FIGURING IT OUTProfile

by Julia King, AADipl 2007 and winner of AJ’s Emerging Woman Architect of the Year

21 April 2014
Delhi, India

 

When I finished the AA I quickly realised that the job I wanted didn’t exist. I wasn’t very sure what that job was but I was very sure what it wasn’t… and so my journey from university to today is very much me (still) trying to figure this out.

 

This year I established a design and research practice in Delhi incubated within the Indian NGO Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence (CURE), although I have a couple of projects outside of this as well. The work addresses housing, infrastructure (predominantly sanitation), urban planning, and inclusive development. Reluctant to stay in India permanently and with projects cropping up elsewhere plus a desire to be part academic part practitioner, I maintain London as a base.

 

Proposed sections for the regeneration of the Taj East Drain.

Proposed sections for the regeneration of the Taj East Drain.

Current projects with CURE include re-designing various community toilet complexes; networking a small slum cluster with sanitation infrastructure and designing / building toilets that are demountable and freestanding; a regeneration plan for the Taj East drain which runs through 15 slum clusters next to the Taj Mahal in Agra; and an urban plan which proposes solutions for solid waste management, drains, sanitation and housing in two large wards in east Delhi. As an independent consultant I have just started a project for a corporate client who aim to build thousands of toilets in rural Maharashtra and Karnataka. Independently, I am about to launch a kickstarter campaign for a ‘Minimal House’ project which will continue and expand on an existing housing project and micro credit fund. I continue to work on projects in a resettlement colony in Delhi called Savda Ghevra where last year, working with CURE, we completed a multiple-award-winning project which brought sanitation infrastructure to 2000 plus people.

Decentralized Sewage Treatment Plant (under construction April 2013) Savda Gherva Resettlement Colony, New Delhi, India.

Decentralised Sewage Treatment Plant (under construction April 2013) Savda Gherva Resettlement Colony, New Delhi, India.

My practice in India began in 2010 when I got a full scholarship to pursue a PhD-by-practice within the Architecture for Rapid Change and Scarce Resources (ARCSR) department at London Metropolitan University. It’s a fantastic programme run by Maurice Mitchell with the PhD department headed by Peter Carl. Doing a PhD by practice meant that my research was embedded in live projects that I have mostly initiated thus setting the foundation and relationships that are so important today. The initial research was facilitated by an existing relationship between ARCSR and CURE. And it was then that I started doing projects in a slum resettlement colony on the edge of Delhi called Savda Ghevra. To date I have completed housing and sanitation projects and run various ferro-cement workshops – all projects that I initiated/ designed with CURE acting as the implementing agency. The largest project – a decentralised sanitation system – delivers infrastructure enabling 322 households (approximately 2000 people) to have toilets in a community which prior to this mostly defecated in the open.

 

I cannot express how important my relationship with CURE is. With the recent publicity having won the Emerging Woman Architect of the Year Award I have felt rather uncomfortable, because, I am all too aware that as a foreigner I almost get points just for being here (in a slum in India) when the real hard work -the daily grind- has been done by the people who work at CURE. My hope, because no one is an island, is that my success is felt as everyone’s success – for CURE, LMU, ARCSR and everyone else I work with: that any success I have is a testament to what we do and how we do it.

Aside from the Emerging Woman Architect of the Year Award, I have also won a Holcim Award in 2011 in the ‘Next Generation’ category, an international competition that recognises innovative projects and future-oriented concepts. Last year our work was nominated for a World Design Impact Prize and I was included in ICON magazine’s ‘Future 50′,”a snap shot of 50 young designers and architects (who) are pushing the boundaries of their disciplines and trying to change the world”. This year we won a SEED Award for ‘Excellence in Public Interest Design’ for the sanitation project in Savda Ghevra and my blog was picked by The Guardian as one of the ‘best city blogs.’

 

Showing work at the CURE/Arghayam Stand at the ‘Reinvent the Toilet Fair’ organised by the Gates Foundation.

Showing work at the CURE/Arghayam Stand at the ‘Reinvent the Toilet Fair’ organised by the Gates Foundation.

Basically I talk (about) a lot of shit and people seem to like it.

 

For more information:

Julia King’s website

Julia King on the AJ’s Emerging Woman Architect of the Year’s shortlist

Julia King named Emerging Woman Architect of the Year

One Year House – 2007 exhibition in the AA Bar by Julia King & Asif Khan