Friday Fun: The daily life of informal settlements in a series of striking new videos
Dhaka Information Settlements

Although living in a region full of rivers, residents of Korail—an informal settlement in Dhaka, Bangladesh—often struggle to access clean water and other basic urban services. Photo by William Veerbeek/Flickr.

As a filmmaker, writer, and editor, Cassim Shepard is particularly attentive to the many complex ways that rapid global urbanization is affecting people at a very fundamental level—what they see, feel, and do in daily city life. Commissioned by Design with the Other 90%: Cities—the second installment of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum’s series on informal urban settlements around the world—Shepard recently released several video excerpts from his contribution to the exhibition. His video pastiche incorporates footage from local artists in Mexico City, São Paulo, Durban, Nairobi, Dhaka and Manila, weaving together scenes from three cities at a time into a single, cohesive narrative:

Describing his work, Shepard writes:

“This audio-video installation sketches a day in the life of six informal settlements around the world in order to evoke the ways these complex sites are much more than places of dwelling: they accommodate livelihoods, commerce, education, cultural production, inter-ethnic interaction, worship, politics and play. And they are indelibly connected to surrounding or adjacent urban systems. Expressing these linkages — transactions in markets, itineraries of commutes, innovations in building technology, relationships to infrastructural circuits — through moving images illuminates how residents live, work, play, move and exchange.”

In addition to the brief excerpt from his “triptych”, Shepard has uploaded six features of an informal settlement in each city. Here are two of TheCityFix’s favorites:

Korail, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Twenty million people live in Dhaka, Bangladesh—one of the fast growing cities in the world. But with the equivalent of $5.4 billion in GDP susceptible to damage from river flooding alone, the country is also one of the most vulnerable to climate change. This video of the Korail settlement in Dhaka explores the informal community’s vital relationship to water—the traders who cross the city’s myriad rivers daily, the women who rely on rainwater for cooking, and the children who wash themselves in muddy pools of water collecting on the streets.

Heliopolis, São Paulo, Brazil

When talking about the challenges and opportunities of urbanization, it can be hard to move beyond the prodigious scale of global growth and investment to imagine what it all looks like at a more human level. This video of the Heliopolis neighborhood of São Paulo depicts development from a different perspective, focusing on the incremental changes that happen to the urban landscape every day, every hour, every minute. Watch a few local construction workers mix concrete in the street and apply it, brick by brick, to a new building slowly encroaching on the street. Visualize expansion in real time, as it’s experienced.

Watch the rest on vimeo.  

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