finance. culture. community. environment, envisioning mumbai neighbourhoods

It’s mostly rumoured we moved out from the era of theories and manifestos into a period obsessed with research and practice within the profession. With a pursuit to structure an alternate strategy in positioning design production (architecture/ urban design/ urban planning) vision plans are proposed as instruments to augment solutions where required. At-least this is presented as a proposition. The city has its struggles with accepting vision plans. To some degree at-least. A probable trace to origins of a vision to the city in the recent past begins with the McKinsey Mumbai Vision, 2003. Principle error the proposal made was to compare Mumbai with other cities. A vision plan paints an approximate trajectory for anticipated futures and if accepted, governance instruments are activated to drive it towards implementation. For a city which has grown organically (until limited by geography) and doesn’t have a planning history to envision itself as an integrated entity, the city plan may be a wrong model to drive up against. What it has got going for it are area planning exercises to span many micro visions for places in the city. Most of these plans are for heritage zones and precincts with some earlier instances of town planning schemes. Addition to these at the moment are available studies on urban open spaces, piecemeal work on some slum pockets and elaborate transportation projects winding across the landscape. In all probability recycle, reuse, and sustain is the aired as prerequisite standard imparted by various citizens groups in the development of urban areas and infrastructure.

Visions are arbitrary propositions for most instances. For validation, there is a required reference with work done and additional information to build a case for. Rather than imagining an ideal city, the neighbourhood scale submits, a favourable receptacle for enforcing a future upon it instead of the city at large. To develop therefore are trajectories to identify areas definitions (existing places, streets, neighbourhoods) and then to build a model via which other regions can develop or iterate upon. As with the vision document an early instance of seeing areas in the city has been mostly via ward maps where areas, when identified would be on a part of the development plan and then the Human Development Index, 2009 which pitted wards against each other based on its various indices. The third iteration of Mumbai Development Plan has brought in both ideas for city vision (for the first draft the city vision was Competitive, Inclusive and Sustainable City while a dominant citizen's collectives aspired an Open, Equitable and Efficient) and for area planning, where the city is delineated into 150 planning sectors. In this context of ideas, the MUMBAI AREA’S VISION DOCUMENT is suggested. To note is that most area planning exercises in the city look at places only under the lens of heritage preservation strategies. Whatever the end list of city neighbourhoods are derived at, it requires a kind of classification to factor what ideas are applicable. Land-use broadly is under three to four zones based on how it's considered — residential, commercial, industrial and mixed-use.

What are then avenues available and strategies to imagining such a document for the city? Policy documents are instituted within governance frameworks. They are enablers of programs which a development plan is unable to carry owing to limitations of the format. The Maharashtra State Cultural Policy, 2010 is the latest in policy documents publicly released with great fanfare. Via mandate it’s revision period is 5years but at the moment it's not clear what its current status is or that any aspect of the proposal was implemented. Owing to many inconsistencies and politics of implementation of ideas for the city any vision document when privately proposed is subject to varying systems of scrutiny and possibility ineffective. Its most promoted reason being everyone in the city could potentially have a version of how Mumbai should be, therefore can an unsolicited plan be formally entertained. Leaving aside its deficiencies a proposal for a neighbourhood vision plan is tested. The form staged is derived from rumours, gossip, discussions and workshops for the main heads under which areas in Mumbai should build its futures upon. Finance, Culture, Community and Environment submit at the very minimum, parameters to structure a vision with. Each of these effectively will expand parametrically but to begin with, is a set of early concepts to iterate out from. These are drawn from four documents — a report, two writing compilations and an exhibition catalogue. All of them are concentrated idea-sets on each of the subjects. Vision plan in principle is seen as a gathering of previously suggested ideas. The working draft is taken forward to firstly to create a context of work already done on the city and then use them as a foundation on what could be a possible vision for an area in the city. This vision plan is promoted as an open document which is then built upon in time.


Mumbai’s popularity in the country and abroad is derived from its financial prowess. To develop on this sectoral achievement is a proposal to position the city as an International Financial Centre/ IFC. This is a city-wide mandate. Mooting the city’s status as an IFC requires capacities to accommodate IFS/ International Financial Services. From regulatory frameworks to strategic location all hinges on the improvement of quality of life to conduct business. Six key requirements the 2007 report requests city at large to focus on are as follows _ a) regulate deficiencies in Mumbai’s physical infrastructure, which are poor housing facilities; inadequate mass-public transit systems, IT services; poor provision of power, water, sewerage and waste disposal b) refresh Mumbai’s image across Indian and world as a cosmopolitan metropolis capable of welcoming, accommodating migrants from anywhere in the globe, c) lifestyle requirements to cater to this population should meet expectations of a visitor/ future resident in the city to include hospitals and health systems; primary and secondary schools; recreational facilities and miscellaneous entertainment avenues d) regulate prices across services for broader inclusion of the local population, regional and expatriates from elsewhere, e) develop even more effective communication of the city to its immediate hinterlands and to the country facilitating linkages between Mumbai and other centres distributed around the country, f) improvement of quality of municipal and state governance alongside provision of personal security and improved law enforcement. Words like international and global reference city image templates which are representative or known for the tags such as — Singapore, Dubai, London and New York. These aspirations come at a cost of implementation and maintenance. A local version for the global city is the ideal reference if and when Mumbai gives in to the international image.

mumbai — an international financial centre


A manner of attitudes/ way of life of a people group is a culture recognised. Culture is an identity given to a place and its people. How the idea of culture is translated between places is left to systems of regulations and policies in governance. Here conference transcripts are referenced to define aspects of urban culture. Reading of culture, mostly its location meanders around nationhood, bridging or linking the city to the country. A role, the city plays in contributing to ideals to later become India are initiators of a culture recognised as Mumbai. Bombay life is predominantly recognised as a population of communities, all who have arrived to make their fortune in a trading town. What first began as British vs the locals evolved into locals vs the rest of India at the formation of the state. Trade divides mostly categorises communities and what they are offering to make Bombay into a city of contrasts. Society is also assembled by the education its given, resulting in fresher perspectives and thus renewing knowledge. City as the theme to project ideas from reinforces cosmopolitanism. This is evident in the confluence of communities and populations who create, add perspectives of what Mumbai is understood by. An array of urban symbols reflecting these set of ideals complete an urban culture built up over time. Architecture largely introduces as urban artefacts, a stage which is representative of a culture of living at the same time overseeing the development of a future. Art (painting and sculpture), theatre, music and film generated from the city all owe their form to successive arrival of migrants to the city. The unique cultural mix of Mumbai is constantly being refreshed. How its yesterday’s documented, today organised and tomorrow planned requires a careful retrospective in a sustainable urban ecosystem.

bombay, mosaic of modern culture


Mumbai has held a fascination with working-class neighbourhoods. Chawls as a housing type for the city were instrumental in lodging throngs of migrants who came in from the hinterlands in search of work at the then-thriving cotton mill industry. A reaction to urgent housing needs the typology takes form and thus its various neighbourhoods. The chawls, as a prototype of migrant housing has imagined and sustained, is performed over a period of approximately 150years. A significant percentage of the city’s population can thus attribute their origins in Mumbai to an ancestor associated with the mills. This solidarity of sorts is representative of a collective aspiration which the chawls supported during different phases of Mumbai’s industrial history. Various struggles and political movements have either originated or nurtured within the chawls. These sentiments reinforce and to an extent validates the significance of housing type, spatial organisations chawls are recognised for. Its penchant for taking on various different nuances even with its gridiron matrix sustains appeal for discussion and review as a measure against newer models of redevelopment. Chawls are not without their problems. Divides and exchanges between classes and caste are recorded as prevalent. Though a building types its the urban clustering of these structures which are responsible for assembling neighbourhoods. Characteristics of the chawl neighbourhood is an organic development reflecting populations within a region of impact. Nostalgic recollections of life have promoted a result of fond memories of a time which has nurtured a responsible future. As building type and subsequent urban fabric they create, these structures have responded to requirements of a historical need. It merely now acts as a case study on what could be an ideal neighbourhood. A mandate for a neighbourhood of time is to effectively reflect the needs of a community which it’s trying to cater.

the chawls of mumbai, galleries of life


To imagine a city is to request a new visualisation. City on an island (a city which by God’s assistance is intended to be built), a city on the sea and the territory in an estuary are in various manifestations of ideas for cities. The exhibition SOAK uses a disaster as the trajectory to proposition a reading on Mumbai. It's staged in three parts of the coastline, estuary and aqueous terrain which is a pursuit of wet theory, a model to accommodate flux, flow and other boundary-blurring phenomena. The coastline is a documentation on drawing of the city. Beginning at politics of conception coast traces the form of the city alongside technological developments of cartography. Maps represent ‘useful knowledge’ to comprehend an urban form, its evolution and all its components in time from islands to rivers. Hard edges in maps are a result of information edited out. An estuary is an edge where freshwater from a river meets the saline waters of the sea facilitating an ecosystem. In principle, if extended, a meeting of the land and sea is as diverse as it is open, facilitating a diverse range of transactions. Agency of duality is evoked where Mumbai is an island and a city displaying enterprise in port and bazaar, deposition in swamp and ghat, saturation in monsoon and talao, and appropriation in oart and maidan. The edge is schizophrenic. To clarify this lack of an identity of an aqueous terrain composed of forts, nullah crossings and monsoon surfaces is suggested. More or less as tools of negotiation, via these components a previously rigid definition is now a pours amalgamation of objects in a defined landscape. Through its constructed proposition, SOAK tries to open up novel trajectories in the study of urban places. It tries to act as a confluence between the sciences of planning and control from those of interpretation i.e. representation and politics.

soak, mumbai in an estuary

Neighbourhoods unlike cities have more local concerns. Residents grumble about less ambitious things when compared at the city level. List of proposals recommended for e.g the city’s financial plan can have opt-in clauses for select areas to implement or take place within their delineations. In the same way for other city layers as well, wherein a framework for culture, case study communities and environmental proposals are necessary to factor in when planning for an area. The manuscripts selected are purely based on studies available and readily accessible. They are added under each head, with a goal to compile more ideas to the pool or a specific acceptable bibliography read for references. As a method what the exercise has tried to present is start processes to recycle ideas for appropriation at the local scale. Vision plans at most instances come off as built ground up and afresh without having any precursor to it. Citizens planning events gather opinions under specific overarching heads, which are then re-written into a document. Here the MUMBAI AREA’S VISION DOCUMENT is proposed as a starter set of prerequisites and ideas to align at the city level in part but interpreted at the local area planning level. Its objective is to direct available urban knowledge, irrespective of its form to contribute into urban conversations which are otherwise misplaced. Under the current planning regime citizens, participation is staged after the plan is submitted. Planning cycles iterate every 20years which inherently based on last two editions hasn’t worked out well. Areas Vision is a recommendation to look at city planning instead of an integrated long term exercise into short term small scale plans ideally customised by citizens groups, caretaker organisations who are empowered to propose and facilitate the implementation of a responsible future it desires.




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