Press release

2012-05-16

Mumbai (India)
Architects: CRIT

Text by Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, CRIT

Since the 1990s, the economy of Mumbai has been changing. The large manufacturing industries that formed the foundation of the economy until the 1980s have given way to a mode of production that is based on fragmented enterprises, which occupy varied spaces across the city. Mumbai has become a city of entrepreneurial agents who facilitate the production of goods and services within these new and fragmented conditions. The financial sector has also been on the rise. As this new economy plays out on the diverse geographies and complex histories of the city, it creates unusual patterns of working, living, and moving: Trains are crowded at unusual hours, bedrooms turn into offices, street food is branded and sold as health food, traffic jams occur at unexpected places, branded products are produced inside a slum, and school teachers are also insurance agents.

The speed of the city has intensified in terms of both movement and transformation. The morphology of the city is also changing: The cadavers of old industries are being replaced by malls, multiplexes, and commercial complexes, mudflats and mangroves are being developed into housing complexes, garbage-dump yards are being transformed into complexes for processing outsourced business from abroad, and old housing stock is being replaced by apartment towers.

These transformations push the city to new levels of intensity, with an increased number of activities and transactions. This intensity creates stresses. Planning authorities often respond to such stresses with large-scale infrastructure projects. New corridors are cut through forests, industrial belts, informal settlements, old neighborhoods, and marketplaces. Wherever these corridors are established, they further transform the landscape: Large numbers of people are displaced, property prices rise, old neighborhoods are redeveloped, land-uses change, networks are disrupted and rebuilt, and a new city form emerges. The planners’ interventions further intensify conditions in the city, a situation that results in another cycle of large-scale infrastructure. In the past fifteen years, Mumbai has been subject to many cycles of transformations, responses, and further responses, making it into a site of perpetual renovation.

The backdrop of cyclical change and rising expectations in Mumbai forms the context of CRIT’s project. It is our desire to rethink mobility beyond rapid-transport systems and moving masses of people. It is our desire to rethink the notion of speed. We would like to expand the idea of mobility beyond transportation, looking at aspects of access, migration, gentrification, class movement, and physical transformations of cities. Our contention is that urban spatial practices (of architecture and planning) obsessed with deterministic methods of analysis and grand generalized readings of the city are unable to deal with the logics driving Mumbai. At the outset, we would like to propose a hypothesis that large-scale (spatial) interventions operate over a landscape of older claims producing yet another layer of claims, affect networks across the city in unexpected ways, and work out in a completely different manner than was planned, creating newer conditions and intensities. It is important to specifically examine the landscape of claims, networks, and the afterlife of planning interventions before envisioning future scenarios.

Projected visions of the future have often oscillated between two singular ideas: high-tech utopias and post-apocalyptic ruins. However, such singular, linear projections of the future often disrupt the logic of the city, which is driven by messy, complex, contested, fragmented, absurd, and intense conditions. Much of our work is based on the critique of large-scale plans and megaprojects that represent such singular projections and visions. We would like to articulate the idea of tactical intervention as an approach that emerges out of nuanced readings of city conditions and allows an engagement with the logic of the city without necessarily disrupting it. One of the tactical interventions would be to explore possibilities of developing devices that allow multiple imaginations of the future for a place, as opposed to having a singular vision formulated through deterministic processes. This could make the projection and envisioning exercise a more engaging  one because each urban actor using the device could have his or her own reading and vision of the future, which, potentially, would allow them to formulate a strategy to implement that vision. 

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