#18 Resilient Pavilion: a transient, productive and flexible space for community’s livelihood and recreation fulfilment
Md Saydur Rahman, Bangladesh

Resilient Pavilion: a transient, productive and flexible space for community’s livelihood and recreation fulfilment

Md Saydur Rahman, Bangladesh

Initiative's goals and main activities 

Inspired by the time-tested Bengal Pavilion – which is frequently used by the rural inhabitants of Bengal due to this structure’s affordance, low maintenance, transience, easy erection/installation, and portability, this productive and multipurpose community space has been conceptualized, designed and built through community’s active participation (mostly women-led).

Thus this semi-open structure, located right at the heart of the urban informal settlement, has been co-created as an inclusive, accessible, flexible and permeable community space – carved out of the ever so scarce physical space within the urban informal settlement. The structure is built with locally available temporary materials and simple structural technology owing to the lack of tenure security of this settlement.

This project was initiated as a pilot for Khulna, a low-lying coastal city in Bangladesh, is listed among the six most climate-vulnerable cities globally and the third-largest in Bangladesh with a population of 1.5million where 20% are slum dwellers. Slums in Khulna are typically cramped living atmosphere characterized by a lack of WASH facilities, non-permanent house structures, insecure tenure, and economic uncertainties. In 2021; it is the first phase of an incremental scheme within an urban informal settlement called Relir Bagan at Khulna, Bangladesh.

 This settlement is one of the most densely populated among all the slums in Khulna city. The settlement is home to 248 households consisting of 1074 people living in 10,075 square meters. The goal of the project was to make provisions of a community semi-open space within the cramped spaces of an informal settlements while keeping the multi-functionality of space and its flexible use at the heart of the design.

  •  Economic development: With acute shortage of in-house (production) space, it will act as an active space for livelihood improvements (including various trainings/skill development programs) and income generation/diversification toward community’s upward economic mobility.

  • Social interaction and recreation: Stimulate inclusion and (inter)action between community members, different urban dwellers/stakeholders (e.g. NGOs, donors) and act as a stage and forum for different age/gender groups for cultural performance and expression.

  • Safety: Improve safety and social surveillance within the settlement’s public realm as it was combined with mechanisms to promote social engagement and developed in response to the needs of women, girls, children, and people with disabilities

  •  Climate resilience: Allocate space for community infrastructures such as water drainage systems and soakable green spaces. In the second phase and with the availability of further funding/budgetary provisions, the structure will be installed with overhead solar panels. The solar energy will help a locally manufactured water filtering system to supply pure drinking water 24X7, while during nights, settlement children could use the light for reading/studying.

  • Infrastructure of hope and dignity: Facilitate the provision of a much needed urban infrastructure which could be used flexibly, at times, for a community clinic, elderly/elementary school, training, small exhibition space for community women’s handicrafts, children’s play area and emergency isolation space for events like Pandemics. Although a temporary structure, it still serves as an important ray of hope and imparts a sense of dignity – a concept, within the circumstance of extreme scarcity. The temporariness of this structure also suggests the dwellers’ possibility to grow and improve. Once they educate themselves and improve, they will leave the settlement and so will this infrastructure and its needs/purposes. To achieve the goals and ensure participation of the neglected groups of any communities, all the activities are designed to be executed by the women. The whole process is solely based on bottom up approach and inclusive participation.

  •  Community Action Planning: The negligence of the existing physical assets like open space was identified boldly in CAP (Community Action Plan) by the women, children, and elderly who were the vulnerable groups in any informal settlement. For this densely populated community and surroundings, there is no accessible breathing space. A focused group discussion with women, children, and people with disabilities was conducted. Then series of issues came out and documented to set a way forward to have an inclusive and effective transformation of the community space. The main issues were classified as waste dumping zone in the open space, poor accessibility, an inadequate drainage system, and scarcity of appropriate bathing and water collection zone.

  • Co-creating the space: The outcome of the problem identification was coming up with a demand for community open space by the community. They were facilitated to think and illustrate the probable solutions to those problems and the new dimension of the open space they would cherish. Moreover, the perceptions of local concerned authorities were also collected. The accumulation of all data was then sequenced for identifying the main demands and prospects of community space. These were: 1) Space for women for HBE; 2) Community meeting space; 3) Space for communal/ religious/ cultural uses; and 4) Dedicated playing space; 4) Ensuring accessible walkway for all, 5) Appropriate drainage system; 6) Adequate WASH facilities.

  • Financial mechanism: To make a feasible financial process, the participation of different stakeholders such as the community, local authority, and NGO (BRAC-Urban Development Programme) played an important role in sharing the total construction cost respectively 30%, 20%, and 50%. In the case of the slum dweller's unaffordability, they exerted alternative methods of financial involvement (day labor mainly) with the projects executed by the women and men from the community.

  •  Participatory monitoring: The women's construction monitoring team was a vital step to ensuring proper use of the materials and money. Maintenance is another challenge for any community development. To overcome the difficulty, a women-oriented community monitoring team was formed. The outcome of the participatory approach ensures the demand and a dream come true. So here, the transformation of the community open space is solely the reflection of the dream of women and children, and moreover the community.

In order to get to the next level, the project needs:

Firstly city wide awareness is needed to make people understand the essentiality of open space especially in slums. To make this happen innovative awareness raising tools can be introduced both in city and community scale. Funding is another one to complete the installation of the solar panels, water filtration system etc. for the existing initiative. An additional transient floor should also increase its total pool of floor area.