Housing, The New Questions
Of Short and Medium Term Housing: Mysore

Course Mentors:  Shreyank Khemalapure, Rohit Mujumdar, Rajeev Thakkar, Sudipta Iyer

What formal and spatial provocations can architects deliberate about practices of housing and  home-making in the emerging urban contexts of India’s second cities? At stake, in this question, lies the challenge to move beyond the current debate on housing affordability. Two themes structure the debate in this Form and Space Studies course:

First, the emerging urban contexts of India’s second cities are creating new demands for housing. These include but are not limited to the following: enclaves of active retirement communities; campus and non-campus accommodation for (post) university students and those appearing for competitive exams; work-live typologies; incremental typologies; building typologies that are flexible to accommodate multiple programmes which wax and wane due to economic uncertainty; short-term rental housing, service apartments and homestays for emerging industrial and tourism economies; housing for new arrangements of co-living, gender-specific households and transforming families; physical infrastructure and housing hybrids; insitu or relocation based resettlement housing; adaptive reuse, extension and retrofitting of old buildings; and, even housing that responds to multispecies inhabitation. Such demands are significantly different from the narrow framing of affordability in India’s housing question that largely
manifests in attempts to fulfill the shortage of cheaply-built, efficient standard houses. The ambition of this course, therefore, is to turn the question ‘what housing is affordable for a household in the emerging urban context?’ on its head by asking ‘what are the affordances of housing builtform that lend to the making of home in the emerging urban context?’

And second, in thus posing new housing questions, we propose to inquire into a new conceptual vocabulary that presents a shift from twentieth century ideas revolving around the relationship between collective life (the public) and dwelling units (the private) for (low-, middle-, and high- income) nuclear, heterosexual families. This studio explores the methodological translation of the concept of affordances, which is broadly defined as the relationship between builtform / object and the abilities of beings, by asking three questions: (1) Emerging urban context: What typological affordances does the emerging urban context (eg. environmental concerns, economic transformations, cultural practices, claims of social difference, regulatory and delivery frameworks) demand? (2) Emerging household structures: What affordances of spatial configuration (eg. collectivisation, cellularization, splintering in the unit-cluster, core-periphery, inside-outside, above-below) do the emerging household structures (eg. nuclear family, joint family, live-in young couples, retired couples, LGBTQ households, household of friends, institutional households)? (3) Emerging domesticities: What are the affordances of spatial ecology (eg. spaces of the settlement, cluster, unit) for the emerging practices of domesticity (eg. routine, behaviour, temporality of work-living, cooking-eating, study-play, rest-loiter; care-pleasure)?

During the current academic year, we will explore the housing problematic in Mysuru, Karnataka. According to the 2011 Census, around half of the 2.1 lakh houses in Mysuru were rented, which is approximately around 45 percent of the total number of houses in the city. In addition, the footfall of tourists doubled in Mysuru between 2000-19 with around 3.7 million tourists visiting the city in 2019. The contexts that have shaped this situation include: (i) decline of monarchical patronage that has transformed upper castes’ traditional livelihoods including their aspirational emigration; (ii) practices that promote cultural (yoga courses and literature festivals), religious (Dussehra ad Chamundeshwari Rath festivals) and heritage (artefacts of the Vijayanagar, Tipu and British Empires) tourism as a significant component of the city’s economy; (3) the historical presence and current increase in university level educational institutions that draw outstation students; (4) policy thrust to promote of IT, ITES and BPO industries whose spatial forms include large and small corporations as well as start-ups; (5) promotion of manufacturing sector for automobile, food and beverage, medical tools, pharmaceutical and textile industries; (6) increase in remittance and investment driven housing alongside the promotion of new projects to improve urban mobility; and, (7) presence of a large number of central and state government offices. These contexts have produced a wide demand for Short (S) and Medium (M) term housing ranging from a few days or weeks to a few months or years. This does not mean that there is no demand for Long (L) term housing in Mysuru. Rather, the practices of S and M term home-making intersect in a variety of congruent and incongruent ways with the practices of L term home-making.

The current responses to S and M term housing demands in Mysuru have created spatial disjunctions that are incapable of absorbing the form of life generated by such home-making practices. The architectural response to Mysuru’s housing question, therefore, requires new spatial reimaginations that are capable of absorbing the form of life generated by S and M term home making practices, and the intersections with the L term practices of home-making. The sites chosen for this exploration will be identified on the basis of previous housing studies on Mysuru.