Living in the Kinetic City: Mapping Housing in a Landscape of Flux, Mumbai

Increasing concentrations of global flows have exacerbated the inequalities and spatial divisions of social classes in Mumbai. In this context, the creation of an architecture or urbanism of equality in an increasingly inequitable economic condition requires a deeper, critical look at the city, understood as a set of disparities between formal urban design and planning intentions and their spatial manifestations on the ground. In the Kinetic City these blurred lines of contemporary urbanism and the changing roles of people and spaces in urban society are not manifest more enigmatically than in issues of housing. In Mumbai, the uneven formalization of the city and the blur between what could be defined as formal and informal challenges the agency and practice of architecture, urban design and planning.

This seminar course will identify and interrogate housing typologies in Mumbai. Students will work in groups or individually to examine a set of sites through a series of lenses including politics and policy of housing, questioning notions of affordability and amenities, historic evolutions of form and infrastructure, issues of public health and sanitation, and access to broader urban systems such as transportation. Housing typologies to be studied will include slum relocation schemes, incremental approaches to slum upgradation, Site and Service projects, historic worker’s chawls and private community-built housing, and a sampling of diverse public-private development initiatives as well as privately-driven redevelopment projects.

Through each lens of analysis contributing to this semester-long research, students will build towards the construction of a critical, multi-faceted framework for interrogating housing in Mumbai, culminating in a final two-week module during which students will speculate and schematically represent how specific typologies may be modified or programmatically tweaked in light of their preceding analysis. These proposals will work at three levels: mappings and projection of the location of the site in relation to larger urban systems, speculations at the scale of the building artifact, and identifying potentials at the scale of the individual unit. The final ambition of the course is to speculate on how disparate types which are not in conjunction with their adjacencies can be better integrated into the broader urban systems through the concept of blur. How do we, as designers, account for flux in the creation of housing in a dynamic landscape of instability? How do we seeking out new ways of extrapolating from the tool of the survey in a way that is projective for design? The work of this research seminar will be presented in dialogue with the spring option studio “Extreme Urbanism IV: Looking at Hyper Density, Dongri, Mumbai