Implementing a Studio Model of Learning to Improve the Analysis and Understanding of Informal Settlements

                                                              

Implementing a Studio Model of Learning to Improve the Analysis and Understanding of Informal Settlements

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Solution proposed by: 
Urban and Regional Planning Discipline, Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Sydney, in collaboration with the Department of City and Regional Planning, School of Architecture, Planning and Policy Development, ITB.
In a Nutshell: 
The solution centers on a studio model of learning in informal settlements based on collaboration between Sydney University and the Institute of Technology University Bandung (ITB). The learning experience focuses on engagement, dialogue and partnerships to challenge student and wider society thinking so as to deepen our understanding of informal settlements.
Where and When: 
The studio model was developed from 2013 and applied in 2015 and 2016 in the informal settlements (kampungs) of Tamansari, Bandung, Indonesia. The learning experience will be applied again in 2017 and beyond.
Challenges: 
Informal settlements and slums have become a global policy concern. Despite their growth and permanency in the urbanisation process in the Asia Pacific region, they remain marginalized in mainstream education curriculum. With the globalization of education, many planning and design students come from overseas and need ‘new’ tools and methods to properly address the complex issues that characterise informal settlements. In this context, a main challenge was to develop a studio learning experience anchored in an informal settlement which promotes insightful student understanding, whilst connecting stakeholders willing to share experiences, perspectives and advance knowledge.
Innovation: 
The solution is innovative at a number of levels. (1) it involves two universities connecting students plus communities, local and central government, World Bank and other agencies on an issue of global civic and social concern, (2) the studio and wider learning experience is based on the fundamental Habitat 3 tenet that housing and urban services are basic human rights accessible to all city residents, (3) the experience immerses students in new socio-cultural contexts, thus challenging underlying planning and design principles, and (4) the learning experience uses a mix of innovative tools such as mapping, dialogue and observation for ‘bottom up’ learning.
Concept: 
Inner city informal settlements and slums are under increasing pressure for redevelopment as governments and private sector seek land for higher return land use development driven by modernist visions. Many solutions are preoccupied with the physical form of development, rather than recognising the importance of the underlying social processes. At the same time, informal settlements continue to be stereotyped with negative connotations despite their contribution to shaping and making the contemporary city. It is within this setting that the concept evolved to use a studio and semester long educational experience as a lever and “entry point” to increase student and wider society understanding of slums and informal settlements. Central to the studio design was the creation of opportunities for participation based on cross-cultural student groups working together with a kampung community. As well, the experience gained from the 2016 studio was that local, central and other agencies in Indonesia and Australia were keen to share lessons learned and experiences. The latter agencies wanted to ‘borrow and adapt’ what is relevant to their own settings and were willing to collaborate with universities perceived as ‘neutral’. This approach brings together theory and practice so as to deepen our understanding of informal settlements and slums.
Description: 
The model views the studio as an integrated part of a wider learning experience (pre-studio, in-country studio, and post-studio) and is based upon the principles of engagement, collaboration, sharing and partnerships. The studio model used in 2015 and 2016 in the Tamansari kampungs of Pulosari and Leak Siliwangi was based on a number of steps coordinated by the respective planning disciplines at Sydney University and ITB. The key steps were: (1) agreement by kampung leaders to allow students and other stakeholders to engage with the local community, (2) cultural preparedness including student language training, (3) in-country fieldwork, (4) public exhibition of Sydney University and ITB student analysis and renewal/upgrading propositions, and (5) student self-reflection on their learning experiences. During the in-country fieldwork, students worked together in groups undertaking baseline surveys, mapping and sharing experiences. This included interviews with local leaders and residents, plus typologies of housing forms, alleyways and other elements to show processes of adaptation and transformation. As well, contextual lectures were provided by Bandung City Administration, ITB and Sydney University lecturers and the World Bank on Indonesian urbanisation and current kampung urban renewal plans. Ideas, policies and experiences were shared and the underlying drivers of change identified. At the end of the studio, students presented to stakeholders their findings on the social, economic and physical context of the kampung and implications for informal settlement upgrading. On return to Australia, students presented their joint work at a public exhibition which was supported by Indonesian and Australian partners, such as the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, ITB and Indonesian Consul General. There was a continual emphasis on analysis, engagement and dialogue so as to: (1) challenge existing conceptions of the social and cultural kampung fabric, (2) share experiences and perspectives on kampung renewal/upgrading plans, and (3) create new knowledge.
Impacts: 
Challenging student, government and wider society thinking on informality through ‘bottom up’ and ‘top down’ dialogue can lead to better outcomes for residents in informal settlements - for example, changing understanding which can lead to improved housing, water, sanitation and governance arrangements. Government institutions are willing to learn from evidence based experiences especially if they can be applied in their policy settings. Nothing can replicate the positive impact on students ‘learning by doing’ and applying different methods of analysis in the field. Not surprisingly, urban planning and design students at both universities expressed very high levels of student learning satisfaction.

Photo Gallery

Ninik Suhartini
Paul Jones
ITB Bandung
Sydney University
Paul Jones