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Joint Urban Planning Capstone and Architecture Studio Selected as Top 20 Finalist For The 2017 Ford College Community Challenge

Friday, May 26, 2017

Joint Urban Planning Capstone and Architecture Studio Selected as Top 20 Finalist For The 2017 Ford College Community Challenge

A Winter 2017 joint urban planning capstone and architecture studio, taught by assistant professor Ana Paula Pimentel Walker and associate professor Maria Arquero de Alarcon, has been selected as a Top 20 for the 2017 Ford College Community Challenge. Ten finalists will be awarded $25,000 each to implement their projects later this year.

With support from the U-M International Institute’s Experiential Learning Fund (ELF) and the Taubman College’s International Travel Fund, the group traveled to Brazil in March, 2017 to engage with the community and collect data onsite. During the semester, the group has developed a community-driven action plan entitled “Ocupação Anchieta Avança!  Ocupação Anchieta Forward! addressing the housing and environmental conflicts in this informal settlement. To help fund this project, the course won a seed grant of $5,000 from the U-M Dow Distinguished Awards for Interdisciplinary Sustainability and next fall, they will participate in the second phase for $50,000 to further the project impact. This summer, students and faculty will be back onsite to continue the work and advance the project implementation.

Ocupação Anchieta is a four-year old land occupation in Grajaú, a city district in the periphery of São Paulo with important water reservoirs and Atlantic forest reserves. The project addresses one of the greatest community challenges in the Global South, where disadvantaged families migrating from other Brazilian States often can only secure shelter by deforesting the peripheries of large metropolitan areas. Owned by the non-profit, Instituto Anchieta Grajaú, the site houses 650 families living in precarious housing, with rudimentary infrastructure and improper waste management. Over time, these conditions have caused onsite deforestation and pollution of the creek and natural springs.  

Taubman College students and faculty are collaborating with the Ocupação Anchieta Association and their network of local partners to secure dwellers’ tenure and adopt sustainable practices to steward the land. The framework “Ocupação Anchieta Avança! advances four main strategies: first, reforestation and revitalization of the creek and natural springs; second, construction of low environmental impact housing and decentralized communal sewage; third, enhancement of cultural and recreational spaces; and fourth, implementation of better waste management practices. Through these interrelated components, Ocupação Anchieta can become a model for other young land occupations to develop sustainably from early on. With the support from the Ford Community Challenge, the group will advance specific aspect of the framework plan to improve environmental and living conditions for residents of Ocupação Anchieta.

The students in the graduate urban planning capstone and architecture studio are: Ashish Bhandari, Michelle Bohrson, Cheng Cheng, Abhishek Alark Desai, Laura Devine, Ning Ding, Grant Hong, Xiyao Hu, Sophie Jantz, Sara Pizzo, Alexandra Ramirez, Nikita Sharad Rane, Antonela Sallaku, Yao Tang, Charisma Thapa, Isaac Wolf, Lihang Wu, Shiyu Wu, Yameng Zhang, and Anyuan Zhou.