CRIT Mumbai participates in Audi Urban Future Initiative

Collective Research Initiatives Trust (CRIT) is a group of individuals that delves into understanding the urban realm of Indian cities through research and pedagogy. The group was conceived in 2003 and since then through its activities has studied and participated in initiatives such as housing, urban mapping and various issues in emerging urbanization.

The group recently participated in the Audi Urban Future Initiative Awards of 2012 where it stood as one of the four finalists. The competition was won by Boston based practice Höweler + Yoon Architecture. The winning entry was a re-imagination of the highway as the vision that unifies the I-95 corridor between Boston and Washington D.C. into a mega-region called ‘Boswash’.

When CRIT was invited to participate in the Audi Urban Future Award 2012, they were posed three questions: What will the future of Mumbai look like in 2030? What will CRIT’s role will be in this envisaged future? What is its vision?

Image: Prasad Khanolkar, CRIT

CRIT’s response for the award (below) is quoted from the Audi Urban Future Initiative website:

On urban futures

Ideas about future cities have been dominated by two imaginations: First, of a utopian coherence unified by robust information systems and coordinated by super infrastructure; and second, a city engendered by catastrophes of environment, poverty, and deterioration. Inherent in these imaginations of coherence and catastrophes is the idea of time as a singular linear rhythm, of space as an entity with fixed coordinates and of people as homogeneous and inert mass. The city, on the contrary, multiplies time(s), blurs boundaries, mixes categories, provides platforms, builds connections, and opens up probabilities to transact–creating possibilities for divergent future trajectories. To talk of “a” future for cities, be it utopian or dystopian, forecloses the possibilities that cities open.

On urban mobility

When mobility is seen as transport, it ends up in a problem-solving exercise that produces mega projects, intelligent vehicles or infrastructures that claim to be intelligent. Within the urban realm, the concept of mobility needs to be understood beyond transportation, as transportation itself is embedded in the multiple processes that shape the city. For CRIT, mobility is a twofold concept. First, it involves the different kinds of movements that are brought about by urban transformations today. These include access, migration, gentrification, class movement, etc. And second, mobility or to mobilize is the ability to navigate the complex urban ecosystem of geographies, legislations, claims, powers, relationships, and information to construct one’s path amidst these movements.

This response is left a little open-ended and perhaps can be dealt with in the second generation of problem-solving and while it points out a few classic issues clearly it doesn’t point to clear steps forward. At this point, Mumbai does have a few glaring issues that can be dealt with with a sense of emergency.  In my observation, I have seen a number of think tanks emerging studying Indian urban issues and since the issues are largely multi-layered and complex, they are not being broken down to smaller, manageable, tangible projects which will solve some immediate issues facing the cities. Discourse and research can continue but there is a need to spell out actions and act on them right away through small and medium enterprises and largely enabled through governance.

One, I can say is mobility and transport: curbing private and single occupancy vehicles and complementing them with a robust mass public transit system; walking and biking friendly roads and lanes are imperative; clusters of mass functional housing near business corridors is another; lastly, cleaner and safer Mumbai will include better trash management, more public and open spaces, public amenities like libraries, parks and so on. The current fragmented approach of exclusivity and divisive approach to the city will only lead to conditions for corruption and crime. Intervention is necessary and organic, and a romantic idea is not an answer to Mumbai’s visible plague. The time is now.

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