Dencity 2016: Special Mention

Access to Opportunity Through Sanitation, Education and Mobility

Entry by: Joanna Brindise, Andres Jimenez


Slum communities are the hosts of much of the rapidly growing human population. One of the largest struggles of rapid slum growth is the organization between residences and public space. Without urban planning, the layout of haphazard construction restricts adequate levels of sanitation, water, and basic goods. This reaches even further to limit access to jobs, education, and ultimately, opportunity. Opportunity through sanitation, education and transportation is the most important contribution to provide at the poverty level. It may seem as though poverty spreads faster than it can be combatted, but there may be a way to not only retroactively provide access to existing communities, but to also proactively create a framework for the inevitable slum communities to come.

Slum living is most often an inescapable cycle where families are constantly struggling to keep up with basic necessities for living. The idea of work, home and the third place, specifically in Medellin, Colombia, is slashed to being only one space split between home and work. Without the third place -assessable neutral ground- the area will continue to progress towards chaotic disorganization and distant relations. Some of the largest considerations for development based off of residential perspectives are not the development of residential units, but the access to the shared places. Sprawling across the fringes of Medellin in the Andes Mountain hillside, low-income families are often trapped in communities on thirty-degree slopes without adequate paths to move.

Site Study

Having explored and visited various sites of unplanned urban developments in Medellin, we were able to not only sense the physical aspects of the sites, but also the local perception and ideals. In the current condition, the government combats the unmanageability of the communities by imposing an organization via thoughtless social housing. Entire communities are relocated and then razed to make for other developments. The advantage of these structures are that they provide basic utilities, such as water and electricity, where they were before unavailable. However, locals feel that they are moved to a disconnected environment of the social housing to live where before they appreciated the activity and dense sense of community of the slums. Our multi-utility bridge proposal is an alternative to the brute-force solution imposed by the government and other forces and addresses not only the current conditions of slums, but also considers the inevitable future growth of poor population and further expansion of informal settlements.

Creating a Framework for Access

Introducing a pedestrian bridge moves the levels the circulation off of the sloped ground yet provides a way to connect with existing buildings on the site. The structure of the bridge also holds various utility lines of water, sewage, power, internet, and phone lines. By incorporating utilities onto the pedestrian structure, the placement of the pedestrian bridge not only allows movement of the residents, but also provides a framework for future communities to build off of. In addition to the bridge itself, various nodes, or access points, allow users specific ways to access each of the utilities, be water, electricity, communication, or internet.

Local Yet Portable

This project explores the building of a bridge, utility lines, and nodes of access using locally abundant materials such as guadua. Making use of local material, and thus labor furthers the ideals behind a bridge where the skills motivations of the community are celebrated. This idea can be translated to communities with other materials and skills.


After a first hand visit to the slums of Medellin, we thought about how we could most effectively better not only the current situation of development to how to also rethink the future. As there are many thoughtful considerations to the methods of targeting how to redesign residential units, we believe that utilities and mobility will have the largest immediate impact not only to current living situations but to drive new organization. As most residents build their own units, there is no larger structure to how units are placed on the site. As our multi-utility bridge finally offers resolution to better daily living conditions it also becomes the first framework of organization for residents themselves to build upon.


The distribution of water and collection of sewage immediately combats one of the largest struggles of slum areas. The current situation has residents looking out for oneself and without a proper way to dispose sewage, residents have no other option but to create dumps in the immediate vicinity. This regular distribution of disposal poses problems to health and contaminates the ground for future use.


The access to power, electricity, internet and phone will now allow immediate access to faster communication and exposure to education. As current conditions isolate residents to word of mouth, information and education are vulnerable to bias and inaccurate facts. Exposure to the online resources opens up opportunity for all levels of education from school to specialized training for adults. The introduction of available power and electricity offers a new time length from the existing productive hours from sunrise to sunset. Considering the connectivity of these available utilities, organization of the residential units now have to coordinate to the pedestrian bridge, giving order to the new development of residential units.


Mobility from the first and second places (home and work) finally releases the isolated constraint of residents. Opportunity to move across more area in less time allows residents to find work within a larger radius and expand their opportunity to a larger network. As many of the residents are mobile merchants, the bridge now allows opportunity to move on level ground where previously hindered by a steep slope. This allows children to go to school, elderly to go to the market, merchants to exchange material goods, and social interaction between neighborhoods.

About the entrant

Joanna Brindise is a fifth year architecture student focusing her thesis on the public space and circulation of informal settlements in Medellin, Colombia. Her interests are to capture the unique in any location to find where identity is being challenged and how to form new solutions. In addition to sustainability due to environmental efficiency and moderations of materials, energy and space, she believes that the truest sustainable spaces embed the person within its design and the loyalty of the users become the strength to true architectural longevity. She is involved with a design/build research initiative for impoverished communities in Senegal, West Africa. She believes that now having traveled to almost every continent that design for slum development is critical as most of the world lives in these conditions.

Andres Jimenez had in interest in architecture from a young age. With more experience he began to realize the possibility and power of architecture for solutions in corners of the world. As a fifth year architecture student, he is constructing a thesis arguing the necessity of natural lighting in informal settlements and the use of local materials to achieve it. He believes in both the opportunity of materials, particularly guadua and clay, the skill of locals to create dynamic screening elements to provide necessary architectural elements while also connecting to the site sentimentally.