Shanty houses of Manila

Here's a gallery of elaborate shanty-houses, hanging at L.A.Galerie in Frankfurt. They're from Peter Bialobrzeski and Oliver Boberg, and the exhibition's called "Case Studies." It's hanging until May 23. Bialobrzeski's photos come from the Bataan Shipyard Corporation Compound, a squatter camp located at the mouth of the River Pasig near the Port of Manila, in February 2008. 70,000 people live there, and 45% of Greater Manila live in a camp like it.

Case study homes, 2008 (via Beyond the Beyond)


  1. I’m not sure if the exhibition title is at all a reference to the “Case Study” houses in post-war Los Angeles, but I hope so.

    It sadly shows just how little progress we have made in 60 years to provide opportunities for decent housing in our world. Even though the Case Study program was a product of post-war optimism in America, its ideals can be applied globally. It appears those ideals have made little progress since 1948… (although, these modest structures are more indicative of the ingenuity of mid-century design in the U.S. than the monstrosities Angelenos live in now…)

  2. On the glass half full side, this is some pretty extreme recycling! Blue boxes!? We’ll make a house out of your stinking blue box!!!

  3. As genuinely awful and sad as this is, this image is also extraordinarily beautiful.

    [mwittier = me, whether you want to know it or not. I retain all of my assorted snowflake-special qualities despite no sign-in option. So there.]

  4. There seems to be a certain sameness in architecture for shantytowns the world over. The sad part is that all too many people probably don’t even have this much.

  5. Do I see a Burberry check on one of the sheets? I know the homeowner doesn’t give a damn, and shanty towns aren’t something we should laugh over, but there’s an irony in the idea of designer plastic sheeting.

  6. What strikes me most in these pictures is how the huts are sad and worth pitying as they are made from plastic and other discarded material. If they had used wood and leaves (like people are wont to do according to our popular culture before contact with our shared civilization) these pictures would be seen as romantic.

    I’m sure the lack of plumbing and the disability to lock your doors in any meaningful way are a drag.. but we shouldn’t think “how sad” just because of the used material. The requirements of a comfortable house are quite different in those parts of the world.

    Incidentally, I can’t help but think how ingenious it is of them to do this.. to use material in a new way – and how it proves that after everything is said and done, humans are part of nature. We create our houses from the material around us – and are thus in the same situation as any animal that has adapted to changed environment. It’s so easy to forget it when you are in the part of environment chain (is that a word?) which creates the material, gets to pick and choose, and doesn’t need to seek and find..

  7. Good articles, good photographs. However, I’ve been down to the docks of Tondo a number of times (the part of Manila where these were taken), and- without in any way saying that the conditions these people live in are anything less than horrible, tragic, and deserving of assistance (though, I would agree with those who commented about the ingenuity of the people)- I’d still debate the 45% of Great Manila fact. Yes, large parts of Manila are really bad, but nearly half of the city isn’t this bad! Not even 45% of the Tondo area, though more than 45% of the docks area are exactly like this.

    Does the fact that further links below link to squatter cities in the United States mean that we’re supposed to look at these pictures and feel good that our homeless don’t have it so bad?

    SCK, Johnson City, TN

  8. While I can also appreciate the fact that this stuff was literally built out of nothing, I can ‘t escape phrases like “10,000 dead in mudslide”.

  9. @#6:

    Keep in mind that this is more indicative of the impoverished living in and near the city. The houses are made of sheets of wood, aluminum and canvas (mostly advertisements for cell phone providers and soft drinks), and the floors are generally made of wood (if the house is raised) or dirt (if it isn’t). It’s a poor country but the middle classes (relatively speaking) generally have concrete houses and addresses, something squatters are generally without.

    A well-made wooden squatter house actually looks pretty nice and helps to keep things ventilated in a very hot climate. Still, most squatters don’t have the resources to pick and choose their building materials, especially if they live away from the province, near work (in areas like “Welfareville” in Mandaluyong or Tondo.

  10. Unfortunately the beauty and ingenuity in these structures is lost when encountered in their reality. When traveling in the Philippines I caught a bus from Manilla to Batangas. The destitution in the streets and neighbourhoods is something I will never forget. Scenes of children and families living in squalor next to opulent gated houses, rubble and refuse lining their homes. The highway out of the city bore an endless shanty on both sides for a solid hour’s drive, with only a large chain fence separating traffic from abode. The magnitude of this kind of poverty was overwhelming, and has greatly impacted my perspective on global poverty and development issues. Exhibits such as these provide an opportunity for those more fortunate to see not only the conditions of the some of the billion or so people who live below the global poverty line, but to also connect to their humanity and see the value in their creativity and willingness to overcome – core attributes which we all share.

  11. If America could set an example for the world and design decent Shanty – towns, with dry, clean, toilets, and group humanure composters generating cooking gas and communal clean water stands, as well as solar powered refrigeration and bicycle paths for its Tent cities instead of chasing them away into lives of crime, prostitution or worse, or hiding them in jail cells for appearing vulnerable to public prosecution by the instruments of the rich folk, what and example we could set. Instead, we confirm the worst fears the world has of Americans – that we are sick, sociopathic vulture capitalists, each out for himself only, ready to bar-b-que his neighbors very flesh for a dollar, and the scourge of the earth! All it takes is one brave, semi-responsible civic leader to start it off! and you know what? Not even one can be found in all America! Shame! Die GM! Die! Chrysler, Go to Hell! Corporate America go to China! leave us in our poverty and Detroit city misery, and exploit us no more!

  12. I don’t know the exact numbers but it is possible that 45 % of Manila’s population lives in shanty towns. But not in houses as shown in this series. The houses shown are typical for rural shanty towns and look very different from the urban ones. In most of Manila’s squatter areas (urban depressed areas) houses are mostly made out of concrete blocks and tin roofs. Very few houses would be build like the ones shown. Even if 45% of Manileros are truly squatters there are huge variations of quality of life style and housing. A very low percentage would be as bad off as the families shown.

    I am looking for the day that people would make the effort to show some achievements of the Filipinos as opposed to taking cheap and easy shots of their short comings. Anybody can take dramatic shots of shanty houses.

    Andy Maluche

  13. Manila is a beutifull city! Very modern and western compared to most asain cities.

    Every city has slums some just worse than others.

    One thing special about the filipinos is that they are happy with what they have, each other. regardless if they are poor.

    Aussie in Manila

  14. Just for anyone’s benefit: Oliver Boberg, whose image is at the top of this page, constructs miniatures in his studio and then photographs them. So this isn’t just a snapshot of a pre-existing “shanty house” – he photographs multiple sources and combines them to use as references, creating structures that have an identifiable or recognizable feeling to people from many different places. That being said, I haven’t seen Bialobrzeski’s work, but he is photographing actually squatter homes.

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