Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Aspirations




Moving through the city, it unfolds itself as the complexity, contrasts, and confusions. Old colonial architecture, deteriorating and taken over by clothing, plants, rain, time, and people sits above the bustling markets but below the towering new residential high rises. The very essence of the city seems to remain in these spaces closer to the ground, and seems to evaporate as the buildings get newer and higher. Yet, they are the symbol of development, and the aspirations to which many in the city aspire, and may eventually achieve.

After time in Koliwada as well as rural Bangladesh, the complexities of hopes, aspirations, dreams, and development came to the forefront and began to become much clearer to me. Part of the whole reason of the workshop in Koliwada was that development was going to be taking place, but there needed to be a better way to activate and have the plan come from the people themselves. At one point in the workshop, I was actually asking what was the problem there. On the surface, things seemed to be pretty good. The materials were permanent and of decent quality. Most had electricity and water in their homes. Some even had washing machines. Many of the houses had decent amount of space per people. Public spaces were active. Everyone knew each other. But, below it, the notion of aspirations continued to fuel the hope for change, and was one reason many people were so interested in development. Many people actually expressed hope for change and even to live in the highrise (or at least, the typical notion of the highrise, with the set two bedroom apartment). But, in further pressing, it became clear that people didn’t want to get left behind, or even have their community deteriorate, and to them, the best possibility of that seemed to be of living in a high rise, more because of what it represented, not necessarily because that it would offer better space or living environment. So, can the highrise, while freeing up density and open space, still offer people the advancement and notions of development that they are all deserving of? Can the highrise (or even midrise) offer solutions in which the home can change dynamically over time, as well as offering multiple possibilities for income producing opportunities? Or can low rise still do that while continually offer space and opportunity for advancement? Because as it is, Dharavi is maxed out. The density that is there can’t support the quality of life that people need, but I don’t feel like it will be successful if they start with a blank slate there. Ultimately, what is the most sustainable option? Not just environmentally, but economically and socially? It is complex and difficult issue and it will be interesting to see how it plays out. I believe a midrise component, built in strategic places, with spaces for people to be able to expand and adapt their homes within certain limits could offer some viable strategies.

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