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Working in Mumbai - A talk by Prof. Rahul MehrotraBy Niveditha Ravikumar
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On July 25th, 2015, Saturday at 5.30pm at the India International Centre
ISOLA (Indian Society of Landscape Architects) is an organization which provides a platform for thinkers and practitioners who wish to ‘make a difference’ to Indian cities, thereby contributing to the vision of the government towards building a sustainable urban environment. The fraternity has taken this opportunity to get inspired and deliberate on our participation in the future of urban India.
The Indian Society of Landscape Architects (ISOLA), Delhi-NCR hosted an inspiring talk ‘Working in Mumbai’ by Prof. Rahul Mehrotra on the 25th of July, 2015 at 5.30pm at the India International Centre, New Delhi.
Rahul Mehrotra, a pride to India, is Professor and Chair of the Department of Urban Design and Planning at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, U.S.A. He is the founder principal of RMA Architects majorly dealing with recycling urban land & master planning in Mumbai, etc. He is also served on commissions for historic preservation and environmental issues. Major heritage cities like Bombay, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad have seen his adaptive reuse concepts, hence restoring the culture and heritage of the cities.
He was one of the activists behind the declaration of urban precincts as conservation areas in Mumbai and one of the founder members of the Kala Ghoda area rejuvenation movement, the restoration of the Oval Maidan, and the formulation of several citizens' associations in the historic Fort District in Mumbai.
His contribution for the city of Mumbai is extensive and it is distinct through his books and significant publications- 'Bombay-The Cities Within', covering 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'. His book ‘Conserving an Image Center—the Fort Precinct in Bombay’, led to the historic Fort area in Mumbai to be declared the first conservation precinct in India in 1995.
As the talk- ‘Working in Mumbai’ by Prof. Rahul Mehrotra is one of the most famous, thought-provoking and inspirational ones in the field of Architecture and Planning, the venue- India International Centre, New Delhi, saw the landscape architecture fraternity and professionals from across the architecture, planning and urban design and urban development fields thronging to attend the two hour event.
The event set off with Ar. Minesh Parikh, the chairperson of ISOLA Delhi NCR chapter welcoming the keynote speaker Prof. Rahul Mehrotra and the eminent historian Dr. Narayani Gupta who chaired the session henceforth. Ms. Nidhi Madan, the honorary Secretary created an aura of curiosity in the hall by introducing the Prof and the topic for the day. Dr. Narayani Gupta described the importance of context and local history in urban conservation and how conservation should be treated as an element of celebration in the urban fabric. She also stressed that the Kala Ghoda festival at Mumbai renders great inspiration and hence the proposal of an ‘Art District’ in and around Mandi House requires group efforts. Lastly, she added a few words on the Prof’s extensive contribution towards the Kumbhamela project and the project- ‘Social Housing for 100 elephants’.
The Prof began with his note on how Mumbai has influenced him all through these years and continued to explain the two categories of programmes: Globalizing the local and Localizing the global. He also emphasized on the ‘Idea of the context of the context’. Referring to the practices of Kumbhamela, he pointed out the elastic form a city takes.
A good example for the above mentioned categories include the difference in the Architectural styles of the Prince of Wales museum and the visitors’ centre which was later developed. By globalizing the local, he meant rooting architecture to the local culture of a place.
He went about explaining few of his notable projects like Magic Bus, etc in detail. He said, “Talk about failure also in a productive way.”
On the whole, through ‘Working in Mumbai’, Prof. Mehrotra reflected on the city and described how he came to make several critical choices in his work to address the times and attitudes expressed in a paralyzing multiplicity of architectural influences. He also believes that architecture has the potential to smoothen or heighten social contrasts, and reconcile manmade environments, infrastructure and natural systems seamlessly into each other to determine how sustainable cities can develop in the future.
After the talk, the house was left open for discussion through questions and answers. Then, there was a note by Ar. Minesh Parikh who was overwhelmed by the response from the design fraternity. The two hour event culminated with networking and dinner.
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