MARCH 2021

Communal Spine onto Community Economy

Ahefaz Panjwani is founding partner at Chaudhari Panjwani Building Workshop, an architecture firm based in Mumbai and Nagpur with a focus on Sustainable design and Community development. He was also a visiting faculty and currently an Adjunct assistant Professor at VNIT, Nagpur. He is a Graduate of VNIT, Nagpur. Post his graduation he has gone to work with Studio Symbiosis Architects as a lead Project Architect. He has been involved in a number of prestigious award winning projects. He later went on to do his Post graduation at University of Liechtenstein. He worked on various projects and scales at places such as Brazil, Mexico, Israel, Norway, Italy and Austria to name few. He got scholarship from Erasmus+ to study Urban Design at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem, Israel. He also received scholarship for summer workshop “Society in Motion” held in Bergen, Norway in 2017 and Vienna, Austria in 2018.

The project is part of the Master’s Thesis work done at university of Liechtenstein under Professor Dietrich Schwarz. The project was also shortlisted as top 10 entry for the ARK competition in 2020.

A need has arisen for thought and revival of our present economic market along with sustainable development, in the wake of the CoVid-19 pandemic. The prevailing focus on urban settlements and developed countries has adversely affected the rural settlements and developing countries, more so due to the pandemic. If the global economy can be perceived as an iceberg, the tip consists of the capitalist world encapsulating the cash flow and debit/credit. The hidden chunk of the iceberg is the social economy consisting of the favours, gifts, volunteer work, on the street works etc. which keeps our iceberg afloat and expanding. The contribution of the hidden iceberg needs to be acknowledged, respecting their contribution to the socio-economic fabric, the base of the capitalist system. Providing multifaceted opportunities to earn, learn and live for communities can be an active step to strengthen the base of the system.

Asuncion Ixtaltepec, a small municipality of Oaxaca,Mexico, has been taken up as the subject of this research. Ixtaltepec has predominantly been a closeknit community with a strong tradition of community work known as Tequio. This tradition has faded in the last decade. To bring back the forgotten tradition, individual participation is an essential start. This in turn
will create a ripple effect and gradually envelop the entire community into Tequio. Strategies for earning, learning and living is the key to bring about the desired development. At individual level, a carpenter living in Ixtaltepec has been considered as a user and contributor to the community. A communal spine is designed to provide the opportunities to the individuals of community.

Moving away from the idea that the economy is a machine controlled by government and corporations, individuals are taking decisions and actions to create social and environmental well-being. Here, we cater to Ixtaltepec as a community, but also take a step back and think big, about the entire planet, and its resources. Think ethical, how one could share and
use these resources at individual or national level. Finally, think small, looking at people as actors and not consumer’s and how one could trigger the economic flow at individual level leading to communal wellbeing.

Economic Intervention (Earning):
Strategies for economy were derived at two levelsindividual i.e. the carpenter level and community level. Parameters for sharing at individual level were taken as time and knowledge to be shared with the community, and workshop and skills to be shared with his peers. The aim of this exercise was to benefit the community creating a communal economy, increasing their
economical footprint at regional scale.

Social Intervention (Living):
At individual level, the proposed built spine can provide a space for interaction, learning and specific skill development with similar professionals. This will improve cohesion in the group, adding to growing professional interaction and exchange of knowledge. At the community level, similar spaces can be generated for interaction of thoughts and culture between the groups of cross professionals. This helps in supporting the traditional skills.

Skill Development (Learning):
A serious concern for the town is the dying traditional skills. There is an architectural attempt to address this at different levels and across different ages. A space has been created to educate the younger generation with traditional skills and provide economic opportunities for those skills. Also, an initiative has been identified to ignite cross professional interest in the younger generation to prevent dependency and migration to larger cities. For the middle-aged people, an opportunity to learn skills for community work is proposed, eventually contributing to the social economy.

Different communities share the proposed spine for earning, learning and living. The social and commercial cohesion could help build stronger community relations and robust support system. This in turn, will reduce the need for economic migration and keep families together. The flexibility of work and leisure can bring about a stable work-life balance. Communal
Spine is developed in strips of nature, human and building netting the fabric of site between river and town. Strips are broken by community generators triggering social activities. Workshops, market, studios, guestroom and communal dining are designed to enhance social economy.

Carpenters and other professionals could teach the successive generations and others to develop a cooperative working in Ixtaltepec and develop a marketplace. The market itself becomes an exhibition space for other skilled communities to participate. Here, one skill set can help others to grow and consequently reinforce the social economy and Ixtaltepec as brand. The overall community participation develops a closed social economy eventually leading to communal wellbeing. The project is about creating a space for the community with a
balance between nature and sensuality of crafts and where all the crafts are gathered in order to keep the traditions alive.




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