Environmental thresholds: Eastern Waterfront

Course Mentors: Ravindra Punde (Coordinator), Dipti Bhaindarkar, Abhijit Ekbote, Faizan Khatri, Malaksingh Gill, Shrikar Bhave

In this course the students will be introduced to natural processes and systems, their flows, cycles and interdependencies. The environment as we experience it is a set of interconnected networks which balance each other to maintain the rhythmic flows. The current building practices have resulted in new spatial priorities which largely ignore their consequences on the environment. This causes disruption to the very interconnectedness of all life forms and natural systems. This course will investigate and explore design possibilities that negotiate bio-social relationships on an ecologically sensitive terrain.

The environmental philosophy of Deep Ecology of Arne Næss (2008) expanded on the idea of ecology to mean a way of life which argues for an interconnected and self-regulatory system. It, therefore, advocates a way of life that is non-violent in its relationship with all organisms. Ian McHarg, in his seminal work, Design with Nature, (1969) questioned the notion of human superiority and recognised the resultant disruption. McHarg's ways of thinking largely stayed within the framework of the new economic order; he devised a method of understanding the natural systems and their dynamism over time and space,  through a technique of layering various disciplines over geographic space. A few years later design thinking expanded and emanated from environmental concerns and sought newer understandings of human-nature relationships. The Biophilia Hypothesis by Edward O. Wilson, (1993) was one such, that spoke about deep affiliations of humans with nature influenced design thinking in more ways than one. On another scale, Charles Waldhiem (2016) established that the natural systems have a role in city development through practices of landscape urbanism. Bruno Latour and Albena Yaneva (2017) argue that, ‘the problem with buildings is that they look ….. static. It seems almost impossible to grasp them as movement, .. as a series of transformations. Everybody knows–….– that a building is not a static object but a moving project, and … once it has been built, it ages, it is transformed by its users, modified by all of what happens inside and outside, and that it will pass or be renovated, adulterated and transformed beyond recognition.’

The above ideas have been the key reference points to structure the course. The course intends to look at the natural & built environments as temporal, dynamic, and not static because of the processes and flows in the environment being in constant flux and the habitation practices being ever changing. The design process will acknowledge and accommodate these movements, shifts and changes in processes through developing form and spatiality that is agile to these movements and changes.

Project Note
Wetland Conservatory

The eastern coastal edge of Mumbai anchors diverse ecosystems comprising saltpans, wetlands and mangrove zones. These edges form an oasis of plant and animal life including several abundant plant and aquatic life including flamingos which nest in the wetlands seasonally.  The project would try to generate a built form type to negotiate the sloping terrain to intervene the site with a fixed programme of wetland conservatory which includes three wings - research wing - hydrological and biodiversity research zones supported by testing wing with hydrology lab, biodiversity lab and chemical laboratory; education and outreach wing which includes outdoor wetlands observatory, education and training unit, gathering space for about 75 people to host awareness events, seminars and discussions. This center would include annex facilities such as entrance lobby, supporting service systems of administrative wing and cafeteria.