Tuesday, December 23, 2008

11 ideas regarding the home and housing

we are holding this seminar is to attempt to map the terrain between two competing discourses- the discourse on the house and the discourse around housing.

Around the house we have created a myth of safety and security. This leads to us talking about it terms of removal from the city. Engagement with the city takes the form of high walls that keep the outside out. The logical outcome of this kind of imagination can be seen in the rise of high end residential enclaves where all kinds of ‘others’ are kept out- thee include people who belong to other communities or class or even people who eat non-vegetarian food. Marketing brochures for housing colonies clearly spell out these needs.

On the other hand there is the imagination of housing- which sees individual desire and aspiration subservient to a so-called economic logic of efficiency. More people in less area makes economic sense- or so it is assumed. The horrific sra buildings being built all over the city stand testimony to this.

This seminar is an attempt to be able to create a language or to describe a terrain in between these through which we can articulate concerns, processes and methodologies to address questions regarding housing that emerge from this particular context- the city of Mumbai. At the KRVIA we have tried to attempt many ways of engaging with these ideas in the design studio, the research and design cell and many other courses. To be able to place these attempts within a framework we have attempted to create a matrix of terms and ideas. These are tendencies that we see within the school’s work. Each of these is naturally not mutually exclusive but instead connects to others in a rhizome like pattern making constellations of concepts.

 I shall be briefly explaining these terms and the way we have defined them for the purpose of the seminar and the ‘reflections’ issue this year.

  1. Hearth

The idealized home. The ancestral home. Native place. This is the space for the individual/ family to feel safe and comfortable. The family home has undergone many transformations with the change in the economy and Urbanisation. No longer are they stable structures within which generations have lived. Families have fragmented and scattered- yet these formations are nto completely random. There are patterns within which the school has tried to excavate and unpack.

  1. Object

In the history of architectural thought the house has often been the ideal site for experimentation in form By lending itself to exploration of the semantic and phenomenological. The relationship of these experiments to the tropes of domesticity is complex and often these experiments throw up great challegnges and opportunities to reconfigure the home.

  1. Tradition

It is self evident that History has much to teach us as architects. This learning has to go far beyond merely being a romantic return to an idealized past. Studying traditional architecture and processes of creating housing can teach us about responses that lie within our context. They can provide us indigenous references for responses to local factors of culture, climate and geography to create housing.

  1. Typology

This type is generated through a complex collision of forces emerging through time, activity and usage and the particular characteristics of a place. These typologies need to be studied to be able to discern the relationship of architectural form to specific contexts. Within the type lie multiple and innumerable possibilities that can morph to differing individual needs.

  1. The other

Most architecture is shaped by mainstream imaginations of the city. Often these leave out and marginalize the needs of those who lie outside the realm of the ‘normal’- yet these so-called “deviants” are majority of the population. Migrant labour - Young men and women who come to the city for work or studying, old men and women who are sent out to the periphery to commune with nature and individuals with special needs- all have to find space to live outside or in the interstices of the city. In much work that the school has carried out we have tried to uncover the particularities of these forms of inhabitation to validate and create them.

  1. Process

Although it has been one of the banes of architectural discourse it is apparent that it is impossible to imagine the separation of form/space from the socio-economic frameworks that created them. Especially in the case of housing where the product is ever changing to meet new circumstances it is important that the housing project is seen as a continuous process that does not end with the buying and selling of the house but continues as the home is inhabited, colonized, transformed. A holistic vision of housing is thus essential.

  1. Resource

In the city the house provides a foothold for survival for the migrant. It is the resource that is manipulated by the inhabitant to navigate the terrain of the city. It can provide social networks and economic opportunities by becoming a beauty parlor or a typing institute. This resource keeps transforming its role as the relationship of the inhabitant to the city changes.

  1. High Density

There is no escaping the fact that the city is a space that attracts people to come and work. Naturally this leads to densities of incredible proportions. Without an architectural imagination that is able to provide within these high densities livable spaces we are left with the endless grid of concrete that sra rehousing projects demonstrate so vividly in different parts of the city. One of the challenges that the school has tried to address is the provision of infrastructures and facilities while also catering to the density of housing inevitable within the context of Mumbai.

  1. Pre-fab

The machine has created opportunities for us to be able to meet the challenge of rapid urbanisation. Processes of mass production can speeden processes of construction and housing delivery that earlier took a very long time. The danger is of course homogeneity and sameness. However these technologies, if used intelligently can be very useful in meeting the ever increasing demand of the needs in the city.

  1. Machine

This was le corbusier’s metaphor for the house- a machine to live in. this tended to disembody the imagination of the house as an independent machine within which everyday life found its place. The results of this disembodiment are all around us. However the machine can still be conceived of differently. If the machine is to enable actions to survive in the city- it can be re-imagined differently- perhaps what it produces and how It produces it can be reconceived. And If the machine is an extension of the body how can we not love it like a loved one? And grieve when it falls apart.

  1. Desire

The home is also a ‘desiring machine’. The home is a space which transforms thorugh the act of inhabitation. these transformations are shaped by the way the inhabitants imagine themselves as families, communities, city dwellers, individuals. The house is a heavy clumsy expensive assemblage through which they attempt this transformation. These attempts need to be understood rather than summarily dismissed. 

1 comment:

pappu poppins said...

the key words the key words the key words :):) ohhhh cant wait to see reflections!!!! and oh damm, i missed the annuals :(