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Informality as a Method Designing in rapidly growing economies Dharavi, Mumbai

juliana Ribeiro Muniz Juliana Ribeiro Muniz Juliana

Clash of the formal and the informal in Dharavi: garbage management is left to wandering animals; a mother takes her two children to school; a new be demolished informal fabric.


All photos taken August 2012.



Informality as a Method Research Group: Jorge Fiori (Tutor) Alex Warnock Smith (Tutor) Bhushan Joshi (M.Arch) Juliana Ribeiro Muniz (M.Arch) Sepehr Zhand (M.Arch) Sidharth Malik (M.Arch)

Interviews with: Jockin Arputham (SPARC) 13.08.12 Rajav Masha (Sir JJ College of Architecture) 14.08.12 Quaid Doorgerwaa (DCOOP) 16.08.12 Aniruddha Paul (KRVI University) 17.08.12 Rajeev Thakkar (Studio X Mumbai) 16.08.12 Rahul Srivastava and Matias Echanove (URBZ) 19.08.12 Sharad Mahajan (Mashaal) 19.08.12

Special thanks to: God (for opening many doors, guiding and giving me strength specially through these couple of years) Roberto and Elilde Muniz (for believing in me) James Westcott (for his love, effort and support) Fernando Diniz (without whom I would’t have joined AA) Yukyeong Je (for her friendship and all constructive tips) Ole Bouman, Tod Williams, Billie Tsien, Oana Rades and Harm Timmermans (for keeping me believing in this work) The Joshi Family, Vinod Kadam and Shekhar (for giving all support needed during our visit to Mumbai) Felicity and Greig (for being my family in London) Ramsey, Molly and Zi (for bringing me hapiness during this process in the most unexpected way)

Architectural Association School of Architecture MArch Housing and Urbanism February, 2013



“The explosive growth of slums in the last decades, from Mexico City and other Latin American capitals through Africa to India, China, the Philippines and Indonesia, is perhaps the crucial geopolitical event of our times. ‌ We are witnessing the rapid growth of a population outside the control of any state, mostly outside the law, in terrible need of minimal forms of self-organisation. Although these populations are composed of marginalised labourers, former civil servants and ex-peasants, they are not simply a redundant surplus: they are incorporated into the global economy in numerous ways; many of them are informal wageearners or self-employed entrepreneurs, with no adequate health or social security provision.â€? ks, September 2004


Contents Designing in rapidly growing economies: Dharavi, Mumbai 1. Informality as a Method 1.1. The informal as a growing urban condition. 1.2.Deformalize! 1.3. Towards new urban strategies. 1.4. The challenge of Dharavi, Mumbai.

Strategy High dense fabric of Dharavi

Access street to Leather Industry neighborhood

“Active Spine� proposal for 90 Feet Road


2.Spaces of engagement as catalysts of productive systems 2.1. Spatial characteristics of spaces of engagement 2.2.Dharavi’s insights toward spaces of engagement as a de-densifying strategy 2.3.Spaces of engagement manipulative principles

3.An idiom of urbanization for Dharavi

3.1.1.activating engagement of multiple uses 3.1.2.generating institutional voids in deprived areas 3.1.3.learning from joint family building types 3.1.4.using three-dimensional surfaces to increase vicinity productivity and visibility 3.2.Active Spine: from infrastructural strip towards a productive sequence of interventions 3.3.Borders as active zones of exchange

Towards a new informal spatiality



Dharavi: arrival Hundreds of horns bursting your year and a cocktail of smells – pineapthe overwhelming intensity of activity and signs narrowing and expanding to understand. Dharavi is a carpet of low-rise, high-density shacks, mostly made of metal scrap and brick, punctuated with occasional housing towers and blocks – formal developments squeezed into the informal, seemingly organic growth. Growing since the beginning of the 18th century between two main rail lines and a highway in the centre of Mumbai, Dharavi is a place of hope and despair in between rural and urban logics, in between formal and informal dynamics, in between interior and exterior worlds; it is a land of opportunism, of constant exposure and continuous struggle where dreams are shaped and used as fuel for Mumbai’s rampant economic growth. “Mini-India,” as Dharavi is popularly known in Mumbai, is a magnet for diverse communities migrating from the countryside in search of the golden ticket out of poverty. It is one of India’s numerous “arrival cities” (Saunders, migrants, and which have helped to lift roughly one hundred million people from poverty since 1991 (Boo, 2012).

with the “formal” city, one is able to better understand this urban morphology that arose without the participation of architects and urbanists, and despite the (often violent) resistance of the government. This project is an attempt to see how urbanism might engage subtly and productively with informal settlements – not only in Mumbai, but also as an example for how to deal with the informal condition as an urban strategy instead of insisting in the ever-failing compromise of slum-clearance.

Dharavi Main Road, 12am.



Formal structures with informal uses are commn ground in India



Inside/Outside: permeabe facades close to Tata Power House



Material for recycling in the 13th Compound, Dharavi


India, like most rapidly growing economies, is beeing shaped by recent rural-urban movement, this arrival condition is



Rural 16

developing a in-between realm that takes form physically, socially and in economical relations.




Informal 18




Inside 20



Why Dharavi?






1. Informality as a Method According to the 1972 International Labor Organization (ILO) report from eas where the informal sector has a base, services are poor or non-existent, residents are invisible to legal frameworks, and harassment by authorities is common place” Rainer Hehl (2012 p.10). Predominantly on the margins of state control, not protected by the law, and mostly having no intervention of the “expertise” of architecture or urban planning, informality is the default urban condition in the world’s most rapidly developing cities. Over the years the term has evolved and while some informal settlements still meet these the last decade. Attitudes towards informality have changed too, and more commentators, economists, and planners are recognizing the informal’s mumal are now recognized as being interdependent, especially in the period of rapid global urbanization that has gone hand in hand with the growth of the market economy since the early 1980s. terweaving of overlapping territories that strengthen social, economic and cultural networks. Choosing Informality as a method of development challenges existing policies and the role of the government, private sector and society to intervene in the city in a more sustainable manner. In the context where formal and informal dynamics complement each other in order to accommodate physical and economic growth, informality as a method emerges as a means to provide design insights, learning from the existing to rapid changes and reduces poverty and urban inequality: a method that tests the role of spatial strategies, urban planning and design instead of relying on site clearance in order to develop a complex integrated spatial system.


Mumbai Area: 43 sq km Population: 12 million inhabitants

Dharavi Area: 2.16 sq km Population: from 600 thousands to over 1 million inhabitants


1.1. The informal as a growing urban condition Informal settlements are the physical manifestation of intra-city inequality. As a result of the failure of urban policies concerning the accommodation and integration of the poor into the formal sector of society, and in a context where “half of the world – nearly 3 billion people – lives on less than US$2 nomenon that, although not a new subject in itself, is taking a new scale at the beginning of the 21st century in rapidly growing economies, and will re31.6 per cent of the world’s urban population lived in informal settlements, and in the next 20 years, that percentage is predicted to increase to 50%, making sub-standard living and alternative trade models a widespread dominant urban condition that challenges the subject of urbanism, especially in rapidly developing regions. The increase of inequality as an urban condition in the last decades is intrinsically related to the process of liberalization (with the retreat of the State as a mediator) and globalization: The formal sector of cities, operating under neo-liberal market pressures since the 1980s, was no longer able to absorb the growing labour force arriving from rural areas, nor to produce the necessary urban infrastructure to service new arrivals; under such a dilemma, Informality emerges as an alternative economic urban mode of production areas. Dharavi, like many other informal settlements in India and around the world that saw its most rapid growth under neo-liberalilsm, its in a contant treat of extinction by the same system.


© Census 1976

© Census 1991

© Census 1991 Dharavi

Administrative wards in Greater Mumbai. Dhar-

Ward population (1991) and ward population

Location of slums in Grater Mumbai: While some

avi is in Ward G.

decadal growth rates (1981–91) in Greater Bom-

areas in central Mumbai are comprised of rela-


tively open spaces, others reach a population density of 101,055 inh/, the densest spots being informal settlements that were formed in residual infrastructural spaces.


The rate of growth and its consequent process of change in Mumbai generates a physical dichotomy between high-rise apartments in the midst of an overwhelming informal landscape. With an average population density of 27,348 inh/, Mumbai is the third densest city in the world (Urban Age City Data 2007).

But instead of a uniform distribution of built urban fabric, Mubai’s density is shaped in an unequal pattern: Out of Greater Mumbai’s 12 million inhabitants, over 60% live in informal settlements, which occupy just 6% of land area.


© G O’Hare

Dharavi, 1991 Early attempts at formalization

Semi-subsidised apartment blocks

Transit Camp structures

Ministre’s Grand Project) as temporary housing for slum dwellers before they moved into new semi-subsidised apartment blocks.


Š G O’Hare

1991: Hutments at Dadar station (ward G). The most recent migrants occupy sites closest to the railway lines that spread in central Mumbai territory and live in tented areas.


Š Juliana Ribeiro Muniz

Dharavi, 2012 Informal resistance

The transient part of the deal never was conquered and the transit camp neighbourhood was developed as low rise high dense structures as most of Dharavi’s informal territory, never fully developing into the semi-subsidized apartment blocks.


Š Juliana Ribeiro Muniz

The hutments closest to the Mahim railway line were cleared in May 1997 but the site has been gradually colonised again by new migrants.



A never-ending battle

“As recently as 2005, Mumbai launched an aggressive drive to demolish shantytowns, which occupy 14 per cent of the city’s land area and house 60 per cent of its 12 million people. More than 67,000 homes were bulldozed, their families and airports or in national parks, this was explicitly a demolition aimed at the core purpose of the arrival city. Mumbai these people. We have to restrain them from coming to Mumbai.” Of course, it did not work. Within a year, almost all the slums had been rebuilt.” (Saunders, Doug 2010 pgs.62-63)



Š Juliana Ribeiro Muniz

Rubina Ali, Slumdog Star, was among one of the evicted families.

2012: The quarter where the movie Slumdog Millionaire (2008) has shoot was recently demolished.


“The guidelines for constructing an incomplete form are fairly clear: the structural skeleton is conceived as a series of cores rather than a single core; the elements of the skeleton are designed to permit “hinge” addition; building skins are made easily detachable from the skeleton; the space immediately around the building is treated as colonizable ground, rather than protected as viewing space for the building as an object.” (Sennet 2012)


Typical Dharavi dwelling.

building skin

1.2. Deformalize! “Mass housing had a troubled history during the 20th century, often becoming stigmatized as a modern slum. From tower block complexes to informal, hyper-dense settlements, projects were sometimes condemned as crimeridden, congested and lawless habitats. Over time, and particularly in the Western world these projects began to exhibit the very characteristics municipalities had hoped to relieve by replacing urban slums.” (archis, Welcome to a world of Mass Housing, 2009, Volume 21, 2009 p.18-19)

structural skeleton

The traditional modernist solution for slums – total clearance and the construction of mass housing – which is still adopted largely in developing econformation of informal settlements, relies on erasing the existing conditions in the city. During the process of economic and physical rapid development in cities where informality presents itself as a challenge for urban planning policies, centralized decision-making systems generate standardized products on a large scale to try to reach the urgency and the scale of need. Although policy makers tend to rely on mass housing production as the most

recover more than half the payments due from renters or buyers of publicly sponsored housing” (Turner, 1977 p.39) address the real issues around informality it consequently suffers from rapid

as an obstacle to re-development, but as the key characteristic that can give with this inescapable urban condition.

37 colonizable ground

Complexo do Alem達o, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Jorge Jauregui, 2002


1.3. Towards new urban strategies. Since the late 1990s, a new generation of urban interventions that deal with the issue of informality more strategically has started to shift top-down policy-making. The main strategies can be categorized in two main groups: strategies formulated and operating within the informal territory and strateunderstanding the needs and forces that play a role within the boundaries of informal settlements, the second group is able to understand the intrinsic characteristic of the informal – its relationship with the formal – and therefore it produces more ambitious, complex and comprehensible approaches that better contribute to the support and the increase of productivity of existing networks that shape the city. Although they have been developed in only a few settlements around the world, these interventions are an important step towards more integrated city planning, and give insights for the discipline of urbanism in how to approach a territory still largely in the margins of action of planners.


40 Š Jorge Mario Jauregui @telier metropolitano

© Jorge Mario Jauregui @telier metropolitano

Larger Plan Approach Complexo do Alemão, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Jorge Jauregui 2002 Jorge Jauregui’s proposal for the cluster of 13 slums in the northern region of Rio de Janeiro as part of the Socio-spatial Articulation program for the

above: Requalifying 3 quarries into a

Government (PAC), in 2009, consists of a cable-car system, a civic centre,

park (Serra da Misericordia Park) and masterplan for the 13 slums.

left: Cable car system and “Productive Garden” introducing infrastructure, urban agriculture and public realm along

dwellers affected by the interventions and improvement of precarious existing housing. As a ‘macro-plan’, this proposal approaches the “slum” in an inpotential for interventions that will strategically impact the area as a whole.

with key architectonic institutional interventions across the territory.

bellow: First Housing Scheme as part of this project

economic synergies – understands the effect that spatial interventions have in enabling (or destroying) meaningful relations that supports community engagement. This scale allows the use of spatial proposals as tools to allow strategic social and economic activities to be developed and to meaningfully (not only physically) integrate these territories in the city fabric. The critique that can be made in the scale of the re-housing of those affected by the infrastructural works is that, although intended to allow a work-life space, the development of the units and the urban relation between the units and their surroundings results mainly in a monofunctional solution that does not differ much – besides its higher design quality – from traditional non-

© Jorge Mario Jauregui @telier metropolitano

allow future expansion and do possess relevant qualities, but their urbanistic relationship with the surrounding misses the crucial relationship of housing to the street that facilitates commerce and social integration.



ŠUrban Think Tank

left: cable-car system implemented in Caracas, view from street level and initial sketch by Urban Think Tank

bellow: cable car + architectonic interventions providing services to this informal settlement in the station nodes.

Infrastructural Approach Caracas and Medellin: Cable Cars + Stations with Institutions Urban Think Tank 2010 (Caracas) and 2004 (Medellin)

informal settlements was based on the improvement of infrastructural conditions of segregated parts of the urban fabric as a way to integrate these areas with the formal city network. The Stations of the cable car system were designed to act as a social hub: each station is associated with institutional activities (music school, libraries, vertical gyms, etc.) that increase community engagement along these movement lines and have been successfully accepted by their communities. Both interventions adopt a mode of urbanization that focuses on punctual interventions along infrastructural lines as an alternative intervention strategy for informal settlements that is able to strengthen service provisions for these areas with a limited resource and to blur the boundaries between formal and informal territories. The focus on infrastructural and institutional support instead of on housing issues has been successful in raising the living standards of a major part of those cities’ population. Through the reduction of travelling time to workplaces and the support of institutions that provide needed social facilities at local and regional scale, these interventions have been able to raise productivity of this large sector of society and empower them to improve their hosing conditions.

Metrocable system in Caracas, Venezuela Š Urban Think Tank

ŠUrban Think Tank



Content Approach Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading Khayelitcha, South Africa 2006-2014

left: School and community center with new square.

above: VPUU project aims diagrams.

bellow: sites of interventions along infrastructural lines. The multiple scales of interventions varied from providing new houses, police station and as far as designing a new bed system that

VPUU is a strategic plan that aims to institute security in the Khayelitcha neighbourhoos in Johanesbourg, South Africa. This plan has a multiscalar approach that understands the problem of security as a sequence of events and utilizes design as a tool to intervene in this network of crimes present in the city fabric. The scale of the physical planning is composed of: (1) Urban Design Planning focusing on the site as a whole, (2) Precinct Plans focusing on the neighbourhood scale, (3) Project Plans focusing in public spaces design and (4) Architectonic Interventions or ‘Active Boxes’ or building interventions in critical sites where the crime rate was highest. Because of its focus on a

maxmizes space

a multiscalar way and to not only reduce crime in the area, but, at the same time improve living conditions, educational and institutional services and to provide job opportunities for the existing population (VPUU Khayelitcha Report, Available in:



Vertical Gymnasium Chacao, Caracas, 2004 by Urban Think Tank

Lessons of the new generation A planning strategy for the informal that uses a multiscalar approach and engages multiple agents in the city, as seen in the examples of this new top-down and bottom-up approaches in the decision making and design probecome part of a larger network and complement each other and the impact a whole. An important step forward of this new generation of interventions is the acknowledgment of the role of design as a enabler of diverse interests to cohabitate in urban interventions. The main spatial strategies of these recent approaches rely on the role of infrastructure and the importance of the settlements: moving the focus from away exclusively dealing with housing and infrastructural scales and expanding the range of interventions that aim to address the issue of informality though (1) the engagement of multiple agents, (2) offering an integrated approach to multiple scales of developments, (3). acknowledging the intrinsic relationship between housing and economic activity, (4) institutional support and public space requirements, this new generation of urban approaches show a far better result in improving living conditions and reducing urban inequality.

ŠUrban Think Tank


Among all informal settlements in Mumbai, around 600,000 people are registered in Dharavi, which it makes 5% of the total population of Greater Mumbai (or 9.6% of its ‘slum’ population). Even though the numbers are already impressive, these tics. In order to better understand the scale and the dynamics that play in a role in Dharavi, we must take into account the tenant population (present in almost all the territory), and the migrants that work and live in Dharavi’s industries (where a “sharing bed system” is common practice in order to keep the industry running in all three shifts), which can rise to over 1 million inhabitants in 2.16 (0.46% of G.M. territory), making Dharavi one of the densest pieces of land on earth.


1.4. The challenge of Dharavi Informal settlements are, for most migrating Indians, the only possible entry point into cities. Due to the high land value across almost all Mumbai’s territory, there is virtually no entry-level housing available in the formal market. The rate of growth, and its consequent process of change, shapes Mumbai as a physical dichotomy between high-end apartments in the midst of an overwhelming informal landscape. The nature and impact of informal activities in Mumbai has transformed over the years from one that was strictly and international repercussions. The lack of clear policies to address this growing population resulted in the formation of a secondary productive sector that sustains an estimated 92 per cent of Mumbai’s total workforce (Mehta 2006 p.249). The undermining of formal constraints has enabled the city the formal system from collapsing under the pressure of rapid growth.

Plastic recycling industry takes place in



y gb





Z hr

sleep (on top of the garbage bags)


Dharavi migration and production pattern

man’s village)

Kumbharwada (pottery)


Recycling trade and selection process in Mahim Sion Link Road

most Mixed use manu-



takes place

facturing fabric

drawing by Sepehr Zhand

mashland territory where

Today While economically the boundary between formal and informal dynamics is blurred, physically this urban condition that is reshaping the developing world calls for dynamic and pragmatic responses to address this issue at an unprecedented scale and speed. Informal settlements’ capacity to respond to the (changing) needs of Mumbai’s growing economy has established these areas as the main economic provider for the city dwellers and the informal sector is responsible for many of the essential activities that enable the city’s functioning. Although these settlements have given rise to various small-scale industries and helped to speed up the city’s economic development, they lack basic facilities and services that guarantee a minimum quality of living conditions: as a means of supplying these urban needs, informality emerges in the form of sweatshops, industrial work-living units and precarious temporary buildings.

Origins Although established as villages in the outskirts of Mumbai in the 1800s, in the city. Once a territory wedged between railway lines segregated from urban facilities, informally reclaimed land build with discarded construction material on a foundation of unstable marshland, Dharavi was seen until recently by the property market as a residual territory, a wasteland not worth ing the 1800s when Mumbai’s territory was focused on the current city centre and Dharavi was considered out of its boundaries. These villages’ activities were shaped by their production expertise (leather goods production, recycling, pottery, food and garment industry for example) and their products were mainly consumed in Mumbai. As the city expanded and the rate of migration increased, Dharavi grew in between two railway lines and the Mithi river.


drawings by Bhushan Joshi

Products made in Dharavi such as Leather, Garments and pottery are traded throughout Mumbai...


Dharavi Trade Routes


and internationally.

Economic powerhouse Over 10,000 business are located in Dharavi, the majority of which are light industries that play a crucial role in Mumbai’s economy. Dharavi is responsible for 80% of Mumbai’s plastic recycling, a thriving food industry that distributes goods daily across the metropolitan region, and the production of leather goods and garments that are distributed globally, all adding up to contribution it produces of approximately 4.8 cr (£714,000) turnover every day, a total of approximately 2000 cr (£30,000,000) annually. Each of the of the of manufacturing process and their close trade relationship incentivizes a support network among the different communities. Due to this intense ‘workshop’ characteristic that provides jobs for 80% of its population and establishes a sustainable model of urban poor integration into the urban economic system, Dharavi is a key informal settlement that poses strong insights for the potential of integration between formal and informal actors in absorb growth.

around Dharavi’s contribution to Mumbai’s social and economic dynamics – leads the authorities into a constant hunt against its physical manifestation. Instead of trying to deal with the issue of informality, Mumbai’s authorities keep insisting on an ever-failing ‘solution’ of ignoring it or moving the ‘problem’ elsewhere in the city.


Socio-physical topography

Accessible Voids

Open spaces

High-rise, low-density Low-rise, high dentity High-rise, high-density


Mixed uses Commercial Industrial

Land use

Mumbai City State Government Railway Private

Land value


Unknown Time 1800 1940 1950 1960 1970 1974 1979 1990

Migration pattern

Bilhar |Tamilnadu Bihar | UP Karnataka Tamilnadu Gujarat


AP | Karnataka | Tamilna Maharashtra

Dharavi is composed of many communities that migrated to this region over time. Its population specialization in diverse manufacturing, craftmanship and industries developed an urban model that integrates living and working environmets, and nowadays 80% of the population that live in Dharavi is employed within its boundaries. Like any city, Dharavi contains neighbourhoods with different ethnici-

“Dharavi is probably the most active and lively part of an incredibly industrious city. People have learned to respond in creative ways to the indifference of the state … Dharavi is all about such resourcefulness. Over 60 years ago, it started off as a small village in the marshlands and grew, with no government support, to become a million-dollar economic miracle providing food to Mumbai and exporting crafts and manufactured goods to places as far as Sweden.” Enchanove, Mathias & Srivastava, Rahul (2009).

“Despite the acknowledged contribution of Dharavi’s citizens to the city’s economy, investment in infrastructure for the area remains virtually non-existent.” Kalpana Sharma, in Shannon, Kelly & Gosseye, Janina (2009 p.84)


year of migration


land use built fabric/density

access points Migration pattern and physical consolidation of communities



drawing by Sepehr Zhand

Territorial layers

urban voids

build fabric


land ownership

time occupation




Typological adaptability Although the informal shack apears to be very similar one to another, it is capable of accomodating a large variation of activities and to change uses over time according to market needs.

money. Converting the space under the stairs into a washing area.

drawings by Bhushan Joshi

Clothes dying area, where the migrants design and dye scarfs for the dresses. They live and work in this structure.

Polluting part of recycling industry has a separate structure only used as industry.


which are on the main roads


Recent printing industry adapted into the houses by converting part of the house into shop.

Recycling workshop, migrants live and work there. Physically divided from each other.



Dharavi is a Dense, intense, mixed use environment driven by its productive activities: “a massive workshop� occupied over time.


Mumbai University Bhandra Kurla Complex

drawing by Sepehr Zhand

Sion Train Station

Mahim Train Station


Mahim River

Dharavi as Valuable real estate With Mumbai’s fast rate of development, Dharavi’s access to infrastructural connections (it sits in between two main train stations – Sion and Mahim – and a major road on its northern part), and its proximity to key locations like the Bandra Kurla Complex and the University of Mumbai’s second campus, Dharavi is one of the most connected places in the city and a valuable piece its tendencies, in 1996, Mumbai State launched a competition for the redevelopment of Dharavi, and selected Mukesh Metha’s plan – which aimed to redesign this informal settlement in order to speculatively exploit its land blank slate, ignoring the existing informal conditions. Due to this controversial plan, over the last decade in Mumbai there has been a growing debate over how to address informal settlements. Opponents such as SPAC, URBZ, and many other urbanists argue that the traditional Indian approach of slum clearance as a means of redevelopment has failed to understand informal dynamics and the role they play in Mumbai’s economy and that while “for the people residing in Dharavi, the implementation of this plan will be a tragedy” while for Mumbai’s other residents it would such areas’” (Andre Loeckx, in Shannon, Kelly & Gosseye, Janina 2009 p.183). With the failure of top-down approaches to address informality, many urban agents have turned to localized small-scale interventions that aim to engage the community in the area’s redevelopment, but due to corruption and a lack of coherence, these kinds of interventions have been unable to meet Dharavi’s scale of need.



Šm m project consultants


Voices on Dharavi

DNA Brain behind Dharavi Redevelopment Project in the dock By Gangadhar S Patil & Sandeep Pai Monday, May 14, 2012

redevelop Dharavi into a world-class city in the late nineties. to approve his plan. In 2004, the government okayed his proposal, termed it the Dharavi Redevelopment Project (DRP), and made him project consultant. But by then, he was already involved in the area, trying to persuade slum-dwellers to form societies he would develop. Three societies were formed under SRA in 2001 after Mehta promised slum-dwellers that he would be the developer. But people now allege that he never told them of his DRP plan. Since the SRA scheme was scrapped to introduce the DRP, people say Mehta is at fault.

Rahul Mehrotra, interview for Thirani, N. (2012) “For me Dharavi is emblematic of another kind of aspiration of the city for the poor. It’s a place that’s highly productive, in comparison to the quality of life that it offers people who live there. But its also emblematic of the real inequities that exist in our cities and that people have to create home for total failure on the part of the government to provide them housing.”

“He introduced himself as a builder wanting to develop three societies under SRA,” Anand H, Dharavi resident and one of the petitioners before the Bombay high court, said. Mehta refuted the charge. “I associated myself with Dharavi from 2000-2002. When I lost all hope of an integrated approach, I started forming several societies,” he said. “In 2003, the government decided to go ahead with the DRP; so, I told all societies to join DRP as it would serve their interests best.” But Anand said Mehta asked them to go for DRP after they had worked for four years to complete formalities. Mehta, however, maintained that he had “never misled anyone”. When the government approved DRP, not only did rehabilitation work stop, so did work on internal roads, water pipelines and drainage.



Rajeev Thakkar (Studio X Mumbai) Large-scale urban planning just understands things in a certain level; it can make an abstraction of real spaces. Smallscale interventions help to develop local debates and sense time, we need to understand the system [of change].”

Rajav Masha, Sir JJ College of Architecture “3 A’s problems responsible for the generation of informal settlements in Mumbai: Availability, Affordability and Accountability (what is allowed) – What is affordable is not available, neither what is accountable, so people go to squatter settlements because they are available and affordable.”

(SPARC) Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres ter, developing 5 acres for example, with participation of the residents, is the correct scale for Dharavi development, in his what is there.” It should be a sequenced development.

Aniruddha Paul (Kamala Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute)

Quaid Doorgerwaa (DCOOP)

“You cannot build without ‘cap’ and not care about the inbetween spaces of the buildings... this area of productive relationships has not been brought forward, this argument has been hidden [in the debate] so the projects are only conceived as a housing issue.”

“Looking up, looking down” – bottom-up and top-down approaches should come together, according to Doorgerwaa. In India the top down approach has been a mess and the architects in India have been looking at only bottom-up approaches. “This causes a complete collapse of urbanity in Indian cities.”


Sector 5 development as a prediction of Bhandra Kurla Complex invasion in Dharavi’s Future


Top-down vs. bottom-up The polarization between top-down and bottom-up strategies (such as site regenaration intervention by URBZ and housing developed by SPARC) for Dharavi has failed to provide a plausible alternative for the authorities to reach the scale of need, and in the midst of the debate – which stopped any Government abandoned Metha’s proposal and launched a competition for the least dense and more privately owned piece of land in Dharavi: sector 5. Very few architects and urbanists entered the competition, and the proposals still show the ambition of linking Dharavi as an extension to Bhandra and the need for a plan that takes into consideration the informal dynamics and the main actors – the city, the private sector and the existing community – to generate a sustainable proposal based on restructuring and supporting the existing condition. Addressing only partially the issue and postponing once more a strategic decision about Dharavi’s informal environment is already making a decision – it’s a decision to let it suffocate on its own growth. Letting Dharavi continue growing without support will result in the conversion of many units into highplace slowly due to the high land value), and, with the existing conditions, and, especially the large scale ones (which also are the ones that produce

intervening in Dharavi’s territory is a decision in itself, a decision to let its rich diverse characteristic be erased and to allow the living conditions to decrease further in residual territories while simultaneously becoming nonaffordable for many of the existing occupants.


Due to the possibility of re-development, Dharavi’s shacks have been rising in price in the last decade without any

feet by eight feet stacked one atop the other with only a rickety ladder outside leading to the low-

tiny, stinking courtyard thick with children and goats off an alley off an alley in one of the biggest, most overcrowded and impoverished slums in the world. It is nevertheless listed for sale for a cool 2.2-million Indian rupees – about $43,000 (Canadian). The real estate agent handling its sale, Tausif Chudesara, reports happily that the Dharavi shack may even sell above that asking price. If this seems, shall we say, bonkers, welcome to the world of Mumbai real estate. With an estimated 21 million people crammed on a scattering of islands and nowhere left to grow, housing and land prices in this city are staggering. at the heart of the city. Its streams of raw sewage and scrap-heap houses are crammed onto some of the most valuable land in the world. And everyone wants a piece of it. Prices have been monstrously high in “proper” neighbourhoods for years. A three-bedroom apartment in a genteel area of South Mumbai can rent for $6,000 a month. Should you wish to buy in one of the colonial-era apartment buildings or one of the shiny new towers that spring up in their place, you will be lucky to get in the door for under a million bucks. It took some time for that market to bubble over into the slums, but today prices for tenement rooms and scrap-metal shacks it,” said Mr. Chudesara. “A shack I used to sell for 400,000 is now 2.5-[million rupees]” Developers have been eyeing Dharavi for years, hoping either that the city would mass-relocate its low-income residents and open up the prime land for redevelopment, or that they could acquire enough plots piecemeal to be able to create islands of high-income property around the slum. Every Dharavi resident has a story about the neighbours who were offered an astronomical sum for their land by speculators. Meanwhile the Mumbai government has pledged to redevelop the slum, maintaining most of it as a low-income neighbourhood but one with services such as sewage and piped water, and buildings that meet safety codes. That has also driven prices up. Although only residents who have lived in Dharavi prior to 2000 are technically eligible for new housing, there is a perceived immense value in being in situ when the makeover comes. That project has been stalled by bureaucracy, corruption and poor planning for more than eight years. But in January, the government said that all housing dating back to 1995 would be “regularized,” meaning people would be given title documents, and so sparked a new wave of hope for improvement,

Mohan Shinde moved to Dharavi 40 years ago from a village in the south of Maharashtra; he and other new arrivals reclaimed the land they rupee – which over the years he has upgraded to a two-story cement building. Current value: approximately 1.5-million rupees, or $30,000. “We’d never think of leaving, because it’s an amazing place almost in the middle of the city,” said Mr. Shinde, who is a building contractor. “The problem is, it’s a slum.” The government has promised redevelopment for as long as he’s lived there, he added. He’s not holding his breath. for education or starting a business, because then they will have no way of buying back into the market, explained Mr. Arputham. -

Mr. Chudesara said the majority of clients he deals with are reluctantly selling their vi for a generation and outgrown it now that the children have children of their own – cause of an emergency need for cash for things like health care bills or a dowry. to relocate to a slum that is 60 kilometres away, on the far reaches of the city,


property because they have lived in Dharathe family divides up the sale price – or beBut once they sell, he explained, they have and that’s deadly for employment prospects.

The owner of 372 Bagicha Compound, the two-room shack on the alley off an alley, is Samir Mohammed Modan, proprietor of a thriving cellphone business in Dharavi. He bought the house for 14,000 rupees in 1981, and as you might intuit, he is quite pleased at the idea he’ll get 2.5-million rupees when he sells. Mr. Modan said he going to put that money right back into the real estate market, buying another two-room dwelling. But this one is on a wider alley, has multiple windows, and a water standpipe out front. He expects to pay 35-million rupees for it, about $69,000. “It’s a really good deal,” he said.”

2012 proposal for sector 5 by Government Re-housing allocated territory Land for design Proposal Sector 5 strategy: 330 tenements will be constructed in

(State Government Housing Agency) will fund the project from its own budget and recover the costs from the sale of approximately 5,000 homes in the open market.



Connections, New Uses” Strategy To start providing answers to Dharavi’s future, a proposal needs to be elaborated that does not erase the existing conditions, but instead works with between top-down and bottom-up urban strategies, a multiscalar design approach that address the many layers in Dharavi besides its land value should be taken into consideration. Instead of facing Dharavi just as a blank slate for real estate market speculations or as a segregated piece of land with independent urban dynamics, this work argues for a productive dialogue between formal and informal settlements. Understanding growth and how it takes shape in the political, economic and spatial spheres is essential for conceiving spatial plans that can intervene in the context of informal settlements. For Mumbai, it’s time to understand and take advantage of the arrival phenomenon in its full potential – in order to generate stable economic growth so that Mumbai continues rising after this initial wave of economic prosperity – instead of neglecting this phenomenon until it becomes an overwhelming problem and dealing with the issue in a temporary way, generating other larger problems for the city in the future. Rather then dealing with informality as a parasitic condition in urban settlements, the shift of policies towards the recognition of informality as the main mode of urbanization of the 21st century, especially in rapidly growing economies like Mumbai, can trigger a form of urbanization that is able to -

urban development. If the government is not able to provide welfare facilities for the majority of its population, it should provide institutional support, and incentives for the informal system in order to allow this alternative mode of economic activity to become more productive, therefore empowering the city’s largest population.


of the core

Relocation of existing activities of the territory with other urban agents within informal territory


Through learning and discerning what should be preserved and what to erase in Dharavi, a dialogue between formal and informal urban fabrics that addresses the issue of poverty and urban inequality can be established. logic in order to strategically link formal and informal territories through the interaction with other urban agents (Bandra Kurla Complex and University of Mumbai), developing relationships among different actors as a means of improving living conditions and increasing productivity for this crucial urban laboratory.






University of Mumbai

Bhandra Kurla Complex

Sector 5



In order to de-densify the central core, the role of ‘spaces of engagement’ enabling a productive relationship between different communities and designing an active spine as a sequence of mutually reinforcing interventions, establishing new connections with surrounding and inserting new uses within informal territory with the aim of linking formal and informal territories.


Mithi River and the expanding edge: In order to deal with precarious and intense fabric at the edge of Dharavi, where most new migrants are curof basic infrastructure and the expansion of facilities in order to re-locate with a growth restriction through the design of a water-edge along Mithi river.


and relocation of recycling industry to allow further growth: land currently under-used by the railway company; expansion of the industry towards Mahim Dock (currently underused); establishing new connections with Mahim Train Station and inserting new institutional uses that engage formal and informal actors at this major transport junction.


Sector 5 as an industry based innovation neighborhood: Relocation of industrial living units from the core, establishing new connections with surrounding territory through the insertion of physical links and new uses encouraging new synergies between the existing industries of Dharavi with Bhandra Kurla Complex and Mumbai University



2. Spaces of engagement as catalysts of productive systems Between interior and exterior, between public and private, between formal and informal, between individual and shared spaces – spaces of engagement is the zone of maximum exchange and socialization, blurring boundaries and generating a ‘productive realm’ of interactions. Looking at spaces of engagement – where public and private activities blur among individual and shared spaces – and how their physical and behavioMethod can emerge as “an idiom of urbanization, a logic though which differential spatial value [can be] produced and managed” Roy, Ananya, in Angéli, Mark & Hehl, Rainer (2012). The analysis of such spaces has the potential to unlock new planning methods to spatially integrate ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ environments since it can grasp how these economic, political and social relationships are translated in physical terms. If Dharavi’s vibrancy and productivity is to be kept – and enhanced – by future development of its territory, instead of a process of alienation and focus on a unilateral source of development, an intervention should enhance the potentials of different agents interaction and their engagement as a shift in catalysts of productive systems, a design proposal can express multiscalar design ambitions and, through the exploration of the blurred relationship between public and private realms, enable the “productive realm” to emerge. This section will focus in learning from existing spaces of engagements that structures Dharavi’s support network among its diverse communities and extracting and manipulating design principles to be implemented in a multiscalar planning strategy.





4 2










2.1. Spaces of engagement: key characteristics “whether the public environment invites or repels is, among other things, a question of how the public environment is placed in relation to the private, and how the border zone between the two areas is designed.” (Gehl, J. 1971). This section will focus in the exploration of the border zone condition as a design tool for Dharavi, to do so three external examples are taken in consideration in order to explore the key characteristics of spaces of engagement.

(a) Enable a vicinity network to be formed, strengthening community support systems El Chavo del 8 was a popular Mexican TV program from the 70s to the 90s, which portrays the vicinity support system of the “barrios”. Most of the program took place on the patio, where neighbours would interact daily from the most banal to the most singular activities. The patio offered an intermediate secure space in-between the house unit and the street where kids would spend most of the day while the adults either took care of home business (Doña Florinda) in a constant state of movement between outside and inside (a communal tap was in the patio, by the stairs), manufactured some kind of product to be sold on the street or performed trade services (Don Ramón tion of job, and the patio was often used as a production space). The patio, while blurring interior and exterior, enables a direct support system of an intermediate scale to take shape: in between the house and the neighborhood, it allows a vicinity communal network to be formed.


ŠStudio Mumbai


Spaces of engagement enable a thickened border of exchange between interior and exterior spaces, enabling interaction between these two environments while, at the same time, allowing privacy to be achieved in highdenisty, tight areas. In-Between Architecture – Studio Mumbai (at Victoria & Albert Museum, London, United Kingdom, 2010) “This is a distilled architectural study of a dwelling, a home of multifunctional spaces consisting of communal living environments, places of refuge, contemplation and worship. They are a series of intimately proportioned spaces that are able to adapt to personal and emotional needs. They inspire versatility as well as order, calm and dignity. The structure is ambiguous, creata depiction of another reality, seen almost by accident; we imagine it will tion. Our purpose is to show a genuine possibility; to create a refuge from a constricted spatial condition that emerges from imagination, intimacy and modesty.” (



(c) Provides insights in how to allow different families to share basic facilities, rationalizing service provision in order to reach scale of need: Spaces of engagement have the potential to act in interior spaces as means to provide basic services and allow a more intimate relationship among recent arrival individuals/families. Translating the example of 37A Kings Terrace apartment, where three non-related individuals share common areas (toilets, kitchen and living room) in order to afford a living space in Central London, in dense areas, spaces of engagement can take shape in intespatial needs. The rooms are where one controls privacy over the choice of closing or not the door. Storage, bathroom facilities, living room and kitchen are shared spaces where the individuals engage, sharing meals and the latest news. This system allows not only the rationalization of space, but of chores: by dividing cleaning times, picking each other mail or doing the grocery, the individuals can spend more of their time on work or leisure and are more productive in their daily activities.


Proposed intervention for Dharavi’s Spaces of Engagement


of engagement as a de-densifying strategy. or what it should be.” Koolhaas and Mau (1995) Dharavi’s physical characteristics and the behavioral potentials of spaces of serves and enhances these exchange spaces that are ussually erradicated in the formalization process. Two main aspects should be taken in account: Dharavi’s organizational hierarchy and its contribution towards the understanding of spaces of engagement in the informal context; and Dharavi’s recent formalization spatial tendency. By contrasting and manipulating these principles, intervention tools are be shaped for this territory.


Community Center

the productive realm

Existing neighborhood in Dharavi



mix of activities within the block

Fenestrations displacement and institutional support for open spaces If we contrast the space engaging with the community center faรงade where multiple entrances are located and a large public realm is formed with its lateral space where a closed wall generates a residual space and encroachment took place, we can understand that not only the presence of institutions allow open areas to be constantly occupied by different users avoiding the construction of new shacks, but also that the displacement of the fenestrations plays an important role in guaranteeing this interaction.

place within its boundaries: Although built as a series of individual units, their arrangement in a row

the possibility of physical expansion, multiple scales of activities (services, ration over time within the block structure.


“productive realm� blurring interior and exterior boundaries through programatic relations and accessibility to street


The existence of multiple direct accesses to the street in a building allows a variation of its interiors volume interaction with exterior space: The existence of multiple entrances in different levels for this community center allows a multiplicity of independent activities to take place. The engagement between interior and exterior volumes varies in each access point according to the need of the activity that there takes place.


(b) Formalization vs. spaces of engagement


Vertical Housing Block and Primary School in Dharavi

Large-scale buildings (civic institutions and predominantly housing high-rises) tend to be monofunctional: These structures, which are proliferating in Dharavi, are capable of absorb-

work times, etc.), This leads to a cyclical pattern of forming a crowd on its blocks built by the government or private associations in Dharavi, in order to the margin between building and public space that is not being designed and is left with the single function of “breathing space� between buildings that disconnects it from its context.


(b) Formalization vs. spaces of engagement


Vertical Housing Block and Primary School in Dharavi

Common exterior spaces performance is dependent on the engagement with its surrounding activities: “Buildings with long facades, few entrances and few visitors mean an effective dispersal of events. The principle, in contrast, should be narrow units and many doors.” (Gehl, J. 1971) When the surrounding activities fail to engage with these spaces – through the lack of access points or the monofunctionality at ground level – a fast degradation occurs in these precious pocket spaces in the midst of this high density land. As soon as there is an open space in Dharavi, it gets colonized by garbage, animals, and eventually new shacks. So any creation of new open spaces needs to be carefully considered: if they have clear purposes and interactions with the surrounding buildings, they are more likely to continue serving their prupose as a pressure-release valve for Dharavi’s overwhelming density.


Space of Engagement along Chamada Bazar (leather industry)


2.3.Spaces of engagement manipulative principles “Openness is apparently not simply achieved via transparency and is not purely formal, but has a great deal to do with the ability to adapt and connect to each other voluntarily.� Theo Deutinger, in Volume n.21 (2009)

be shaped for Dharavi. These principles have the ambition to experiment the adaptability of spaces of engagement to change, setting new tools for urbanism and architecture to address informality and to develop an urbanistic approach that supports socio-economic networks and increasing the productivity of this low-income population.




Irregular Facade

(a) Spaces of engagement as a series of three-dimensional surfaces: Because of its vertical three dimensionality variation, a series of thresholds allows internal activities to be expanded to exterior spaces. Simultaneously, irregular facades that “encourage staying activities� (Gehl, 1971) are key elements for the emergence of a productive realm. If we take the Community Mosque in Chamada Bazar as an example to explore the role of spaces of establish an hierarchy of activities according to its proximity to the street different activities, forming a high density, low rise urban block that is adaptable to changes and growth.



Three-dimensional Surfaces formed by a series of thresholds...


blurred boundary between interior and exterior...


...generating a series of multiple activities


103 Sections along street showing series of thresholds

Mosque volume


(b) Spaces of engagement as a series of institutional voids: Acting as a catalyzer of community engagement through the dispersal of knowledge, public services and other cultural ‘enablers’, these structures tend to have a larger scale then the surrounding activities and strongly relate to its immediate surrounding. Through the expansion of communal space from the streetscape towards the interior of buildings and an open space adjacent to it, the larger built mass enables a differentiation in the street rhythm. While the mosque is enclosed and its surrounding open, the meaning and function of adjacent space blurs mundane and profane realms.


Expansion of communal space from the streetscape towards the interior of buildings...

1 Larger built mass enables a differentiation in the street rhythm...


Institutional voids as catalyzers of community engagement



Existing spaces with institutional voids

gated entrance to high-rise communal area


temporary mosque

police station

presence of vegetation multifunctional community building (temple, weddings, reunions, social works, etc.)

gate identifying entrance to community shared

recently developed vertical housing apartment blocks

communal multipurpose space (weddings, festivals,etc.)

vertical housing apartment blocks

bench enabling interaction with the street

low-rise high-density commercial and service buildings with housing on the upper levels

cars and trucks parked

larger house unit

presence of vegetation housing + production spaces temple

polluted water stage


Non-functioning space of engagement Residual encroached area close to 60 Feet Road and Mahim Sion Link Road: the residual space is in a very dense area surrounded by small and precarious shacks, and a walled-off high-rise. The agents of interaction of this large area are only housing units with few facilities, transforming this space into a large garbage dump and open toilet.

Functioning space of engagement WIT Cricket ground, in Dharavi: the organizing structure of the Maidan relates it to infrastructure lines and its surrounding is composed of many large-scale multifunctional buildings that allow a constant interaction and supervision of the space


(c) Infrastructure and public realm as organizing structures: The third principle of spaces of engagement is the potential of infrastructure realm of the Cricket ground gathers people with common interests and supports surrounding communities, allowing a space of negotiation between domestic and collective values; the uniformity and lack of spatial hierarchy in the residual space results in the loss of a sense of ownership, accelerating the degradation of these spaces. It is crucial not just to provide services, mixing people and activities, but about enabling people with similar interests to gather and engage (like in the case of the cricket ground, where the sport stant use).


Thee scales of intervention:



3. An idiom of urbanization for Dharavi Facing the inability of the existing proposals to intervene in the built fabric of turing the territory according to formal standards have led to an impasse between the actors involved in the process – a shift of focus towards the unbuilt fabric as a way of drawing a redevelopment strategy that can bring all actors into a productive dialogue (instead of facing each other as opponents) is a more plausible tool of intervention. The alternative here presented argues that initiating the interventions on the spaces of engagement as an alternative to forced clearance of the built structures supports different actors in -

2 Active Spine

The principles drawn up from spaces of engagement will be explored in a

new connections and new uses though its territory with the aim of linking formal and informal territories, three main interventions are proposed: 1

Nodes of support:


existing fabric through nodes of support. 2

Active Spine: transforming 90 Feet Road from infrastructural strip towards a productive sequence of interventions that aim to diminish the gap between formal and informal territories;


Borders as active zones of exchange: And the strengthening of a network intervening at the borders as active zones of exchange.

3 Borders as active zones of exchange



3.1. Nodes of support: tion of existing fabric This scale of planning uses spaces of engagement principles drawn from informality – a series of three-dimensional surfaces; a series of institutional voids; and infrastructure and public realm as organizing structure – in order to improve the provision of services (bathrooms, health clinics, libraries, child care facilities, ect.), raise living standards and increase community support in key existing territories in all communities of Dharavi.


1 Housing common area


2 Open space build through clearance and re-housing in vertical units

productive (yellow) and institutional (blue) realms


mix of activities within the block 3 School, Open Space and Street interaction

4 Comunity center in Dharavi

Four sites in Dharavi demonstrate how providing nodes of support will (1) activate engagement of multiple uses, (2) generate institutional voids in deprived areas, (3) enable engagement between different families in high rise structures, and (4) use three dimensional surfaces interventions to increase the area’s productivity and visibility.


live/work unit


Existing conditions of housing common area

Propositional Section

room 3

room 4

room 2

room 1

study room



116 childcare facility

community library


cook live

Unit to be re-designed to become the community library

3.1.1. activating engagement of multiple uses By providing basic facilities to be shared within community pockets – comparable to the patio organization of El Chavo del 8 – and strengthening the engagement of individual units with open spaces, social integration and a vicinity support network can be enhanced. In a community where its communal space was mainly (under) used for some religious events and other celebrations, the construction of a child care facility, a community library and a collective toilet has the potential to maximize the usage of open areas and engage different agents in a shared space.










work live/work



Existing conditions

productive (yellow) and institutional (blue) realms


mix of activities within the block


Insertion proposal

house units to be removed

increase of accessibility at ground level by elevating the structure of the child-

new (red) and existing (grey) multiprogramatic spaces of engagement



sequencial sections through the intervention

sequence of spaces of engagement contracting and

(from main street towards interior fabric)

expanding along movement lines

‘gated’ window as a device to integrate interior

classes spaces in the

and exterior spaces in


upper levels

access from childcare to roof terrace

void enabling a more integrated engagement

female Shared BWC community library

male Shared BWC open ground protected from rain engaging with the interior activities of the library

Community Library, Chilcare Facility and Communal Bathroom Proposal



3.1.2. generating institutional voids in deprived areas Spaces of engagement can be used as a tool for Dharavi without dividing this territory between formal and informal structures, but helping them to coexist: In a community located in Chamada Bazar, on the center of Dharavi, where as a designated public space, not much more was established than an empty piece of land surrounded by security walls. The strong contrast between formal and informal structures leaves an in-between uncertain area that although strategically connected in the center of the leather industrial district, lacks any integration with the surroundings.

Existing informal fabric turns its back to the new intervention: all access points face surrounding streets and open area was quickly vandalized


classroom space transformed in

projection room

upper sitting for events

classroom and celebration spaces

increase accessibility











stage blurring the boundary between interior and exterior spaces series of sections along with intervention and its spaces of engagement (in red)

possibility of exterior sitting when events are taking place

local cinema but that can be converted into a celebration space during the Ramadan and other festive periods, can help secure this void as a public realm and to help to integrate high rise and low-rises activities in the area.

























project room media and theater school + housing



service 01

service 02

family 04

family 01 family 03 family 02

joint family appartment




Bedroom BWC



living room




living room

WC kitchen Bedroom BWC

3.1.3.learning from joint family building types Space of engagement can play a role not only in the relationship between interior and exterior spaces, but also it also can be used as a tool to shape interior spaces and the distribution of communal facilities. “Compared to the construction of a private house, which can be done almost ad hoc by an individual, the construction of multi-storey collective housing requires a more or less sophisticated plan that arranges private, semi-private and public spaces into a sound construction – in short: an architectural project.” (Bart Goldhoorn, “Block City: Toward a standard for plot sizes,” Volume 21, 2009 p.82) Looking at a generic joint-family apartment building organization in India one can grasp how the sharing of facilities that have been imbedded in its society over centuries can be translated into a vertical context in order to accommodate an increasing population in areas with high land values: The living room space and kitchen facilities act as a productive realm and a social catalyzer for family members - where decisions are made and products assembled. Resembling the vicinity enabler (the patio), a series of independent units are arranged around these shared spaces and a series of “half-private spaces gradually convert into half public” (Maria Lewicka, Katarzyna Zaborska, “Gated Communities in Warsaw”, Volume 21, 2009 p.48), establishing a spatial hierarchy that thickens the formal/informal border, allowing for exchange zones to be formed and supporting social integration.



Favela Painting, Santa Marta, Rio, by Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn. Photo by the author, July 2012.

3.1.4. using three-dimensional surfaces to increase vicinity productivity and visibility “A lot of good architecture has elements of scenography. The challenge would be to do it well – authentically – today.” (Robert Venturi, in Re-learning from Las Vegas: Interview with Denise Scott Brown & Robert Venturi, interview by Rem Koolhaas & Hans Urich Obrist, in Koolhaas, R. 2004)

The last strategy at this scale deals with enhancing community productivity through the intervention on “three dimensional surfaces” and explores how similar strategies were implemented in other informal settlements -- strategies that, although seeming to move away from the architecture realm, sig-

In the main square of Santa Marta community, Rio de Janeiro, Dutch artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn developed one of their most famous projects: composed of a series of colourful rays painted on the facades of buildings by the square and in the interior of the existing Samba School, the Favela Painting project offered “youth education and job opportunities, while beautifying their community and making it a more pleasant place to live.” (designboom, 2011). Visiting Santa Marta in July 2012, the Favela Painting project has clearly had a major impact on the community. It is a giant mural that encloses you on all sides. It both enhances the complexity of the threedimensional facades and provides an identity for the gateway to the favela. It has enhanced the area’s functioning as a public square, where people drink in cafes and children play, offering guided tours of their neighbourhood. Combined with wider strategies such as the provision of electricity, water and sewage facilities and the construction of stairs and other infrastructural facilities, the area’s productivity, visibility and safety have improved considerably in the last couple years.


“So many people were really stunned at what they saw.They expected it to

“People from all over Mumbai went into this slum in the name of an art

be a scary, uncomfortable place. Instead, they saw the friendliness and the

exhibition. But, in the end, what really happened is they saw the reality of

humanity and the joy for life that exists there… Some locals brought out

people here. And what they saw broke down their preconceived notions

their own art pieces to show, and one man made newspaper hats for the

of the slum. For a day it made the gap a little bit smaller.” (Mazzarella, in

children. Many Dharavi people continued their work of recycling throughout

Fredrickson 2011)

the day, but they also stopped to watch the spectacle as people who had


Atifacting Mumbai by

In Dharavi similar attempts towards this scale of intervention took place in lan, Arne de Knegt and painter Alex White Mazzarella “taught art classes

district by fostering a sense of community and giving them a voice. They nal month in Dharavi, a walking exhibition was spread in sixteen spaces (including homes and works units), which attracted people from inside and outside the community. Although this initiative had a very positive effect in providing a series of activities to be explored around the territory by different people and to engage formal and informal settlements, the temporary nature of the functions, the spread of the longer-lasting interventions and the lack of a strategic view that engaged it with other infrastructural and service provision strategy, the interventions were not able to improve living standards nor to increase the productivity of the area. Comparably to the case in Rio de Janeiro, one can understand that although this scale of intervention is very relevant and does it needs the support of other scales of interventions and long-committed agents (from institutions to government) in order to be something more then just a mask romanticizing the informal reality.


Three-dimensional surface intervention proposal for a community building in Dharavi



The active Spine elaborates the existing 90 Feet Road, extending it north towards Bhandra Kurla Complex and expanding is threasholds into the surrounding territory.


3.2. Active Spine: from infrastructural strip towards a productive sequence of interventions Between Mahim and Sion Stations, between Bollywood’s neighborhood (Bhandra) and Veermata Jijabai Technological institute, between the fastest Dharavi is at the same time the ultimate third wheel of Mumbai’s development boom and the possibility growth leverage. Aiming to relieve transport pressure in Mumbai, an Urban Infrastructure Project has been elaborated by the government, a masterplan that incorpopedestrian subways and station areas” (Beja da Costa, Favaro and Campos, article in Shannon, Kelly & Gosseye, Janina 2009 p.67). The majority of these interventions will be located in current informal settlements. As a means to address these crossover territories while acknowledging Mumbai’s tendency to focus on infrastructural interventions as a tool for urban tor, where “new collective and public spaces and services, new types of social amenities and welfare provisions, new economies” (Kelly Shannon, “Reclaiming Mumbai”, article in Shannon, Kelly & Gosseye, Janina 2009 p.39) are forged. As the spatial tool that aims to link formal and informal territories in a mutuan Active Spine intervention takes in consideration the corridor concept as with separation (Wong 2012). The aim at this scale is to support local and regional dynamics improving the existing territory through new connections with the surrounding territory and the insertion of new uses of formal and institutional nature within informal territory.


“Corridors comprise the primary historical-spatial system of innovation diffusion, the progress of which leads ... to differentials in the mix of material, organizational, and philosophical innovations from place to place� (Whebell, C.F.J. 1969 p.4)


The Active Spine is composed by the conversion of 90ft road into a sequence of interventions that expand the infrastructural threshold producing a positive effect on the territory adjacent to it. Acting as a border zone, “the effort would be to diminish differences at these edges through social exchange” (Sennet 2012) while exposing their differences as means to promote awareness. While some of the interventions along the spine de-densify a certain fabric and connect core activities with the corridor, others will focus on architectonic interventions that aims to enhance the role of Institutional Void as a catalyzer of community engagement through the dispersal of knowledge, public services and other cultural ‘enablers’ such as schools, markets, theathers, etc.


1. Slum Rehabilitation housing + Tata Electrical Company

2. Pottery Industry Kumbhar Wala neighborhood (Gujarat Community)

Karnataka communities)

5. Leather industry + 90 feet road commerce (Maharashtra and Tamilnadu communities)


Intervention territories - existing condition

3. Mixed communities + Co-operative housing

4. Co-operative housing + Pottery Industry Kumbhar Wala neighborhood (Gujarat Community)

7. Mixed communities

8. Mixed communities

9. Mixed communities

10. Bihar and Tamilnadu communities


1. Community center +

2. Industrial Design School + Pottery Space

6. Opening of a square allowing 90 feet road activities to permeate the new transit camp.

Funeral Parlour + Leather Trade Center + Housing


Intervention territories - build and unbuild proposals

3. Secondary School + Sport Center + Housing

4. Cinema + workshop spaces

9. Trade Square

10. Workshop Space + Student Accomodation + Social Housing


Build interventions as “activators” of the Spiine

Industrial Design School + Pottery Space (territory 2 in previous page)

neral Parlour + Leather Trade Center + Housing (territory 5 in previous page)



s ard

w To




Ce ai’s



w To

s ard




o aC



Key parts of the Active Spine are designated for interventions in order to diminish the spatial segregation between formal and informal territories, and multi-function building: a Funeral Parlour + Leather Trade Center + Housing + Urban Park. The second intervention is an Industrial Design School + Pottery Market +

Together these give insights of how different actors could interact within the Active Spine territory.


interior space of engagement act as a continuation of external activities

square and open market


Integration with surrounding communities through expansion of thresholds


Existing space of engagement

144 Funeral Parlour + Leather Trade Center + Housing + Urban Park

Goats wander all over Dharavi, drinking from open sewers and eating garbarge. Meanwhile the existing cemetary is an open, largely unused patch of pasture. The goats - and Dharavi’s population which liive in very similar conditions could be allowed to graze there.

Funeral Parlour + Leather Trade Center + Housing + Urban Park As a mean to recognize the leather industry as an essential part of Dharavi’s dynamics and to promote an exchange space for their products, the proposal in territory 5 extends 90 Feet Road towards Chamada Bazar (leather industry neighborhood) and expands its threshold in both directions: toward the insertion of a multipurpose building that provide larger institutional and market facilities for leather products in the East of Dharavi. The extension of 90 Feet Road threshold towards Chamada Bazar allows a open area to adopt multiple purposes temporarily such as festivities and religious events, and a more permanent open market be established, and products. Through the opening of the cemetery to other activities such as keeping the existing herd of goats in its boundaries (instead of the interior of the shacks as is done now) and allowing the free transit of people trough the removal of ing open spaces in high dense areas.


split level live/work units

separate access to living units


contextual materials: textile roof integrating building with other temporal structures

Multipurpose meeting and events space

Funeral Parlour brick facades Leather Trade Center

The building intervention is comprised of a Funeral Parlour, attending the infrastructural and institutional needs of the cemetery along with a “Leather a more global-scale transaction which this industry is already part of, and living units at the top of the building, re-housing the families affected by the site clearance.


0. Leather Trade Center

1. Leather Trade Center

3. Multipurpose meeting

4. live/work units lelev 1.0

and events space

6. live/work units lelev 2.0


7. live/work units lelev 2.5


2. Funeral Parlour 6




5. live/work units lelev 1.5





Casting the void: internal common areas spread vertically through the building


2. Industrial Design School + Pottery Market + OfAt site 2, a intervention in the Pottery community (Kumbar Wala) explores its industrial and artisanal production potential through the insertion of new institutional actors like the university of Mumbai, in order to innovate and increase this dying industry engagement with formal market. In this intervention spaces of engagement are manipulated externally and internally to enhance the integration of the surrounding communities. While at 90 Feet Road the building faรงade gives a continuation to the existing built fabric, in its frontality to the existing community two open patios allow interactive spaces to be shaped between the contrasting typologies.

Integration with surrounding communities through expansion of thresholds

The two territories (90 Feet Road and Kumbar Wala) engage at ground level with the presence of stores and open areas that allow interaction and permeability from the street towards the community. At upper levels, new trade space and a new institution aim enable the community to interact with formal market in an innovative manner: the Industrial Design School would engender a productive exchange of knowledge between designers and craftsmen in order to explore material capacities and market trends, improving the existing community living condition while rescuing the pottery and other traditional manufacturing industries from extinction.

the renting of its space) to keep the University working, reducing the need for subsidies from the government. With the introduction of new programs within informal territory, Dharavi, Bhandra Kurla and the University territory can start to engage in a productive manner, collaborating with each other to fuel a sustainable growth for Mumbai. Existing space of engagement


0. Retail + presentation space

3. Industrial Design School


Industrial Design School







Towards Bhandra Kurla Complex and University Campus

Extension of 90 Feet Road linking Dharavi to Bhandra Kurla Complex and University Campus area. A series of blocks (in red) accomodate the existing activities affected by this intervention and insertion of new actors: sector 5 is where shift in quality properly adressing Dharavi’s relevance for in Mumbai’s economy.


Extension of 90 Feet Road “By aligning public functions and civic amenities along a civic spine, there is a rich creation of unity and a simultaneous structure for decentralization and specialization.” (Kelly Shannon, article in Stall, K. & Lloyd, S. ed. 2010 p.146). The expansion of 90 Feet Road towards the least dense and more privately owned territory of Dharavi (Sector 5) links the University of Mumbai’s Seca series of architectural and infrastructural interventions that offers institution model between the different actors.


Expanding the Active Spine

Expansion of Thresholds in key entry points of surrounding community and continuation of 90 Feet Road towards Sector 5


As a diffuser of innovation, the corridor approach has the potential to establish a sequential pattern for the an effective space of engagement between formal and informal territories.



3.3. Borders as active zones of exchange “In natural ecologies, borders are the zones in a habitat where organisms become more inter-active, due to the meeting of different species or physical conditions. The boundary is a limit; a territory beyond a particular species does not stray. So these are two different kinds of edge… In planning terms, here are two different goals for what should happen at the membrane/border between communities in the city: on the one hand, the effort would be to diminish differences at these edges through social exchange; on the other, the goal would be exposure to difference, awareness of it.” (Sennet, 2012) The third srategic scale addresses the remaining large percentage of Dharavi’s territory, exploring the potential of borders as active zones of exchange space of engagement with Richard Sennet’s differention of edges between boundary and borders – where borders are the zones in a habitat where organisms become more inter-active, due to the meeting of different species or physical conditions and the boundary is a limit; a territory beyond which a particular species does not stray – a strategy for a large scale service with the aim to enhance its border condition as an active zone of exchange where different communities can engage. The location of the interventions they will take shape though squares, parks, schools, clinics, etc.


Infrastructural support:

Expanding sewage, water and electricity services provision thoughout Dharavi’s territory.


Paving and supplying more hygienic drainage system to streets thoughout Dharavi’s territory.

Intervening in the ‘three dimensional surfaces through the substitution of tenuous material to other modes of construction in order to raise living conditions and secure of tenure.

Public realm and institutional interventions:

“Public space strategies can provide critical pockets within a settlement that foster both social processes (gathering space, community building) and spatial processes (legibility, hierarchy).� Yen, Bethan L. (2011 p.21). Public realm and institutional interventions can show us how if we start to look at the border as an active zone of exchange instead of a boundary, they have the potential to engage different communities blurring socio-cultural and physical boundaries.

In order to avoid the problems of acupunctural insertions scattered around the territory to engage with each other systematically, public realm and infrastructural strategies strengthen the circulation network and promote devel-

In order to locate where the interventions should take place in Dharavi’s territory and the model that those should follow, an analysis and re-interpretation of the Microrayon Russian neighbourhood formation model offers some guidance:


Original Microrayon (source:Volume 21 Magazine)

enabling borders as exchange zones: shift of institutions from




was planned from the top down and was therefore predictable. Under capitalism services diversify beyond the imagination of the planner, meaning that his models of human behavior must incorporate a high level of uncertainty.�


(Bart Goldhoorn, Alexander Sverd-

Informalizing: testing the Micro-

lov, Volume 21, 2009, p.16)

rayon model in Dharavi’s block

Original Russian Microrayon: Constructed for a socialist model in the 30s, the Microrayon dictated equality though modernism: it was an over-determinism forming a undifferentiated hierarchical model that was adopted in over 70% of Russian social housing construction: “A microrayon (micro-district) consisted of several blocks of houses and formed a part of a district. Its size was dictated by access to the principal functional elements, mainly by the distance to the school (no more than 850 meters); other essential services such as grocery stores and pharmacies were located no more than a ten-minute walk from any point within the microrayon. Other infrastructure, like manufactured goods shops, hairdressing salons and cafes, where concentrated in district centers; every district also has its market, stadium, policlinic, cinema, library, etc.” (Anna Bronovitskaya, article in Volume 21, 2009, pgs.24-25)

Adapting to capitalism: Under capitalism, the Microrayon neighbourhood model centered around institutions proved to be a challenge. The choice offered by the capitalist system proposed, for example, that rather than simply attending the school you live next to (because under that system all schools were in theory the same quality), parents would choose instead according to its quality and maths classes or the other a better music programme, etc. Making distance a secondary priority, capitalism resulted in two problems for the Microrayon: the overload of the existing infrastructure by vehicles and the disturbance of the centered model of a calm neighbourhood – since all the cars accessing any of the institutions had to use the internal road system of the microrayon. The alternative proposed is to engage with Sennet’s border strategy, locating institutions at the periphery of the neighbourhood model close to the priand a diversity of institutions along primary roads. Its important to clear out that the proposition of this work is not to adopt the high-rise form of the microrayon, but to learn from it how to enable a neigborhood to be supported by institutional provision.

The need for the re-introduction of the urban block: “capitalism required the re-introduction of the urban block with its intermediary space between public and private. In fact the gated housing complex is

building proper forms a natural border between public and private. Moreover, the building can be made accessible from public space at any point, meaning that public program can easily be integrated. […] It also solves the problem of monofunctionality: it allows the development of a mix between private and public program.” (Bart Goldhoorn, Volume 21, 2009, p.84)


Learning from the Microrayon model Microrayon centered service provision:

institutional facility ratio calculation (area left without easy access)

institutional facility ratio calculation (too much of an overlap of service provision)

institutional facility ratio calculation (ballance between overlap and underserviced areas)

Borders as active zones of exchange:

In order to promote interaction between the different communities and rationalize service provision public realm and institutional interventions should be located in the overlap territory


Microrayon + Border condition (Sennet) as a model for service provision for Dharavi

Communities borders overlap

Overlap with “Active Spine�

Institutional support


The border condition: Public realm and institutional support engaging different communities

Existing physical boundary: Infrastructural lines (roads)

(ethinical communities) division


Problems of Multiculturalism Dharavi, like most large-scale informal settlements, is a multicultural space formed by many segregated patches of migrant communities which maintain a strong connection with original village traditions and provide a transition ground for entering urban life: “Some factions were formed along religious, socio-cultural or linguistic lines. In other cases, residents sharing a common background vis-à-vis region of origin, sector of employment, income levels…” (Padma Achmal Desai, article in Shannon, Kelly & Gosseye, Janina, 2009 p.97). While this clustering makes the entry process easier, its resistanti-Muslim Mumbai Riots which heavily affected Dharavi and other informal settlements. Moving away from a centere-based community planning towards a series of interventions along the threshold zone (comprising infrastructural, public realm and institutional compounds) has the potential of providing “missing links within existing networks” and to “create new modes of cooperation; physical networks will connect the territory and reduce inequality” (Angélil,Mark & Hehl, Reiner, in collaboration with Something Fantastic, 2012 p.307). Through a series of interaction points along social, cultural and economic limits, physical boundaries can start to behave more like borders, moving away from a guarded territory towards an active zone of exchange, diminishing the differences and increasing the relations between the diverse communities.




Scales of engagement

Public realm and institutional thresholds

Active Spine

Infrastructural support


Towards a new informal spatiality Shaping tools for the Informal Method in the context of Dharavi and its intrinsic relationship with the formal, its territory can start to be looked at as scale while addressing local and regional issues that can deal with informal settlements and the support and enhancement of its productive system. Informality as a method can only be integrated into the discipline of urbanism once it adapts itself to understand the logic of growth and change and

the intervention in informal settlements. Bringing the interventions together, we can see how using spaces of engagement can make a difference as a redevelopment strategy for Dharavi, creating and supporting a network in all its different scales and allowing new synergies to be developed in order to increase productivity. Acting as multi-performative infrastructure, the multiple interventions in the ritories together. Dharavi, as seen in this work, provides many insights in how to productively integrate mix use in order to absorb a growing migrating population. In order to better comprehend the informal logics and fully unlock the capacities of urbanism in such context, further explorations on other informal settlements are necessary and the assembly of its discoveries are


Dharavi as a series of Spaces of Engagement


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“What about you? Let’s say that you go into city planning as a young person. Why? You are exited about cities, and you have a vision about how a real city ought to be. You are likely to be discouraged because throughout your life you probably will not get more then a leaf of Jerusalem, a heavenly city, which will come down to earth like a bride dressed fo her husband (Revelation 21-22).” Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavour (Dutton, 2012)


Active Spine



Architectural Association School of Architecture


February 17, 2005 | In the last three months, the Bombay Municipal Corporation has demolished 80,000 shanties in a city where 3 million people are slum dwellers. The local government recently granted legal status to homes built before 1995, and bulldozed everything else. The devastation is “tsunami-like,” according to sand people have been made homeless but only 50,000 new apartments have been provided. The program is part of Bombay’s plan to re-model itself on the ruthlessly prosperous Shanghai, which has tried to eradicate its slums. But Shanghai’s slums remain, as they do in other cities, as part of an inexorable global trend: 200,000 people a day are carrotand-sticked from the countryside to cities that then refuse to accommodate them. In Bombay they end up in shacks by the road, on railway tracks and next to the airport – embarrassingly visible from landing planes. In Lagos, two-thirds of which is made up of slums, a shanty town has sprouted up on an enormous, slowly

scarce that people simply defecate in plastic bags and then throw them as far away from their dwelling as possible – a phenomenon

With the apparent collapse of the anti-globalization carnival and the impotence of the anti-war movement, could the left be on to something, at last, with squatters – not the anarchists in developed cities who do it as a lifestyle choice, but the billion ex-peasants, entrepreneurs and derelicts who are starting to numerically dominate every city in the world outside of the northern and western hemispheres? “Slum Politics,” James Westcott, February 17, 2005

Informality as a method  

Designing in rapidly growing economies: Dharavi, Mumbai Architectural Association School of Architecture MArch Housing and Urbanism February...