One of more pertinent projects I was planning on looking at
I could tell I had arrived due to the distinct language of balconies, stairwells, and proportionings, but it did look like a fairly typical Indian community. Yet, the streets seemed to have extra vitality. The built environment was a little more controlled, but not in a way that most would notice, the variety of stoops, stairwells, doorways, colors, heights, were all in a richly developed manner. I could also tell by the street patterns that I was in the right place. Each one sort of staggered, leading to public squares, which were typically non-attractive places. People were involved in their activities, cleaning, gossiping, sitting, walking, buying, etc.
Each was designed for it to grown incrementally. Being a sites and services project, each house essentially started with a service core (water lines, and toilet connection) from which the house would grow. Doshi’s office designed 80 or so units as a demonstration project as a way of communicating to the future residents the possibilities of design and individuality. I asked the architect, then, what rules they gave to people when building the subsequent houses on their own, and he replied absolutely none. Certainly, the public spaces seem to work well. They don’t look pretty, but there is activity in them. So, in some ways, it was a very hands-off approach, saying here is how we did it, now you have it your way. And people certainly have. But there remains a subtle and strong language of identity that is everpresent throughout the sites, clearly delineating it from the different housing ringing it.
I was showing some pictures to an architect in Mumbai, and he brought a more critical eye to it, saying it looked like a typical Indian village. He struggled to understand what the actual architectural gesture was, if people were still left to build how they would see fit. Another person told me that many of the people who were originally settled there can no longer afford it or sold off all of their original plots. I have not been able to make a solid critique of the project, partly because of the little bit of time spent there, having spent much of my energy just making it there, and there is a lot of follow up research that needs to be done. Regardless, it was a fascinating visit, of course with much, much interest from the locals...