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Mehrotra curates The State of Architecture: Practices & Processes in India at Mumbais National Gallery of Modern Art

Rahul Mehrotra, professor of urban design and planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, has cocurated this spring’s “The State of Architecture: Practices & Processes in India” exhibition at Mumbai’s National Gallery of Modern Art. The exhibition opened on January 6 and runs until March 20. It marks the first large-scale exhibition on architecture in India in over two decades.

Mehrotra cocurated the exhibition with Ranjit Hoskote and Kaiwan Mehta. The exhibition comprises three cumulative themes: a survey of the profession of architecture, an examination of India’s architectural trends and activities since the nation’s 1947 independence, and a look at contemporary projects.

This is reflected in the physical structure of the exhibition: a “The State of the Profession” presentation at ground level, a since-1947 chronology on the second level, and finally, at the top level, a section called “Charting Vectors,” offering a survey of projects by early-career practices from the past two decades or so. 

Ground level of the State of Architecture exhibition

The exhibition is also set within an increasingly urgent context: the meaning of architecture in a nation facing population growth and a looming urban housing crisis. (With a projected population-growth rate of 2.3 percent, India’s cities will house an estimated 850 million people by 2050, while the proportion of the nation’s population in cities is expected to rise from the present 30 percent to 40 percent by 2030.)

These issues have been of profound interest to Mehrotra, who has written and lectured extensively on conservation and urban planning in India. He has been actively engaged with civic and urban affairs in Mumbai, including a 10-year tenure as executive director of the Urban Design Research Institute. His ongoing research is focused on evolving a theoretical framework for designing in conditions of informal growth—what he refers to as the “Kinetic City”—while his current research involves looking at India’s medium-sized cities and wider emergent patterns of urbanism across the nation.

Mehrotra has also run several studios looking at various aspects of planning questions in the city of Mumbai, under the rubric of “Extreme Urbanism.”

Mehrotra (center) and colleagues at the exhibition opening

Two GSD alumni also contributed to the exhibition: Rooshad Shroff (MArch ‘11), who designed cube-oriented seating for the exhibition gallery, and Sameep Padora (MDes ‘06), who helped orchestrate a gallery installation and curated an allied event.

“The exhibition helped me to have a better understanding of the city of Mumbai from local practitioners and scholars,” said GSD student Javier Ors Ausín (MDes '16), who was in India this past January conducting thesis fieldwork. “At the same time, it helped me to study the relationship between architecture and local culture, politics and society.”

To learn more about “The State of Architecture: Practices & Processes in India” and view a full schedule of events, visit the exhibition website.

All images courtesy The State of Architecture.