L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui (AA) magazine caught up with Julia King, Architectural Designer and Urban Researcher at LSE Cities, London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE). The recognition of winning a Holcim Awards Next Generation prize in 2011 enabled the project to move from being a speculative project to something that eventually was built.
L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui (AA): How did the Holcim Awards impact your debut as a professional architect?
Julia King (JK): Winning a Next Generation prize was one of the critical moments that shaped my career early on. The award enabled the project – a proposal to bring sanitation to a peripheral community in Delhi – to go from a speculative proposal to something that eventually got built.
Looking back, I cannot stress how important a platform this was, and how valuable an experience it was to participate in the wider community brought together under the umbrella of the awards. Being part of this community has connected me with academics and practitioners who supported and continued to support my career in various ways.
AA: According to you, what could be the main action levers, in the industrial field, for a more sustainable and conscious construction?
JK: The enormity of the threats posed by climate change, and the imperative to curb them, forces us to consider the fact that we need a completely different way of ‘making’ places, organised around a different set of values to deliver truly sustainable and conscious construction.
The fundamental problem around city making is that the industries around the production of architecture and the built environment are the most intrinsically interwoven – and even actively promote – an economic system that exacerbates environmental destruction and climate change. A clear way the sector can begin to tackle this is to foreground (and celebrate) and repair (of buildings) as a method to re-think the process of construction, and the resources that are demanded.
AA: Could you briefly tell us about your current research topics and projects?
I currently work out of LSE Cities where I teach, design, and conduct research. I have recently set up the ‘Apprenticeship Programme in City Design’ which is a novel outreach programme for young adults from London to learn through practice. Uniquely for such a scheme, outcomes will influence the real-time design development and realisation of several public space projects that will be realised from 2021 onwards. I am also working on a project which is ‘Exploring Racial and Ethnic Inequality in a Time of Crisis’, and ‘Rubbish, Resources and Residues’ a project that is investigating the need for integrated approaches to solid waste management in Ethiopia and Pakistan.
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Money isn’t everything. Intelligence is also required. Julia King, laureate of a LafargeHolcim Next Generation prize for Asia Pacific in 2011, advocated a sanitation strategy for New Delhi’s poorest neighbourhoods. Based on a survey painstakingly carried out in the most deprived streets of India’s capital, this young English architect prioritized the expectations of each individual, in addition to identifying the technical problems as well as the legal obstacles.
Assisted by local and international specialists of urban sanitation systems, Julia King imagined a ‘decentralised system’ for this situation with the implementation of septic tanks, solar pumps and reed beds. For Julia King, winning a prize in the LafargeHolcim Awards was the push her project needed to be scaled-up across India. She shares her experience in the special edition of international design magazine L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui (AA) dedicated to architecture competitions. Read her full interview and jury member comments by Gunawan Tjahjono, Professor of Architecture, University of Indonesia and Wowo Ding, Dean of the School of Architecture, Nanjing University, China.
“This project provides a lifelong learning example for incremental improvement on the issue of sanitation and public health.” – Gunawan Tjahjono (pictured, left), Professor of Architecture, University of Indonesia; and Member of the LafargeHolcim Awards jury for Asia Pacific in 2008 and 2011.
“We selected this project not only for its social influence, but also for its architectural quality. This winning project demonstrates the power of design in solving social problems by its educational function.” – Wowo Ding (pictured, above right), Dean of the School of Architecture, Nanjing University, China; and Head of the LafargeHolcim Awards jury for Asia Pacific in 2011.
LafargeHolcim Awards open for entries
Design competitions boost projects, careers, and networking opportunities. The LafargeHolcim Awards seeks leading projects of professionals as well as bold ideas from the Next Generation that combine sustainable construction solutions with architectural excellence.
The 6th cycle of the international competition is open for entries until February 25, 2020. The Awards offer a total of USD 2 million in prize money and foreground projects and concepts from architecture, engineering, urban planning, materials and construction technology, and related fields. Enter your contribution to sustainable construction in the LafargeHolcim Awards – the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design.See more
Julia King, the researcher and designer, who is currently setting up practices in both New Delhi and London as well as completing her PhD, scooped the award for architects and architectural designers who have been in their current role for less than five years. Her work focuses on the future of urban development, and was described by the jury panel of the Architects’ Journal Emerging Woman Architect of the Year Award, was described by the judges as ‘truly inspiring’.
The emerging architect has already designed and built a sewer for 322 low-income houses in New Delhi and is regenerating the Taj East drain which runs through slum areas near the Taj Mahal. The project in New Delhi won the Holcim Awards “Next Generation” 3rd prize in 2011 for region Asia Pacific.
Jury panel member and V&A director, Moira Gemmill, said: “Her work has great resonance internationally. She came across as someone who is very driven, very smart and very capable of getting things done often in very difficult circumstances”.
Peabody director Claire Bennie praised the “practical concern” of King’s work, while Landmark Trust director and women in architecture judge, Anna Keay described her projects as “life-changing” and Julia King as “a woman who is getting things done”.
Architect Hannah Corlett, director of up-and–coming London-based Assemblage, received the commendation. The other shortlisted architects were Aranta Ozeata Cortazar of Spanish practice TallerDE2 architects, Angela Dapper of Denton Corker Marshall,Daisy Froud of AOC, Hana Loftus of HAT Projects, Yeoryia Manolopoulou of 2013 Stephen Lawrence Prize-winning AY Architects, and Nicola Rutt of Hawkins\Brown
Corlett co-founded Assemblage back in 2003, and in the past year the practice has won a string of high-profile competitions including the international contest for the new USD 1 billion Iraqi parliament building.
Last year’s winner of the Jane Drew Prize Eva Jiricna praised all the shortlisted emerging women. She added: “It is really encouraging that there are so many bright young women architects and that they have got their chance, and that they have taken their chances and got on with it - I’m sure the future of architecture is bright if these women are going to hold the flag in the next generation and the next ten years to come.”
Celebrating the ROCA-sponsored AJ Women in Architecture campaign, which is now in its third year, the awards ceremony held at London’s Langham Hotel on February 7, 2014 also included a keynote speech from Hopkins Architects co-founder Patty Hopkins.See more
Architects’ Journal (AJ) has announced the women who are in the running for the prestigious Woman Architect of the Year and Emerging Woman Architect of the Year 2014 awards. Among the eight up-and-coming stars of the profession shortlisted is Julia King, winner of a “Next Generation” prize in the Holcim Awards competition. Her community cluster-based sanitation system that improves the lives of Delhi’s urban poor was praised by the jury for presenting a “practical solution to an urgent problem”.
Prize money from the Holcim Awards competition was used to develop the project: to survey the site, engage with an engineer, mobilize the community and support the project author for more than a year. Julia King designed and built a sewer for 322 low-income houses in New Delhi and is regenerating the Taj East Drain, which runs through slum areas. “I wanted to be an architect because I believe architecture can be used as a tool to improve lives”, said Julia King.
Currently, Julia is supporting the promotion of the 4th International Holcim Awards competition by lecturing in various cities in India at events organized by ACC and Ambuja, the Group companies of Holcim in the country. In commenting on the announcement of the shortlist, Julia King acknowledged the boost to her career provided by the “Next Generation” prize. “The support via the Holcim Awards and the Holcim Foundation has been a huge part of my professional formation”, she said.
Julia King’s work focuses on the future of urban development. She is undertaking a PhD at London Metropolitan University in the Architecture of Rapid Change and Scarce Resources department and is establishing a practice in New Delhi and London. She is one of nine UK practitioners engaged in a ten-day lab to explore the theme “Future Cities” for UnBox, the Arts & Humanities Research Council, the British Council, and the Science & Innovation Network.
The winners of the AJ Woman Architect of the Year and Emerging Woman Architect of the Year awards will be announced in London on February 7, 2014.See more
A community cluster-based sanitation system won the “Next Generation” 3rd prize for Asia Pacific in 2011. Since then, the prize money from the Holcim Awards competition was used to develop the project: to survey the site, engage with an engineer, mobilize the community and support the project author for more than a year.
The fully-developed proposal provides sanitation infrastructure for over 300 households (more than 1,900 people) and has secured funding for the pilot project with construction due to be completed in early October 2013. Funding for the project was obtained from the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust (SDTT), one of the oldest, non-sectarian philanthropic organisations in India, established in 1932 by Sir Dorabji Tata. SDTT encourages learning and research in the country, meets the costs of relief during crises and calamities, and funds selected charitable activities.
The aim of the project is to improve people’s lives through the provision of sanitation which is at the core of dignity and health. The next phase of the project will involve retrofitting households to accommodate the new toilets in Savda Gherva. The aim is to implement a viable system that will become a transferable model sanitation solution for unconnected (off-grid) low-income settlements, especially suited to the context of slum redevelopment and upgrading.
To date the street level infrastructure and DEWAT (Decentralized Wastewater Treatment) has been built which comprises of a series of septic tanks and up-flow filters which once connected to the household toilets will treat the black waste for reuse. The system is capable of conversion to plug in to conventional treatment plants should government plans for sanitation infrastructure proceed in the area. The construction was partially built by trained members of the community and is run by a local (and predominantly female) operation and maintenance team, supported by the Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence (CURE) – the implementing agency which is a local NGO operating in Savda Ghevra since the colony was established in 2006.
The practice of local engagement and an enabling environment builds a certain kind of local civic and political commitment to the collective good. Here, the “politics of the sewer” is turned on its head: humiliation and victimization are transformed into exercises of technical capacity and self-dignification. The next phase of the project will be to assist families to construct toilets within each house. In order to achieve this requires access to microfinance and to design low-cost toilet units.
The pilot project has received coverage in the Indian Express, and was presented by Julia King, architect and doctoral candidate at the London Metropolitan University, and Renu Khosola, Director at the Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence (CURE), at the India International Centre. The imminent arrival of sanitation has also triggered a wave of housing upgrade work. Julia King has also developed a series of concepts for upgrade options that are aligned with the project development.
Prize money from the Holcim Awards competition has also been used to partially-fund a house which contains a water kiosk within Savda Gehvra. The decentralized water treatment plant filters and distributes water locally. Originally from Venezuela, Julia King lived in New Delhi as a teen, and is eager to work on improving infrastructure in the urban conglomerations. “Things have changed drastically in Savda Ghevra since 2010 – this is now a marketplace, and transport services to ferry people to Mundka with access to the Delhi Metro rail,” she said.
Many families remain in temporary (kuchha) structures of bamboo and tarpaulin, citing the financial losses during resettlement, short-term leases and the lack of jobs due to the settlement’s peripheral location, and high personal cost as reasons why they have not built a multi-storey permanent (pucca) dwelling.
Julia King is now working with relocated families and local contractors to design and help build housing that would be structurally safe, technically sound, economical, and capable of being built incrementally. The prototype, inspired by Le Corbusier’s Maison Dom-ino uses structural columns and slabs that can be in-filled in the future. It is hoped that the outcomes and lessons learned from this process will serve as a model for similar applications in other resettlement and upgrading schemes throughout urban India. Current work is ongoing in creating guidelines for large scale master plans for both medium sized cities and new urban developments that will thoroughly test the model.
A video showing the construction in progress filmed in June 2013 is available at:
Julia King, London Metropolitan University, United Kingdom received the “Next Generation” 3rd prize for a sound research approach that leads to a practical solution for an urgent problem. Her project provides a decentralized sanitation system in Savda Gehvra, a regulated resettlement suburb 30km west of New Delhi, India.Read full media release – Holcim Awards 2011 for Asia Pacific »
The jury awarded this project due to its sound research approach that leads to a practical solution for an urgent problem. The installation of a sound and reliable sanitation system counters immediate problems and the direct design integrates successfully. The realization is a convincing demonstration of a best practice process, leading to a simple, cost-effective solution. Its pedagogic approach provides knowledge and promotes common acting of individuals leading to a consolidated sense of community, beneficial to all. The project sets a moving signal for the future of sharing responsibilities – here and elsewhere.
In underdeveloped settlements, a lack of sanitation is one of the major problems. By applying an additive strategy, this project aims to significantly improve hygiene and strengthen social cohesion within the local community by involving the residents throughout the process. Savda Gehvra, a regulated resettlement suburb 30km west of New Delhi, serves as a model. The area is characterized by incremental housing ranging from one-story shelters to consolidated simple two-level-and-roof-terrace constructions that reflect the economic capacities of their inhabitants.
The use of community toilets that is forced by municipal regulations has proven impractical, so inhabitants defecate in the open as they can rarely afford costly individual toilets with septic tanks. The project strategy acts from two sides: intense on-the-ground research identified inhabitants’ needs and expectations; and top-down, the municipal authorities were involved and urged to reconsider regulations that would be more practicable in poor neighborhoods. The outcome is a community cluster based sanitation system that is additively applicable by installing simple elements such as rainwater collectors; individual basic toilet bowls and shared black water collection.Download project entry poster (PDF, 1.06 MB) »
In underdeveloped settlements, a lack of sanitation is a major problem. Going beyond the delivery of sanitation …
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