University Course | Redesigning Slums

Course Overview

UC Berkeley Course Introduction.
Want to apply your design skills to a really wicked problem? Want to develop design skills while helping create a new future for those who live in slums? If so, this class is for you. Up to 1/3 of the world’s population will live in slums within the next few decades. In this class you will apply systems modeling to understand the dynamics of slums and how they work today. Then you will work in multi-disciplinary teams to reimagine specific elements of slums and apply those elements into a specific slum redesign effort currently underway at our industry partner, Utopia. In addition to the course faculty who bring extensive design experience in engineering, you will hear from and be coached by experts in slums and slum redesign from around the Berkeley campus and elsewhere. We look forward to collaborating with you on this exciting opportunity to make a difference for a large segment of the world’s population.

Course Codes.
DES INV 190–2 and CCN 18406

Course Schedule.
Week 1: Course Introduction + Informal Living of Slums
Week 2: Informal Working of Slums
Week 3: Informal Governance of Slums
Week 4: Introduction to Jakarta Brief
Week 5: Project Team Launch
Week 6: Generating Customer and User Insights: Reframing the Problem
Week 7: Generating Design Solutions: Diverging and Converging
Week 8: Prototyping Design Solutions
Week 9: Testing Design Solutions
Week 10: Redesigning Solutions
Week 11: Redesigning Solutions
Week 12: Finalizing Design Solutions
Week 13: Demo Day


From Utopia

Good design brings dignity and quickly improves quality of life.

Utopia has been designing a university course module to inspire and mobilize design students to reimagine the future of slums. It is initially being launched as an experimental course in partnership with UC Berkeley. It’s our aim to see this course rolled out in universities across the world, inspiring a new generation of designers to engage the slum issue. Significantly, this generation of designers is more in touch with Human Centered Design than ever before, ensuring the voice of the slumdweller is part of the process. That cities are designed with them in mind. Not forgotten, not unplanned, not excluded. Reimagined and designed with them in mind.

Do we really need to design another app to deliver developed things faster to the developed world? Perhaps it’s time to turn designers’ and entrepreneurs’ considerable talent onto some of the greatest challenges of our century. And its greatest opportunities. Slums fit the bill.

1/3 of humanity is soon to live in a slum and there is virtually no good design. For 1/3 of humanity. It’s the wild west for young designers to make their mark and leave behind a much improved world. They can jostle for a position to carry out the vision of Zaha Hadid (respect) or a slew of other star designers. Or they can quietly and quickly get about the business of designing firsts to quickly and fundamentally improve slums in cities across the world. Redesigning the image of a slum. Redesigning the slums role in the city. Redesigning the built environment, the provision of social services, the experience of a slum.

The situation can be improved by a factor of ten in less than ten years. The bar has been set far too low. There’s tremendous opportunity here for young designers to leave behind a better world.

Good design isn’t just about aesthetics, though that does reduce clutter in our minds. Anything in life can be better designed. An experience. A process. An environment. An image. A role in society. We have more opportunity than ever before to dream up a better world and then go birth it into being.

We’re calling designers, urban planners, storytellers, engineers, anthropologists. Come get in the game.

It’s time to create a new paradigm for slums in this century.

Letter to Students from Utopia