Contemporary Issues in Architecture and Urbanism

Topics: Urban design, Urban planning, Urban decay Pages: 38 (12461 words) Published: April 25, 2013
part vii


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There seems to be a prevailing perception that apart from its southernmost colonial quarters, Mumbai is essentially a schizophrenic urbanscape where emergent islands of modernity are surrounded by an endless sea of informal shacks. This image of a city sharply divided between opulence and poverty is used across the political spectrum to justify redevelopment projects in the name of equality. The intuitive but misleading parallels slum = poverty and high-rise = middle-class, coupled with an incapacity to recognize the variety that actually exists in between these extreme categories, has allowed countless acts of injustice to be perpetuated in the name of slum upgrading and redevelopment projects. In the process, the incremental development of many so-called slums in Mumbai has been curtailed, with dramatic consequences for the concerned populations and for the long-term social and urban sustainability of the city. Mainstream conceptions of what a world-class city should look like and a tendency to understand urbanization from the point of view of form rather than process

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international settings

have given a free ride to the real estate construction industry. In this chapter, we redefine the conceptual fault line that runs through the typologies of the high-rise building and that of the slum and propose a new planning paradigm based on neighborhood life and local economic activities, including the production of habitats themselves. While this chapter centers on Mumbai, we refer to Tokyo as an example of a city that has blurred many of the categories traditionally used to conceptualize urban space while achieving high levels of urban and economic development. We argue that the potential of many unplanned neighborhoods in Mumbai has been entrapped in oldschool urban planning practices and categories that are increasingly detached from the reality they are supposed to improve. These include conceptual shortcomings, the incapacity of integrating planning interventions to existing patterns of development, as well as a predisposition to segregate spatial uses (working, living, leisuring). A more grounded understanding of Mumbai’s habitats and the socioeconomic processes that generate them may help produce viable alternatives to the perpetual loop of slum demolition and reconstruction that preclude inclusive and sustainable urbanization. We first provide a short overview of the cityscape of Mumbai and its diverse habitats, paying particular attention to the slum and high-rise, seeing them as both actual urban typologies and ideological constructs. We then discuss the relationship between urban form and development processes in the light of relevant urban studies concepts and theories. Subsequently, we describe how a certain narrative of inequality has been used to justify redevelopment projects that feed into the speculative economy. We refer particularly to the case of Dharavi, a large unplanned settlement that is wrongly known as the largest slum in Asia. This leads us to question the hugely problematic label of slum that has been affixed on many of the self-helped neighborhoods of Mumbai, often making it even more difficult for residents and small businesses to improve their conditions. Notions of what constitutes a legitimate type of habitat are central to this argument. We then proceed to analyze the typology, social meaning, and political economy of high-rise apartment blocks, which are systematically presented as the only possible architectural response to slums. This provides the analytical framework necessary to introduce our concepts of the intensive and...
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