The Slums and the Sea



Demolition of slums is often done by people, mainly other people. Nature however can be just as annoying. Of course, politicians and planners frequently feature in slum dwellers’ bad dreams. We’ll talk about that in another post. This post is not about people destroying homes, it is about nature. 

Front doors sit awkwardly high above the ground since the footpath is washed away (together with a whole row of houses). The pink house has improvised steps of stacked rubble.
In Sagar Kutir (see Wormhole post below) homes are built on Bombay’s sandy beach and therefore under constant threat of the Indian Ocean. The search for buildable land brings people to claim land from the sea although undoubtedly it will be claimed back some day. The seaside of Sagar Kutir is marked by remains of washed away homes. Some are reduced to rubble scattered in the sand. Others have partly disappeared, leaving half a home behind. Sometimes the cut is astonishingly clean with household items still on the wall while most of the house has vanished. 
The remains of households are visible after a collapse. Sandbags must keep the sea from washing away more sand and houses.

Semi open barricades help to soften the impact of waves.
The photos in this post show man’s ongoing struggle with the power of nature. We see that people build obstacles in order to break the waves. Such barricades are built of whatever the sea brings to the beach. Maritime waste is turned into protective structures. It is typical of vernacular architecture to build with local materials. This is a perfect example.
Here too, vernacular architecture is marked by the use of local materials.
There is a little lesson here about building light versus building sturdy. Kacca[1] houses have the advantage of being light and mobile; we’ll discuss them in a future post. Although they are less durable than pucca, it is often possible to relocate them whenever the sea comes too close. A pucca house is made of concrete and bricks and impossible to move. It offers more protection, but primarily through resistance. And as we know, in light of the power of the ocean resistance is futile.


[1] Kacca houses are made of softer materials and have a temporary character. Pucca is more permanent, with more durable materials. Read more

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