You will always stumble on inspiration when you least expect it and somehow that inspiration will revive your eroding faith and will turn you hopeful again. Unexpected, my experience was exactly that, when I attended World Architecture Day on Monday 8 October here in Mumbai. All the speakers talked about a city of the past when Mumbai was Bombay, a city of hope, vibrancy and opportunities which has come to degrade in such ways that somehow hope has gone missing. I came back satisfied and rejuvenated, with an urge to do more.
Mostly all the talks, especially the ones by Professor K.T.Ravindran, Vikas Dilawari, Bimal Patel and Christopher Benninger tackled some of the most basic issues plaguing Indian cities. But they all have, through their exemplary work, tackled these problems head on, fearlessly. They all talked about reincarnation of the city with urban renewal and regeneration.
Dr. Bimal Patel’s work on Sabarmati Riverfront in Gujarat is etched in my mind. He has changed the paradigm of public space and continues to do so with his exemplary work. Its enduring, inclusive and socially relevant with the context very much in forefront.
Architect Vikas Dilawari’s conservation and preservation in the built environment of several communities in Mumbai has rightfully earned him many accolades, with examples of years of persistence and dogged determination.
Architect Christopher Benninger is now working very closely with the Government of Bhutan in having a feasible urban plan which will be worth its while in facing forces and challenges in coming years while going through urbanization. He remained utmost humble, extremely funny yet profound all the way.
Almost all of the speakers spoke of major issues of decongestion, affordable housing, open spaces and public spaces, inclusive slum rehabilitation while keeping them within the context of the city realities with respect to rapid urbanization of India.
The coming together of architects and built environment fraternity without a commercial aspect attached to it was the first of its kind in Mumbai. There was passion, honesty and only true speaking of their minds. It was truly a celebration of architecture and aspirations that all of us carry and will continue to do so to claim our cities. It was a day to remind us that architecture is one of the core professions and architects will remain key drivers in economic growth, supporting aspirations and nurturing the innovation of city dwellers. World Architecture Day left me inspired in more ways than I can explain in words and I hope to carry this message forward to others in days to come.