Alumni Update: Rahul Srivastava
It has been a long journey from studying anthropology to practicing and applying it. The last eight years have been crucial in trying to figure out how exactly this can be done. I was introduced to the more innovative practices involving urban planning, architecture and design by Matias Echanove, with whom I co-founded urbz and urbanology in Mumbai in 2009.
urbz is a global platform and network for urban practitioners of a wide variety. This includes architects, activists and artists among several others. It now has local studios in Geneva, Goa, Sao Paulo and Bogota. Urbanology is the method we have evolved to ensure that urban practice remains yoked to the locality and neighborhood - both of which remain powerful frontiers in our world. As anthropologist Arjun Appadurai suggests – locality is a process – it is full of agency animated by people who live there, occupy and use it.
We realized that the very important task of engaging with cities couldn’t only be left to governments, activists, architects and urban planners. A user-based methodology is crucial. Of course, this is easier said than done. We are still evolving our tools but can say with some certainty that we are on the right track.
The most recent venture of ours was working with engineering students from NYU Abu Dhabi campus who spent many days working out small strategies of intervention with the local residents of Dharavi. These included testing out various options of providing cool-roofs to take the edge off the summer heat in small homes in Mumbai’s dense homegrown neighbourhoods. They also created a prototype for a filter-based chimney system that can be used by the potters of Kumbharwada – who otherwise suffer from the untreated smoke that fills up their lanes. A third group managed to connect a functional non-potable well in the hood to a public toilet just 40 meters away that so far had a sporadic water supply, making it dysfunctional for most of the year. Thanks to a simple pipe system and a water pump the toilet has become functional. Yet another group is working on ways to make the plastic recycling industry of Dharavi even more efficient.
These little interventions – from the world of engineering to architecture and design - are components of a larger strategy. They aim to develop a more relevant and effective urban practice and policy framework for India.
In July we are presenting the output of four years of research that we did with the Forum for Mobile Lives, a Paris based think-tank connected to the French Railways. This takes the form of an exhibition that will be on for a month in July 2017 at the Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai. Several units within the exhibition have been previously showcased at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Istanbul Design Forum, the Maxxii in Rome, and at forums in Bordeaux, Chicago, Vienna, Gratz and Shenzen.
We are happy to bring the whole presentation to our home-base in Mumbai and welcome you all to the exhibition!
The exhibition is on view at the Bhau Daji Lad Museum till 31st July, 2017. Be sure not to miss it!