Resulting from design and research explorations in the Magic Bus project (a campus for slum children), this project to redesign public toilets for SPARC (The Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers) an NGO working with slum rehabilitation and housing quarters in the city of Mumbai: SPARC has been commissioned by the city government to build over 300 public toilets in the slums of Mumbai. However, most often these are built by engineers without any architectural design input. The project thus involved working with the existing government specifications, but reconfiguring these spatially and architecturally to maximize the efficiency of the toilets as well as to respond the questions of gender, safety and sense of community. Thus in addition, residential accommodation for a caretaker (often from minority communities) as well as a community space was introduced on the upper floor. In addition the firm worked as advocates for the case and from our other private clients raised money (not in the government’s budget) to take the toilet off the grid by introducing solar panels. This allows the space to be lit through the night facilitating its safe use by women and children. Further more the community space at the top level is used by children at night to study for school – something that they can’t do in their overcrowded dwellings.
Taking this idea further, RMA Architects have continued this exercise and research to explore how our proposed design configuration could be localized for different slum communities by sourcing local materials and implementing local craft trades. This entire project and ongoing research has been a pro bono effort by the firm for the Slum Dwellers Association and SPARC.