Investigating the incremental city

Savda Ghewra in Delhi, India

Julia King, PhD Research Thesis

Incremental City, the Interconnectedness of Making and Town


Recent scholarship has highlighted the need for more inclusive urban development to abate the capitalist neoliberal narrative which questions the right of the poor to participate equally in city life. This debate goes beyond the politics of occupation and challenges the processes by which the city is made. The research learns from methodology of anthropology (and sociology) with a focus on participatory methods in combination with architectural research and spatial analysis.

The research uses the term ‘incrementalism’ as a way of investigating and theorizing ‘city’. ‘Incrementalism’ is seen as an alternative to high capital, centralized, hierarchical and inflexible approaches that have dominated ‘master planned’ urbanism.

The research examines this approach in the specific context of Delhi and its slum resettlement communities, principally the peri-urban resettlement colony of Savda Ghevra. Asking the question does ‘incrementalism’, defined within the context of sharing by collaborative making, as a way of making the ‘city’ result in human freedoms and a human economy.

The research argues that there is a direct relationship between freedom for collaboration and the making of the built environment. By a series of practice-led live projects the research documents and analyses existing and proposes new forms of social collaboration and sharing, in Savda Ghevra.

The thesis argues that people empower themselves socially and polically – craft a civic order - by being active participants in the process of making; a process characterized by sharing and incremental improvements, additions, and developments. It also concludes that opportunities for engagement which are lost in large scale, one-stop highly capitalised projects are more readily available during incremental change. Furthermore through engagement with the incremental city/ town/neighbourhood, through shared making the sum total of human freedoms and capacities can be enhanced leading to a more consolidated and hence safer and more durable city neighbourhoods.

Research interests

Housing, infrastructure (water and sanitation), urban planning, development and participatory design processes.

Current research activities

The Core House(ing) Project

The Potty Project

Community-based total sanitation

Centre for Policy Research Workshop Series

Paradigm Shifts in Housing: Information and Incremental Housing

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Julia King

Supervisors: Prof. Peter Carl, Prof. Maurice Mitchell

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