This blog was scripted for Tuesday but due to some technical hitches it’s being posted today. Please excuse the delay.
Today for the first time our morning ritualistic commute to the SPARC office south of the hotel was flipped as we headed north towards our new headquarters for the rest of the week at KRVIA studio. On previous days our routine after SPARC was the drive to Dharavi after lunch then back to the hotel in the evening, with Dharavi being the furthest north we became accustomed to. What became apparent when travelling towards the northern suburbs this morning was that to the emergent mass of the city in the north of Mumbai - Dharavi is central. The linear geographical extents of Mumbai makes Dharvis presence unavoidable as you traverse between the North and South of the Mumbai peninsular.
PK Das’s direction.
Where do I start. It’s hard to explain what one essence captured our undivided attention for an entire session. Firstly his title ‘Architect-Activist’- I for one was glad that a precedent has been set to prove that those 2 titles are not mutually exclusive. What adds gravitas to Mr Das’s dual title is he comes across as uncompromising in being either.
He quoted amongst others Chomski and Sen as he gave us his views on the spatial repercussions of Neo Liberal policy on the state of housing in Mumbai. He put forward the interesting synopsis that the post 1991 state policies that promote the virtues of free market globalised economics that fuelled the boom in Mumbai’s economy has had an inversely destructive effect on the city’s public space.
He went through 2 of the slum rehabilitation projects that his organisation Nivara Hak Suraksha committee been involved in. The Sanjay Gandhi Nagar at Chandiwali was of particular interest for a variety of reason. Perhaps most pertinently was its approach to citizen participation in the design process. There was an emphasis placed on this that obviously resonates with Mr Das’s architect/housing activist stance. Compared to many of the projects we have viewed thus far what stood out for me was the incorporation of central public spaces that activated the ground plane of the buildings with commercial and social activity. The building management policy allowed residents the freedom to maintain livehoods like vegetable vending and other small local micro enterprise. This seemed a much more sustainable and inclusive approach compared to some of the other management corporation policies we have analysed that are much more restrictive in this sense.
After the Das session Andrew, Stella and I went to the newly opened HOK Mubai office in the new suburb of Hiranandani Gardens where associate Rahul Kulkarni discussed with us the HOK outline proposal for the Dharavi Masterplan. What was interesting was that the company had devoted 3 months of recourses to Dharavi as a pro bono effort. It allowed them I assume the freedom to be more sensitive to the existing local fabric without the constraints of a specific developer brief. The conceptual logic of the scheme is plausible in its effort to balance the needs of existing residents and their patterns of living with commercial feasibility within the parameters of SRA policy on redevelopment. Check it out on http://www.dharavi.org/index.php?title=G._Surveys,_Projects,_Designs_%26_Plans_for_Dharavi/Projects/Dharavi_Evolution_(HOK)