Architect brings message of thanks from India to DMU research event

An architect who has worked with more than 100 students to build flood-proof homes in India says the poverty-stricken community they are supporting is ‘honoured’ to have been helped by De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

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Simon Bradbury (left) with architects Anand and Mariana

Dozens of DMU Architecture students are helping provide new homes for families in The Loving Community, which is located in one of the poorest areas of Ahmedabad.

Working with construction consultants Pick Everard and local architect Anand Sonecha, the students fly out to India to improve housing there, ensuring properties survive flooding during the annual monsoon season.

Mr Sonecha is a guest of DMU this week where he will present a talk about the work in Ahmedabad, as part of the week long exhibition ‘Leicester and India: Research at De Montfort University’, open to the public until Saturday at The Gallery DMU.

Mr Sonecha said: “The community feels respected and honoured that the university students are putting in the effort to come up with solutions for them.”

Students and alumni visiting Ahmedabad have the chance to create the designs for the new homes as well as make tiles, paint walls, clear land and plant trees. But Mr Sonecha says that is only half the experience they need as promising architects.

He explained: “There is a deeper involvement the students have. It is not just about construction. It is also about social interaction. They need to see and understand how people work on the site, how materials are used and how the people live in the community.

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One of the designs for homes in the Loving Community at the DMU research event

“These are fundamental things for students in architecture to see – how people live and, in this case in Ahmedabad, how people struggle.

“Building is one part of learning but there is learning to do from the place itself.

“Most of the architecture in Ahmedabad is done for one particular group of society but with DMU we are able to work on a grass roots scheme for people who would normally have no access to architects.

“With DMU and Pick Everard and other groups we are coming together and working as a team.”

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The work links directly with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a series of global aims to improve life for people around the world. DMU has been chosen by the UN as a ‘designated hub’ for SDG number 16, which promotes peaceful and inclusive societies, justice for all and building inclusive institutions.

Simon Bradbury, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Design and Humanities, leads on the DMU side of the project and has said that the work is a “great example of how DMU makes an impact in the world”.

Mr Sonecha has arrived in the UK with his wife and fellow architect Mariana Paisana, who is currently studying for a PhD and teaching in Boston, USA.

Mr Sonecha said: “It is my first time in the UK and my first time in Leicester. It is going to be great to see all the facilities and the conditions the students are able to work in compared to India.

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Simon Bradbury opens the 'Leicester and India' research event 

“The workshops are quite remarkable. I noticed that research is important here but also that research through design is important too.

“It is nice that the school of architecture is in the same spaces as other design courses. It makes a lot of sense that you have exposure to different disciplines and share ideas.”

The ‘Leicester and India: Research at De Montfort University’ exhibition continues today, when Mr Sonecha will talk about the Ahmedabad project, and runs until Saturday. It is free to attend and is open to the public.

On Thursday and Friday there will be talks by academics about their ground-breaking research between 1pm and 2pm each day.

It includes work on mental health literacy in India, emerging economies, Muslims in India, and India’s energy issues.

Posted on Wednesday 1st May 2019

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