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Statues We Need


There is no doubt that the human act of commemoration using Sculpture is as old as our civilisation. The oldest discovered figurine is the Lion-Man, from a cave in Germany. It dates back to between 35,000 - 40,000 years ago, and is the oldest know ‘Zoomorphic’ statuette ever found. Over the years, statue making and sculpture has seen refinements and artistic movements, responded to various kinds of patronage, politics and specific place-making criteria. The acceptance of statues in public imagination is a dynamic entity, with statues gaining and losing favour with changing regimes and politics, with shifting loyalties and artistic sensibilities.

The Felling of Statues is often the most enduring image of regime change.

Joseph Stalin, toppled 1956

Saddam Hussein, toppled 2003

Bamiyan Buddha, demolished 2001

Kala Ghoda, evicted in 1965

More recently, the original Kala Ghoda statue in South Bombay was replaced by a rider-less “Spirit” of itself. What was it’s intent?

This city that we grew up in was always comfortable with allusion and connotation, which added richness to our lives that gave us lore we could uniquely call our own. And of course, everyone knows the part of the city that we call Kala Ghoda. What have we come to, if we have to stick a horse in the middle of a place to say it has “horse� in its name?

Unlike the Shiva ji statue due to come up off the harbour, this denotative equine was not part of any political agenda, nor the result of popular desire from the citizens of Mumbai, so what does its presence imply? Mustansir Dalvi,

“In the post-planning phase that Mumbai is in, additions and accretions have become the new norm, often without a well-thought-out purpose or location. The hapless horse is now installed in a position different from the original Kala Ghoda. Unforgivably, this is the creation of a false memory. Unlike other cities in our country, comfortable with the presence of the colonial past, Mumbai seems particularly phobic of any signs of it. The statue disappeared but the name, in all its semiotic glory, remained steadfast.�

One can conclude, in the final assessment, this is not about the horse, but the pedestal. The ultimate claim that can be made to this piece of territorial appropriation is its marked presence of authorship. It is the plaques on three sides of the pedestal that will remain once the newness of this project has been forgotten. This is the stamp, the final label, the literal declaration of the Kala Ghoda as an art district. This is forced iconography for brochures and logos, for future tourist maps. Mustansir Dalvi,

It is our contention that tomorrow’s statues need to transcend Ornamentation, Politics and weak Symbology. To justify their place in our Future cities, they need to become ‘Performative’.

Scenario #1 India has emerged as the Fifth largest E-waste producer in the world ( 2 million tonnes in 2016). Mumbai tops the list of cities producing e-waste, while Maharashtra tops the state-list. 95% of the processing of the waste is carried out by the informal sector.

One Man’s trash is another Man’s treasure. The age of cheap, abundant raw materials is over. Our urban junk contains vast quantities of usable precious and semi-precious metals and components, and represents the most accessible and low-cost resource for materials of contemporary importance. In fact, for some rare metals like Europeum and Turbium, urban mining is the ONLY source. Over 40 usable elements exist inside old mobile phones. Urban Mining conveniently exists outside of conflict zones, where decades of mining have created unregulated mafia-like situations. Classic mining is simply not enough anymore.

The MKGandhi Memorial E-Waste Urban mine and Sorting Centre Commissioned July 2035

Scenario #2 India is running one of the largest and most ambitious renewable energy capacity expansion programs in the world. Newer renewable electricity sources are projected to grow massively by 2022, including a more than doubling of India's large wind power capacity and an almost 15 fold increase in solar power from April 2016.

We are phasing out our reliance on non-renewable energy sources, slowly but surely. India is the fourth largest wind power producer as of the year ending 2017. India will achieve 100GW of Solar power by the year 2022. Coupled with progressive governance and a long history of closed loop economies, India is uniquely poised to create powerful new ways of engaging with renewable energy. India boasts of 7,517 km long coastline, being one of the 20 places worldwide where the height of the high tide is over five metres higher than the low tide to capture the tidal power potential. But there are no tidal energy-based power plants in India yet, with the potential to generate over 8000MW of electricity.

The MKGandhi Memorial Energy Harvesting Offshore ( Tidal and Wind ) Commissioned October 2035

Scenario #3 India faces a dire water shortage especially of drinking water as present sources both surface and groundwater become increasingly stressed. Per capita annual availability of water in the country is expected to fall from 1860 metre cube a year in 2001 to 1140 metre cube a year by 2050.

The city of the Future harnesses every resource at it’s disposal to create value for it’s residents. With conventional surface water sources drying up or disappearing over time and borewells getting deeper by the year, sourcing and supplying water have become uphill tasks for corporations across urban and rural areas. It is at such a time that seawater desalination is emerging as one of the top alternatives. According to the International Desalination Association (IDA), there are around 18,426 desalination plants spread across 150 countries, benefitting as many as 300 million people. Nearly half of Israel’s water is manufactured and many countries, especially in the arid regions of Northern Africa and the Middle East, find desalination a cheaper option.

The MKGandhi Memorial Desalination Plant and Cooling towers Commissioned November 2035

Scenario #4 Recycling land to create housing stock is one way to solve the housing crisis in Mumbai. With high prices that show no sign of dipping, recycling is all that Mumbai has, being a city constrained by the sea, creeks and other cities bordering them. This continues a long tradition of the city recycling land to suit current demands.

Every square foot of the city must work to house, protect and celebrate it’s residents Urban India has a severe shortage of housing, yet Indian cities have many vacant houses. According to the census of India 2011, out of the 90 million residential census units, 11 million units are vacant; that is about 12% of the total urban housing stock consists of vacant houses. The total vacant housing stock may not exactly match – in terms of quantity and type – the requirements of the households crowded out of the housing market. But this paradox of vacant houses and a shortage of housing, is a symptom of the distortions in the functioning of land and housing markets. Source :

The MKGandhi Memorial Premium Affordable housing towers, Urban Farm and Offshore Urban Farmer’s Market Commissioned July 2035

Scenario #5 The narrative of Ecological value as opposed to the ‘development’ paradigm is a gross misunderstanding. While humans must work hard to merit their place in cities of tomorrow, so must nature. It is our own myopia that stops us from visualising new symbiotic scenarios where we can co-exist and thrive.

Cities must create new Symbiosis. “City building efforts have led to unprecedented abuse and destruction of natural assets and ecosystems. Also their relationship with built environment has been severed in most instances. As a matter of fact, development plans and programs have dealt with natural conditions with hostility. Their exclusion from city maps or their inadequate documentation, as in the case of Mumbai, is an example of such apathy and indifference. Instead, our challenge is their integration, towards building a sustainable urban ecology� PK Das, The Nature of Cities.

The MKGandhi Memorial Aquatic Nature park and Coral Reef Scaffolding Commissioned February 2035

Our Future cities will benefit greatly from optimising each rupee of tax-payer money towards creating progressive models for place-making. Statues and Monuments that enjoy political patronage must work doubly harder to justify their place on the skyline.

Statues We Need : A Guide to Progressive Place-making  

Speculative fictions around Future cities, with 'Performative' Statues that we may actually need.

Statues We Need : A Guide to Progressive Place-making  

Speculative fictions around Future cities, with 'Performative' Statues that we may actually need.