pressure difference is created and airflow is generated. This in combination with the courtyard generates convective cooling during the during the summer night. The angle of the opening is developed considering the sun angle during the winter.



Khichripur squatter settlement is located in East of Delhi. It is in the walking range of the Ghazipur dairy farm and occupies an unobtrusive plot of land. The area is bounded by a slum resettlement colony of kalyanvas and Ghazipur drain.


The beginning of acquisition of land on which to build was the primary determinant of the housing pattern in this squatter settlement. The organization of living and working activities within the combination of culture rooted behavioural characteristics and resource limitations have furthered contributed to its growth.


The settlement is very compact in nature and has the maximum amount of built up area possible. It has a very high population density and the ratio of area of private territory is much higher than the public. Dwellings are very closely packed and most of them share the common walls. Settlement is developed around a great variety of open spaces that include small, irregular squares and open areas in between units. As much as public spaces for social interaction, streets and paths in informal settlements also follow a hierarchy of different widths, finishes and public importance .Narrow streets and paths that might not provide access to cars are land-efficient and also serve for the ventilation and lighting of the units.

In many cases, narrow alleys also permit to have double access to the units, which is particularly useful for units that combine residence and income generation activities or for units that house shops.


The public or semi-public spaces play a fundamental role in community building and in social interactions between residents. Therefore the settlement is punctuated by a series of open spaces. Each cluster of unit is woven around an open area(featured by a tree, a water tank or a shaded area). These open areas vary in importance and functionality providing multiplicity of interactions between dwellers.


In its simplest form, a dwelling unit contains a single space which houses all sorts of activities. The number of rooms is obviously a function of the wellbeing of inhabitants. They usually use simple space organizations. The dwelling units which contain up to 3 spaces have very simple layout organizations. The rooms are not specialized for certain activities in this phase and have multifunctional use with minimum furnishings. The toilets are generally located in a corner.


This slum is a tangible proof of the importance that dwellers attach to the aesthetic appearance of their homes. The use of vibrant colors, façade decoration, and careful choice of textures demonstrate that not everything here is about lack of choices. Even in cases where the exterior facades of informal housing seem „unfinished and dilapidated‟ (by formal standards), the interior of informal units frequently demonstrates the particular care put into to have a very tidy assembly of their paraphernalia.


Instead of setting up complex space organizations, users preferred simple groupings of spaces for their changing requirements. Adding an individual unit or a group of spaces to the existing layout demonstrates the feature of expandability of the dwellings in. Dwellings have grown over time following the availability of resources and the family needs. The original core and later additions and modifications tend to merge into a unified unit.


The use of light materials (timber and corrugated iron sheets) and recycled components plays a fundamental role in the flexibility of the units. The recycling of materials and available building construction waste is one of the most efficient strategies adopted by the squatter settlement. It is therefore not rare to find an aluminum window, a ceramic toilet or a stone kitchen counter in a dwelling.



Reshma camp is located in West Delhi. Its about one kilometre away from the kirti nagar metro station. The residents occupied the land owned by the railways to build the slum. The slum is built over an area which was elevated overtime due to dumping and settling of waste.


The site chosen for the construction of the slum is a very strategically apt one in the sense that the settlers understood the importance of having a natural slop for the flow of sewage and waste water etc..there are narrow lanes dug in the earth to allow the flow of water and the houses on the edges of the elevated land has pvc pipes hanging from the floor level draining out water to the outside. The materials used for construction are bamboo for structure support tin, wooden boards and plys for panelling metal sheets or plastic sheets for roof. In some parts the walls were covered with mud also.


The settlement has a linearity in the arrangement of households. It followed a certain compact grid patter with alleys of one metre width. Each squatter is about 3 metres wide and 2.4metres high. There were no double storied building since most of the structure was built on bamboo supports., however there were some houses which had brick walls (building waste) though even they had only one floor each.


A dwelling unit contains only a single space which houses all sorts of activities. The rooms may or may not be partitioned according to the number of people in a single shelter and different activities. The single room houses the kitchen and a space for sleeping. The rooms are not specialized for certain activities in this phase and have multifunctional use with minimum furnishings. The toilets are generally located in a corner or on the sides depending on the width of the rooms. Though public toilets are provided in the periphery of the slums, these are not sufficient and people resort to defecating in the open. Men usually take bath in the open space outside the house.


The scope for expanding is very limited as the settlement itself is built on settled waste and the material used are bamboo and metal sheets which do not allow vertical expansion which is the only expansion possible due to constraints in space due to the density of the settlement.


Bamboo and metal sheets are the common materials used in the slum. Some houses have used bricks(building waste) as well. But the spatial organisation remains the same.



Kamla Nehru camp is located in West Delhi. Its about one kilometre away from the Kirti Nagar metro station. An alley from the Kirti Nagar road towards the eastern direction behind the furniture market leads to this slum.


The slum has come up on either side of a road parallely. Some of the houses facing the road has commercial space in the ground level and living space on the upper level. The upper level is mostly accessed using an external staircase. The alleys in between the houses are so small thet hardly two people can walk side by side


The settlement came upon either side of the lane stretching from Kirti Nagar road to the railway lines. It’s linearly arranged with roads on either side of the settlement. Effectively the settlement forms two strips of squatter’s on either side of the lane.


Almost all the houses had two floors.the floor below was used for commercial activites and also had a space for kitchen whereas the second floor had living spaces.the second floor is accessed using external staircase which almost inclines like a ladder.the staircases were mostly metal pipes and sections.the houses were built using reused bricks(building waste and also were painted in bright colours.).the dense packing of houses prevented light from entering into the insides of the houses located in the middle.this helps to keep the house cool during winters as light does not penetrate inside and people usually spent most of the time outside. There were public toilets in the perimeters of the slum area. There were water connections at few junctions from where people could collect water. Electronic items like tv.vcd etc.. .were also very common.


On the unit scale only vertical expansion is possible, which has almost expanded to the maximum limit possible as almost all the houses already have two floors. In the settlement scale there’s further land on either side of the existing slum as you reach the railway lines from the main road side. But one side of the settlement is now used to dump waste.


Since Kirti Nagar is a market for wooden furniture’s, there are a lot of workshops which work with wood. Waste from this workshops are used widely for different parts of the squatters for example for supporting the roof , for making windows. In some cases furniture’s and also some commercial spaces are completely made of wooden piece s as well.

The main building block of the settlement is however bricks. Bricks available from the building waste have been widely used for the construction of shelters. Metal sheets are used for roofs which are supported by wooden pieces.­



Examining the various contextual aspects, their formal and functional implications, the processes of construction and consolidation reveals several similar characteristics between traditional vernacular architecture and squatter settlement.


  1. Identities of designers – People in these settlements are the occupiers as well as the builders. They are non – professionals.
  2. Purposes of designers – Inhabitants construct their dwellings for their usage as homes and for the purpose of entitlement of identity amongst rest of the community.
  3.  Presence of a single model or image – Since there is availability of choice among a multiple options from various sources but in one place, this choice seems to be systematic which leads to visual coherence.
  4.  Scheme underlying the morphology –.The overall outlook of the slum is derived from the elements such as circulation , projections, building heights. proportions, scale and usage.
  5. . Presence of specific formal qualities (specific model, plan forms, morphology) – There exists a given set of unsaid rules which lay down the dimensions and proportions. Their slight variation within the acceptable bracket contributes to the specific forms in these settlements.
  6. . Use of specific materials, texture, colors – There has been an ingenious & daring use of materials in new ways, textural combinations & above all the use of colour. Colour is often used to indicate ethnics, religious, regional & other forms of identity.
  7. Efficiency in use of resources: .Materials available in the close proximity of the settlement are effectively used.
  8.  Open endedness allowing additive, subtractive & other changes – when an extra member is married into the family the need for a separate space arises. This is accommodated by expanding vertically
  9.  Degree of change due to temporal dimension – There is a lack of specificity in usage of space over the temporal variation. This allows the residents to act in culturally appropriate ways & is critical in economic terms, allowing for many informal businesses & workshops & combinations of work with childbearing.
  10.  Sharing of knowledge – Since there is a lack of written records, people learn from the mistakes of the past and  adapt themselves according to the needs, before passing knowledge on to their neighbours or to the next generation. Thus, design.
  11. Culture supportiveness -  the physical character of both the settlements are a reflection of the cultural needs as well. Places where community get together like a temple or a chaboothara. Plinths projecting on to the lanes running through the settlements; these are all places of significance as these public spaces acts as the catalyst for harmony among the inhabitants of different communities .


The conditions of existence experienced by the inhabitants of vernacular and squatter settlement are quite different in character. Most of the vernacular settlements belong to the extreme constraint of natural origins but the urban squatter settlements are developed  in situations of artificial constraints. These informal settlements are usually located in manmade environments rather than being located in natural environments. In contrast to the relatively stable context of vernacular environments, slums have emerged and continue to expand in the conditions. The facilities in vernacular and squatter settlement are extremely different. Whereas a vernacular settlement resort to ponds for water needs, slums has to either wait for the municipal corporations water tank or use the public pipes located at certain junctions. Though the principals guiding the growth and existence of both are the same there exists a huge difference in the perceptive quality of life.


Physically though the vernacular and spontaneous might seem contradicting a closer look reveals the details of its visible kinship. The factors that characterise the physical form of both the settlements are more or less the same. Both spontaneous and vernacular are climate responsive architecture developed by the indigenous population with bare minimum materials locally available.

Visually spontaneous might seem like an emancipated cousin to vernacular settlement. The metaphor is ideal as it also reflects on the poverty and misery looming over the settlement. Lack of proper facilities and necessities further concretes the statement.

The house has a much more profound meaning than a shelter in both the cases. The physical setting is a reflection of the socio cultural and traditional ways of life.

The built forms of traditional and spontaneous settlements are the results of climate ,human behaviour, lifestyle, culture and religion. The broader scope and greater complexity of the vernacular frameworks opens the gate for the spontaneous to be taken into consideration for the title the urban vernacular. The squatters overcome the challenges thrown at them today with the traditional knowhow of shelter making. They are able to apply their knowledge and experience to meet their current wishes and requirements. This phenomenon should generate as much as interests to the study sa their vernacular counterparts enjoy. These artificial constraints are very much relatable and are at par with the constraints or challenges from which any vernacular style evolves. Throughout the process spaces and structures are tweaked to allow adjustments according to the changing needs of a familyall these factors combined makes the squatter settlements the closest contemporary of vernacular settlement.







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