Rahul Mehrotra

Professor of Urban Design and Planning

Rahul Mehrotra is Professor of Urban Design and Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He is a practicing architect, urban designer, and educator. His Mumbai-based firm, RMA Architects,(www.http://rmaarchitects.com) was founded in 1990 and has designed and executed projects including government and private institutions, corporate workplaces, private homes, and unsolicited projects driven by the firm’s commitment to advocacy in the city of Mumbai. The firm has designed a software campus for Hewlett Packard in Bengaluru, a campus for Magic Bus (a NGO that works with poor children), led the restoration of the Chowmahalla and Falukhnama Palaces in Hyderabad, and formulated a conservation master plan for the Taj Mahal with the Taj Mahal Conservation Collaborative. The firm also recently designed and built a social housing project for 100 elephants and their caretakers in Jaipur as well as a corporate office in Hyderabad. The firm has designed several single-family houses in different parts of India and one in Karachi, Pakistan. In 2015 RMA Architects completed the Lab of the Future on the Novartis Campus in Basel, Switzerland and were finalists in an international design competition for the Museum of Modern Art in Sydney. In 2018 RMA Architects were awarded the Venice Biennale juror’s ‘Special Mention’ for ‘three projects that address issues of Intimacy and empathy, gently diffusing social boundaries and hierarchies’. 

Mehrotra has written and lectured extensively on issues to do with architecture, conservation, and urban planning and design in Mumbai and India. His writings include coauthoring Bombay: The Cities Within, which covers the city’s urban history from the 1600s to the present; Banganga: Sacred Tank; Public Places Bombay; Anchoring a City Line, A history of the city’s commuter railway; and Bombay to Mumbai: Changing Perspectives. He has also coauthored Conserving an Image Center: The Fort Precinct in Bombay. Based on this study and its recommendations, the historic Fort District in Mumbai was declared a conservation precinct in 1995 – a first such designation in India. In 2000, he edited a book for the Union of International Architects, which earmarks the end of the last century and is titled The Architecture of the 20th Century in the South Asian Region. In 2011, Mehrotra wrote Architecture in India – Since 1990, which is a reading of contemporary architecture in India which was extended through an exhibition he co-curated titled The State of Architecture: Practices and Processes in India, at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Mumbai in Jan 2016. This was followed in 2018 by a second co-curated exhibition titled: The State of Housing : Realities, Aspirations and imaginaries in India which showed between Jan and March 2018 and will travel in India.

Mehrotra is a member of the steering committee of the Laxmi Mittal South Asia Institute at Harvard. In 2012-2015, he led a Harvard University-wide research project with Professor Diana Eck, called The Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Mega City. This work was published as a book in 2014. This research was extended in 2017 in the form of a book titled Does Permanence Matter? Mehrotra’s latest co-authored book is titled Taj Mahal:Multiple Narratives which was published in Dec 2017. Mehrotra’s research on urbanism is focused on evolving a theoretical framework for designing in conditions of informal growth – what he refers to as the ‘Kinetic City’. He has run several studios looking at various aspects of planning questions in the city of Mumbai, under the rubric of “Extreme Urbanism” (see video). His current research is on the small towns and emerging urban conglomerations in India and is expected to be published as book in March 2019.

Rahul Mehrotra has long been involved in civic and urban affairs in Mumbai, having served on government commissions for the conservation of historic buildings and environmental issues, with various neighbourhood groups and, from 1994 to 2004, as Executive Director of the Urban Design Research Institute in Mumbai. He studied at the School of Architecture, Ahmedabad (CEPT) where he received the gold medal for his undergraduate thesis and graduated with a master’s degree with distinction in Urban Design from Harvard University. He has taught at the University of Michigan (2003–2007) and at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at MIT (2007–2010). Since, he has been at the Harvard Graduate School of Design where from 2010 to 2015, he Chaired the Department of Urban Planning and Design and is currently the Director of the Urban Design Program.

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