In a world where every one out of six people is considered a squatter, Metro Manila, Philippines is not alone. There, poverty is characterized by 85,000 families across the city, who build provisional homes and communities for themselves on public and private land that they do not own. Even though squatting is undeniably industrious, the informal settlements cause not only land-use problems for the city, but also uncontrolled public waste, water contamination, flooding, disease, and traffic obstruction, among others. Standard government and private sector responses are insufficient methods for replacement housing, even the most successful approach to date, Gawad Kalinga. A common denominator of past and current programs is a lack of socio-culturally sensitive housing design that can meet the needs of the diverse populations who inhabit the settlements. The classic theory of Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language will provide insight into a design vocabulary that responds more appropriately to the needs and desires of its residents, and is applicable at all scales.
Nowhere are the implications of squatting more evident in Manila, than in the Payatas area of Quezon City. Located in the northeastern part of Metro Manila, Payatas is characterized by the 40 meter (130 ft) garbage dump that its residents live and work on, earning about 100 pesos ($2) a day if they are lucky. The need for proper housing for this community, struggling to live in an environment that is a breeding ground for disease and flooding, where flies swarm constantly, and the rancid smell of rotting waste and sound of dump trucks never cease, is dire and palpable.
Therefore, the main question that this thesis seeks to explore is: Due to the fact that standard urban housing models do not respond well to the particular needs of site and culture, learning from the deficiencies of Gawad Kalinga as an example, can a new urban housing vocabulary be developed using Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language as a framework for design, and the Payatas squatter community in Quezon City, Philippines as a case study?