Resources and Urban Form - Home for Senior Citizens

Course Mentors:  Sabaa Giradkar, Dipti Bhaindarkar, Malaksingh Gill, Faizan Khatri, Shrikar Bhave

While in Ahmedabad one of the places we visited was the Sabarmati Ashram by Charles Correa. It is one of the most interesting works of Charles Correa. It represented Gandhian Philosophy through its simplicity. The transparency, materiality and scale, all came together to create a singular expression of simplicity. A play of scaled pavilions made of floating RCC plinths, exposed brick columns, exposed concrete beams, raw sawn wood cladding on a hut-like simple pyramid-shaped roof, all generating a visual experience of simplicity.

Yet, when I walked across the ashram to visit ‘Bapuji ni Kutir’ I was completely moved by its presence. This is the house where Gandhi lived for over a decade. Frugal, austere and humble. It triggered a different consciousness. While I understood and appreciated Correa’s building with my trained eye, I sensed Bapuji ni Kutir. Clearly there was something more to it. The kutir and its environment evoked a sense of its inhibition and its practices. The care for its environment and the built was embedded in a way of living, a way of living that was so frugal and humble that it seemed to liberate itself from the worldly trappings. Its beauty rested in these virtues, the elements that constituted its simplicity, its perfection in its caring, its belonging with the environment, and joy in its habitation. In some ways completely liberated. Sampoorna swaraj.

The idea of sampoorna swaraj has been always associated with the idea of freedom from the British Raj. While that was one of the most important engagements, the idea of sampoorna swaraj is anchored elsewhere. It is anchored in the idea of true liberation of the mind. This liberation is essential for a different form of interdependence, a wider connectedness that engages in higher pursuits of developing a world view, knowledge and wisdom. For that to occur, freedom and true democratic values need to thrive. To achieve that state of being free, it is important to be liberated from being substantially material dependent. That idea works through practices of bodily engagements, austerity, frugality and living within the means of your immediate environment. Something one can sense at the Kutir.

We focus our attention on three important related questions of Urban environment and Architecture.

  1. Today our urban environments have become unmanageable by virtue of its centrality and agglomeration. The centrality being a product of the nature of our economic order. Let us take the case of water in the city of Mumbai and its relationship with its region. We are all aware that our water comes from various locations and some of them are as far as two hundred kilometres. The pipeline rips through several parched areas and the sources are fenced. In the course of its linear flow from source to destination, it moves to hide itself in the ground, disrupting a democratic relationship. It is rather strange that a city that gets 2500 mm of rain has to run a few hundred miles to draw water for itself at the cost of local communities and their rightful dependencies
  2. We live in contaminated urban environments generated by indifferent mega systems. The tired and overburdened centralised urban infrastructure is unable to provide adequate clean drinking water, manage sewer and waste disposal thereby dumping it in its raw form in the city's waterways or deep into the ocean. New landforms are created by indiscriminate disposal of waste, not just polluting the air but seriously contaminating a rapidly depleting groundwater resource through soil contaminants and leaches.
  3. We have lost empathy and a sense of larger common good. Architectural and City level norms and practices are unable to innovate and deal with the emerging situation of the inadequate and skewed distribution of resources. This stress on resources, coupled with other vested interests is taking its toll on the urban environment. These conflicts have generated discomforting adjacencies creating uncomfortable relationships amongst communities over urban resources.

How do we negotiate and navigate this conundrum? Amongst many other related questions of economic and social order with its politics and issues of the urban environment that require repositioning, the question of the nature of the relationship with resources and the  Architectural form and its spatial configurations becomes important. We clearly need new ways of seeing our built environment at a larger scale and the building itself as a principal unit.

From some of the learnings discussed here, it seems logical to think that at a fundamental level the flows of resources within the building will have to change from linear flows to cyclical flows, much like traditional settlements. Cyclical flows that harvest, consume and manage its resources. Such a cyclical flow will alter the nature of dependencies and call for new habitation practises and spatial configurations.

  1. When the harvester becomes its primary consumer it is seen to open up new relationships with natural elements such as water, breeze and sun on one hand and develop opportunities to internalise practices of the collective, care, sharing and conflict resolution on the other.
  2. It generates an opportunity of control and engagement with its immediate environment, creating conditions for the community to craft its environment with empathy and a sense of environmental justice, much in the manner of the Kutir.
  3. At another level it liberates the community of its dependencies for its basic services on the centrality of the city. It creates conditions to redefine its relationship with city governance in particular and the city in general.

The Project
The Studio would be based in Mumbai and shall be a singular building in a typical urban plotted context. The project shall be a public institutional project. The Built-up area of the project shall be 1200-1500 sq mts approximately.

School of Environment and Architecture Plot at Borivali Eksar Road.

Home for Senior Citizen (about 50 People | Age +65 years) (1200-1500 Sq. mts). Individual space area programme will be developed by the faculty with the students.