The ‘Loving Community’ is populated by more than 430 residents, 40 of which are former leprosy sufferers. They settled together on the outskirts of Ahmedabad over four decades ago through rejection from their native villages and fear of endangering the healthy population.
DMU’s Square Mile India project – in partnership with Leicester-based business Pick Everard – has been working to provide 50 homes for the community through fundraising and staff and student participation.
The ‘Loving Community’s’ old homes were built with poor quality bricks and asbestos roofing. Each house had only a single opening, which didn’t allow for sufficient lighting or ventilation, making them almost uninhabitable. The new houses have been designed and tested to be efficient and effective and there are now carefully positioned openings for cross ventilation, providing a cool and light environment.
“An architect’s job is to design buildings and create the physical environment in which people live, “ said Pick Everard architectural assistant Nish Tailor, who has been helping to project manage the scheme. “But the most successful architecture goes beyond building four walls – it changes people’s lives, and this project reflects that. “The ‘Loving Community’ residents had to fend for themselves after being outcast by society more than 40 years ago. Despite no longer being contagious due to the disease being treated, the stigma surrounding leprosy is so strong that they are still not welcome in their native villages.”
The community is prone to flooding during the summer monsoons and many people have to leave their homes as they become uninhabitable. DMU’s school of architecture is working in collaboration with architect Anand Sonecha to develop designs to raise the homes above flood level. Construction began in early April last year, with the cost of the works being met by fundraising.
Each house costs approximately £5,000 and the designs include the potential to be enhanced further when funding is available to families.
Mark Charlton, associate head of public engagement at DMU, said: “Working with the ‘Loving Community’ has not only been transformational for the families involved but also our architecture students. Being able to work on a project like this and see the immediate benefit to the people who live there has been inspirational and we are grateful to our partners Pick Everard for their support on this incredible project.”
Paul Rothera, national director at Pick Everard, said: “We have developed a great working relationship with DMU and it has been fantastic to partner with the university on such a rewarding scheme that will benefit hundreds of residents and future generations.”
Steve Cummings, director at Pick Everard, added: “As well as working with DMU on the Square Mile India project, Pick Everard has also provided a number of architectural assistants. This has enabled the university to create a new four-year part-time level 6 and 7 apprenticeship course for RIBA Part II and Part III professional qualifications, and mentor up to six students each year in support of DMU’s RIBA Part I mentor programme.”
Among the first residents to benefit from a new home was widow Narshama Bhan, who, speaking through an interpreter, said: “Before I was so fed up and tired and every monsoon it was a very bad and unhealthy situation for all of us. I never had a thought, or even a dream that I would be living in such a nice home. I thank the Lord that finally I have a nice home.”