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Iwan Baan: Ingenious Homes in Unexpected Places

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As a counter to many of the projects covered thus far in, this TED Talk by photographer Iwan Baan delivers some much-needed perspective on planning, housing, design,  human ingenuity, and normalcy.

The talk focuses on one of my favorite topics, informal development. Highlights include a city complete with public amenities like gym and a taxi service in Caracas (around 2:30) and a 5th-floor living-room-turned-cow-stable in Cairo (12:45).

The images are great, but Baan’s message is important: that there is no such thing as a “normal” way to live. People find ways to adapt to their circumstances and find ways to live. Not only that, but they live with a greater sense of community than most planned cities, partly because they adapt their environments to fit their own needs.

I think there’s actually an argument for the slum or informal city as a type of normal itself. It’s as pure and raw a manifestation of humans adapting their environments to live and meet their needs without plans, rules, boundaries or restrictions. Some might say that adaption is the seed of architecture itself.

Le Corbusier's Capitol Complex in Chandigarh, India, re-appropriated.

Le Corbusier’s Capitol Complex in Chandigarh, India, re-appropriated. Top of post: Another Modern Capitol Complex building, re-appropriated as well.

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