I recently read this article about the possible development of Mumbai, both in infastructure and in better housing conditions for those currently living in slums. Currently there is some resistance tot eh plans, mostly because residents in certain areas fear they would be disadvantaged by any redesign. And why not? The history of architecture is full of hundreds of examples of idealistic central city building projects that didn’t pan out. At the forefront of my mind is Pruitt-Igoe, which was a ‘landmark’ in my architectural undergrad career.
Most successful projects are those that are employed over a small scale, that provoke real human interaction, or are used for only a limited time. The very idea of redeveloping habitation for all of the inhabitants of Dharav, as mentioned int he article, puts me ill at ease. Any kind of large-scale project like this is not going to please everyone, no matter how much the developers listen, or how much community participation is welcomed. And we’re talking a serious large-scale operation here – there are 600,000 people you have to please. That’s approximately the same as the entire population of Montenegro.
There are reasonable concerns over what form the multi-storied new buildings might take, and reasonable concerns over how infrastructure changes will alter the face of the city. Ultimately Mumbai has to change with the times, but it’s always dangerous to have the world watching your metamorphosis. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll be shown entirely new models for urban life. Perhaps there will be some elevated pedestrian network that keeps the vibrancy of the current diverse community alive. Or perhaps we will simply see another designer’s vision stillborn.