Planning for Architecture and Urban Conservation in Mumbai?s Historic Fort District

Mumbai’s urban identity has been in flux since its founding as a colonial port city. Its economy in the post-colonial phase of its history has transitioned from trade-based to a service-based one. And in the past five decades, Mumbai’s population has grown from 6 million to close to 20 million thus putting enormous pressure on its physical as well as social infrastructure and creating enormous tensions between conservation and development. Although by Indian standards, Mumbai is a relatively young city, its short history has bequeathed a range of architectural styles and urban formations. Mumbai’s historic buildings and historic ensembles reveal the changing priorities and aspirations of citizens through time. In this broader landscape the one area that stands out as a codifier of the city’s colonial history is the historic core referred to as the Fort Area.

Mumbai’s Fort Precinct is the iconic image center of the city that is currently undergoing a state of flux. On the one hand, the heritage conservation movement has been relatively successful in protecting several landmark buildings and areas. On the other hand, there are contemporary development pressures from massive infrastructure projects that are underway. While the Fort had an indispensable defensive and subsequently commercial role to colonial Bombay, in modern-day Mumbai, the area has taken on new meaning and a range of new purposes.

The studio would focus on creating a series of strategies for different parts of Mumbai’s historic district at different scales. The intent of this exercise is to create imaginations for the Fort Area to not only consolidate its integrity as a historic precinct, but also connect, respond, and react to contemporary aspirations in the city. Students will engage in design and planning exercises across three scales – city, ward, and site. From these exercises, we will work towards a comprehensive strategy for the Fort Area – one that can weave together the area’s historic architecture, modern realities, and emerging aspirations as we understand these impulses.