U-TT's initial commitment is to the construction of one new Vertical Gym in São Paulo, with the hope of scaling up the commitment to other cities based on additional partnership and funding opportunities. U-TT will build partnerships within the city, collaborating on both research and design adaptation and coordinating local contracting and construction. U-TT has worked in the informal settlements of many megacities and seeks to connect with both known and new colleagues from a variety of sectors to increase the possibility of Vertical Gym construction in cities such as São Paulo, Bangkok, Capetown, Amman, New York, and Mumbai. Planners and architects in these cities, as well as anywhere else in the world, have the ability to customize, contextualize, and reconfigure the design as desired. Dimensions can be adjusted, floors switched, and programming re-imagined. Each new Vertical Gym will follow the basic prototype but possess unique features and identities to fit its local landscape. The Vertical Gym is a best practices example that provides guidance in environments where athletic, civic and cultural programming facilities are lacking.
This is accomplished by creating a complex interconnected spatial fold and system were athletes can experience different levels of the building without interfering or crossing the activities. Possible facilities include: a basketball court, a soccer field, a dance studio, a weight lifting space, a running track, a rock climbing wall, and an open air playing field for soccer. The structure can be used for cultural, entertainment and conference events as well. It creates employment, educational and volunteer opportunities for local residents, demanding coaches, instructors, maintenance staff, managers and councilors. Costs of operating the facility can be paid for through government financing, donations, philanthropic sources, or institutional sponsors. U-TT do not believe that users should have to pay a fee for the fundamental right of athletic and social recreation. With such a model, U-TT believes the gym has an extremely long life, as it is sustainable in both physical and social dimensions.
U-TT's experience working in informal settlements all over the world makes the firm not only a capable and innovative architecture and design practice, but also a willing broker for community action. The initial preparatory steps in the process of constructing a Vertical Gym in São Paulo focus on site searching and creating strong partnerships with key actors. U-TT's past collaborations with Secretaria Municipal de Habitação de São Paulo (SEHAB) have led to the development of strong links among community leaders, political actors, and private businesses that are willing to invest capital and in-kind resources, and NGOs working to assist the community. SEHAB's important knowledge and pre-established connections in the city will help U-TT to locate community leaders with whom they can then engage in an exploratory research, pinpointing sites that can support the proposed construction, as well as communities that are receptive to it. Once a site has been located, U-TT and SEHAB will finalize the network of key stakeholders and investors that can best contribute to the development and construction of the Vertical Gym. With funding and community support established, U-TT and SEHAB will develop key contracts with local firms that will be engaged in the construction of the Vertical Gym. Simultaneously, U-TT and SEHAB will establish a regular forum for community discussions, and for updating residents about the progress of the project. These forums are critical to the success of the Commitment, as they help to ensure that the community is able to both give and receive feedback, as well as maintain their sense of ownership and responsibility as stakeholders. They believe that site-searching and community meetings could begin as early as the beginning of 2013.
The Action plan comprises four parts:
Note that U-TT's CGI commitment begins with the construction of a Vertical Gym in São Paulo, Brazil. U-TT's ultimate goal is to scale-up the program, increasing the number of cities in which Vertical Gyms will be built.
1) Partnership and Funding: January - July 2013
U-TT will identify potential partners within municipal government, private business and industry, and community organizations. Securing the partnership of a coalition of organizations, U-TT will solicit funding from public and private donors, seeking both local and international contributions to the São Paulo project.
2) Community research and prototype adaptation: July 2013 - July 2014
During this period U-TT and partner organizations will conduct vital fieldwork, traveling to site of potential construction and convening with community members, local donors, and government officials to analyze the needs and desires of the local residents and government, as well as the specific constraints and possibilities of the site itself. This critical information will influence the adaptation of the prototype Vertical Gym design to fit the locale.
3) Construction and launch: July 2014 - January 2015
During this period U-TT will initiate construction, contracting local firms and residents as a means of continuing the process of community adoption of the center. It is vital that community members be directly involved in all stages of the project in order to foster a sense of pride and ownership. This sense of responsibility indicates a greater likelihood that the community will incorporate the center into their daily life, as well as attend to maintenance and upkeep.
Across the developing world, and particularly in cities with an extremely dense urban fabric, public space for recreation and fitness is becoming increasingly limited. This affects both the physical and mental health of community members and diminishes social life for residents. Some of the key obstacles to creating and/or improving community facilities in such areas are the precarious condition of a site (for example, unstable ground prone to natural disasters such as mudslides), and/or limited space for construction. Urban-Think Tank (U-TT) aims to move past these traditional barriers with the Vertical Gym.
The Vertical Gym is a prefabricated kit of parts, adaptable to any locale. The base of the structure is superimposed upon an existing community basketball court, soccer field, or vacant lot, transforming it into a multi-level sports complex that can accommodate up to 200 people. In this way the design maximizes the potential of any city space, particularly areas with a dense urban fabric. The design of the gym capitalizes on a modular and vertical arrangement of facilities for various sports, framed in a Bolted Channel Steel structure.
U-TT's original Vertical Gym prototype was implemented in Chacao, Caracas, and has served as a safe haven for the children of the community since its launch in 2004. In a neighborhood constantly caught in the crossfire of gang wars and other forms of violence, the Vertical Gym is as a safe space for exercise and social interaction. U-TT believes that engaging in exercise and social activity is a right of all citizens in the city, no matter their social and economic backgrounds. . This structure now serves as a prototype that can be replicated and customized in analogous urban situations around the city, nation, region and world. U-TT has standardized the dimensions of the design and has developed a prefabricated construction system that reduces the construction time and cost.
Given the dire need for such facilities in low income neighborhoods like many of the favelas in São Paulo and informal settlements around the world, U-TT sees the CGI commitment as an opportunity to partner with municipal governments, private business, industry, and community organizations that are interested in bringing a vertical gym to their respective cities.