Sem 09| Spatialities of the Future

Vastavikta Bhagat

Shyam is a middle aged migrant worker from UP living in Lohar chawl near Mangaldas market with a few of his friends. His work day starts at dawn around 5 at his chawl where there is a borewell from which he collects water in a tanker. He has made an arrangement with the residents of the chawl to be able to draw the water for himself and sustain his business, but not let any other person collect and sell water from the well. During the day, he makes his way East and then North to Abdul Rehman Street and go around to meet his friends, who have set up stalls on the streets and sell food, and also visit specific shops to sell water. His friends in the shops use the BMC supplied water for their work and industries, but use this water for drinking. The money he makes from these, he saves and sends to his family in UP. The remainder he uses to sustain his business in the area. Shyam distributes the water through the day across Abdul Rehman Street and then goes over to Sheikh Menon Street by noon. He continues selling water to his friends and regular customers along the narrow lanes that connect the two roads. On some days, he finds it difficult to manoeuvre and pass through the streets in between because his path is blocked by trucks, cars or two wheelers, parked on the road. He makes his way around by using another route or by waiting at the corners, for the route to clear and make his way through.

On his route north on SM Street, he meets Rekha, who mops at a few shops on the street and meets with her friends at MJ market. She talks to Shyam every day for a while, giving him gossip and telling him stories of her family who live down the street in a different chawl. She had told Shyam yesterday about what she had heard about the redevelopment of MJ market at Kalbadevi. "Sab todke naya building banane wale hai wahan" she says. "Aur bade gaadiyan bhi andar lene ka soch rahe hai! Ye chhote gully mein ye sab kya karenge pata nahi. Dhyan rakh le, tere gaadi ko andar jaane nahi denge. Bhaiyya ne bola ki unke yahan bhendi bazar mein naya bada dukaan jo banaya, wahan unke saath yehi hua. Unke dost sabko sadak se nikaala gaya aur police wapas aane nahi deta. Toh bhaiya paani bhej nahi paaye, toh ab mere saath shaam ko khachra nikaalne mein madad karte hain.. "

Shyam's daily routine of distributing water affects his own wage and also impacts his friends who wait for him for their water needs. The new plaza at the Alsadah complex has new water supply systems built as part of the redevelopment, preventing the need for an outside source. The plaza has also converted the edge of the building into new inbuilt shops and extended plinths where very few or no street vendors are allowed. The plaza also holds multiple floors of vending areas and is connected from the inside of the complex.

Shyam makes his way North to the complex to see what Rekha was talking about, a long way from his usual route of travel. Taken by the magnitude of the building, he spends a while going around it to see the plaza and the streets around it. After a while, he makes his way back South to AR Street, to continue distributing water. On his way back home, he passes many streets with blue GI sheets covering plots at different locations. Rekha's words echo in his mind and a concern takes over his thoughts. What would his future be in the shifting landscape of the site? And what would the consequences be on all the friends and acquaintances he is socially connected to or influenced by?

On the decline of the third wave of the COVID Pandemic, the semester 9 studio set out on the task to engage with the collective experience of the health crisis and what it meant for spatiality and urban form up close. The investigations dispersed in the neighbourhoods of Kumbharwada, Chor Bazaar, Bhendi Bazaar, Null Bazaar, Panjrapole, Islampura, Bhuleshwar, Chira Bazaar, Cavel, Bhangwadi, Mumbadevi, Kalbadevi, Zaveri bazaar, Abdul Rehman street, Sonapur, Chandanwadi and Girgaun, which are in one of the densest and oldest ward of Mumbai City.

Each neighbourhood produced individual and collective pertinent questions on what are the new emergent spatialities of living and enterprise in the near future(5 years) and the far distant future.

What is the idea of health?

What is the architecture of care?

How do chawls become the architecture of care through their spatial arrangements?

What is the architecture of relief spaces?

What is the idea of the public which is produced due to the pandemic?

How does the form of open spaces lend to the sense of publicness?

What are the elements of everyday life that shape ideas of health?
How do the ideas of health and cleanliness manifest themselves across different socio economic classes?

How has the commercial landscape of the region changed due to COVID?
How has current technology shaped the nature of transaction and space?

How can the evolving shop typologies respond to the slow but steady digitization of the shop itself?

The Development Plan is configured through the logic of land use. How can we retain the social fabric of the C ward ?

How can  people and their relationships to the city be used to think through and modify the DCPR and URDPFI?

How can new policies or guidelines be formulated through the ideas of friendships, mutual relations and solidarities that set up a different urban form of care?

In the case of a future speculated redevelopment or wiping away of markets/ typologies, how can the same solidarities be contained to retain the Idea of care and health in a neighbourhood collective sense?

How can architecture strengthen and build new networks(infrastructures) for provisions of resources to mobilise the idea of care?

How can spatial interventions make open/public spaces more resilient towards the contained notion of recreation and leisure?

How can open/public spaces as a series of fragmented infrastructures cater to small existing clusters of - residential landscapes, market areas and their  overlapped pockets?

How can spatial practice retain the transactional capabilities during and after a crisis and adapt to the changing commercial landscape?

The spatial responses that emerged were:

  • To look at the relation of street, it's width to the height of the building and it's adjacent surrounding as well as the relationship of tenement density applicable to the FSI proposed

  • To look at the minimum requirements in terms of areas and dimensions of open spaces for various types of buildings by defining open space beyond open green field that acknowledge various structures built by different actors for their leisure

  • Form based response to R&R that considers relation of built development to open space considerations and light and ventilation, without compromising on street level interactions.

  • Improve the working conditions of shops by retrofitting the existing infrastructure

  • Providing shelter to migrant and front line workers by repurposing the abandoned Institutions

  • Providing an infrastructure for the household businesses which evolved during the pandemic by creating a mixed use typology of residential and commercial, inserting flexible and deployable structures as extensions at community level

  • Sustaining the markets (Swadeshi and MJ) from being segregated into plazas or individual buildings by adapting to a new typology of the changing online commercial and trading landscape of the ground level markets.

  • Infrastructure to supplement care for old persons.

  • Public infrastructure for toilets and drinking water provisions.

  • Human and animal welfare and healthcare facilities for 1000:1 patient:doctor ratio

  • Appropriate existing open spaces with some program strategies.

  • Identify and elevate existing networks of resources to introduce new pocket infrastructures

  • To sustain the blurry claims (streets, footpaths) of informal vendors and preserve the nature of the street ( nature = security)

  • Creating an infrastructure to sustain these ground level markets.

  • Revitalise or activate the thresholds around high-rise.

  • Hybrid typologies - Shops and living (toilets other services)

  • Using dead streets and redundant spaces as relief spots or isolation spaces.

  • Smaller deployable structures that allow the institutes to facilitate their functioning (for mosque, school institute, mobile supply facility)

  • Haathgadi being mobilised during a health crisis or pandemic due to their efficiency of moving around dense neighbourhoods.

  • New typologies/ built form which forms a better relationship with the ground, ground level markets and internal activities that become support systems during a crisis.  

  •   To provide resilience to informal vendors to sustain their networks in case of health crisis by appropriating new emerging networks during the pandemic in order to afford different practices. 

  • To introduce spatial strategies to ease out shifts of informal vendors due to the new infrastructure development. (Metro, Coastal road, redevelopment)

Through these explorations we arrived and were left with critical questions of why and how does one locate the future? What are the conceptual scales of our questions and what all can they fold in? What is the collective and how is it operationalised as a method to draw? Thus what is the collective drawing? What is the usefulness of being accurate with our speculations and what are the agencies of these imagined futures?