Spread over an area of 500 acres, Dharavi, in Mumbai, India, is known to be one of the largest slums in the entire world. Home to more than 300,000 people, the locality has become a major commercial center, exporting pottery, textile and leather products to different parts of the globe. Architectural firm, Ganti + Associates (GA) Design, has recently won an international competition for its incredibly innovative shipping container skyscraper plan, which aims at providing sustainable, cheap housing to the hundreds of thousands of Dharavi residents.
According to the developers, the concept is based on the fact that shipping containers can be easily stacked on top of each other, without the need for additional support. The plan proposes the construction of a 100-m (around 328 ft) tall tower, consisting of approximately 32 floors, that are in turn held together by an intricate network of steel girders. The building’s staggered exterior features carefully-arranged shipping containers, painted in a variety of bright colors.
Comprised of three standard size containers, each apartment houses two bedrooms, a study, two toilets, a kitchen and a separate dining space, a lounge and a deck area. The units are arranged, horizontally, around a central space, containing the stairs and the elevators. Such an alignment ensures optimal availability of natural lighting, while also creating a sense of spaciousness. Additionally, the corridors are lined with recycled terracotta latticework, made by the local potters, for the purpose of increased ventilation. Speaking about the concept, a member of the jury said:
This project presented an overall understanding of the site context, the community, culture and need for improved living standards. The panel liked the clean configuration of a development that could be repeated and adapted to create a district preventing the re-creation of another slum.
Central to the plan is the importance given to sustainability in both design and building technology. According to the architects, easy availability of recycled shipping containers, from the nearby sea ports, actually helps reduce construction costs. Furthermore, the proposal boasts an array of eco-friendly credentials, including roof-mounted solar panels and micro wind turbines for extra energy production. The interiors are lit by highly-efficient LEDs that cut down the building’s total power consumption. The jury added:
It is a proposal that rightly addressed the issues of sustainability, circulation, energy use, ventilation and lighting by the cleaver adjustment of the containers to allow light through to the other modules. A straight forward convincing solution in terms of form, configuration, distribution and function.
Despite its impressive features, the design fails to address the problem of solar heat gain, especially since steel shipping containers are known for their lack of insulation, against heat and cold alike.
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