Cyrille Hanappe, architect: “In Mayotte, slums are a lesser evil”


Slum district of Kawéni, in Mayotte, on April 30, 2023.

Co-founder of the AIR Architectures agency, Cyrille Hanappe is educational director, with Pascal Chombart de Lauwe, of the diploma of specialization and deepening in architecture “major risks” at the National School of Architecture of Paris-Belleville. With his students, he notably analyzed the situation of the slums of Essonne (as part of the collective Pole for the exploration of urban resources and the “jungle” of Calais, and carried out a certain number of developments on site. This work has taken him to Mayotte, where he is currently developing, with his agency, a series of projects. He is now calling for the preservation of the sheet metal houses that the government is seeking to demolish as part of the operation ” Wuambushu”, launched on Monday April 24.

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What brought you to Mayotte?

In 2015, I published a column on slums in Release. People from Mamoudzou town hall read it. They were thinking, at the time, about how they could deal with the slums of the village of Kawéni within the framework of the New National Program for Urban Renewal, and they called me to ask me for a study. Kawéni is an annex city of Mamoudzou. It is the economic lung of the island which generates a third of the GDP and which shelters at the same time the largest slums in France – and even in Europe.

The population of these slums is closely linked to that of the city – much more than is officially recognized. She is very diverse. There’s the sordid classic of woman number two. There is the Mahorais who builds a cheap house to rent it – 2,000 euros for construction, 50 euros for rent per month, it’s very profitable. We meet there the security guard of the hotel, the waitress of the restaurant, all kinds of people who make the economy of the island run…

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In Mayotte, rents are very expensive – comparable to those of some French cities. While the poverty rate is completely insane. This is due to the glaring lack of housing. Two or three years ago, there were 230 social housing units on the island. In total ! Today, there would be 1,800 in more or less advanced gestation. Compared to the nearly 150,000 people who live in the slums, this is derisory. The needs are far from being satisfied.

And did the study lead to a project?

Yes. We focused on the Mahabourini slum. And we focused on the notion of limiting risks, which are very numerous in slums (fires, landslides, health risks, etc.). We were inspired by the theories of the Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto on the emancipation of poor populations in developing countries. We explained to the mayor that he had an interest in limiting the risks in the district, because, in the event of a disaster, he would be held responsible. We have set up small paths, in concrete, wide enough for small vehicles to pass (a bit like in the Panier district, in Marseille). The concrete is for these paths to also serve as fire barriers and protection against landslides. Along these pathways, the networks are passed: water, mains drainage, electricity…

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