‘LOT 17’ Manila, Philippines
The systems of finance, ownership, migration and proximities that affect the occupation patterns of the disparate squatters’ neighbourhoods of the Philippines, are not so much part of a singular legislative framework but an intricate web of political history that spans back to the end of the Second World War. These precarious neighbourhoods of various legal tenure face continuous threat of ‘relocation’ as large areas of land eventually marked for development, become active in economic speculation and eviction systems of various legitimacies are employed through the devolved powers of local governance.
LOT 17 documents the physical manifestations of various legalities of tenure and engages collective design through the lens of law to create a new model of urban regeneration that recognises the existing dynamics and built form of informal settlements. It attempts to frame an in-situ alternative to the violent systems of eviction in the Philippines, which created the outlying tenement blocks on the fringes of the capital city.
Often abandoned by their originally intended tenants, due to their lack of funding for maintenance and their prohibitive distance from the working hubs of Manila, these blocks have been hugely unsuccessful, leading to an cyclical movement of people in relocation and return.
By framing legislative review through the act of collective design, this project proposes a newly configured mortgage programme for a system of urban upgrade that will disseminate through pedagogic systems already active in collective networks across the country.
The mortgage is a convergence of two existing systems currently active in the country, localised to a single lot scale and applied to the management of built structure. By downsizing this legal system, it bypasses much of the bureaucracy in the tangled systems of land management that cross through municipal boundaries to the state. As a result, the project is able to engage the collectivisation of the tenants with the direct cooperation of the Local Government Unit, attempting to demonstrate design as third party politics. In this way, design becomes a political body, demonstrating the rights of the dispossessed.
The structural wall system inserts itself into the existing fabric of the neighbourhood, stabilising the existing structures, allowing the residents to build upward to a height limit of 7.5metres for reasons of light in the densely knit area.
These new party walls carry several functions: The double skin construction, and breathable cladding, creates airflow between properties. They also correspond to a modulated angled roof plan that directs drainage to a series of rainwater collection sites, providing free water for laundry and planting and the cavities further contain new plumbing and electrical systems and much needed storage.
This system allows individuals to curate their own living spaces over a timescale that suits their own economic means and also strengthens the existing properties in a way that they too can be incrementally improved.
The resulting designs begin to build up a framework for an integrated network of old and new living spaces with private services as well as a series of shared spaces and services including gardens, laundry spaces and additional bathrooms and kitchens, interwoven in a way that mimics the existing nature of the site.
By sharing structure and space, we make the most of the densely inhabited site and also provide a diversity of spaces that allow families to expand their living past the small environment of the home. It also shares the economic burden, producing more functional space for less.
The drawings are shown as largely under construction as they are a speculation about an outcome that will ultimately be decided by the residents. The project is currently undergoing funding application and legal development.
As a pilot project, once implemented, our hope is that it can be learned from, evolved and reimplemented in different areas across the block and later, in further government jurisdictions.