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    Thesis Abstract (Beta)

    By Arjun Bhat
    Nov 5, '07 10:05 PM EST

    so after a couple of tries over the weekend to collect the research i've done so far and my personal ideas regarding them, I've written up a beta abstract that more or less gets at what I'm thinking. Its still really raw, and I still need to figure out how to better integrate my ideological / theoretical interests with concrete, study-able phenomena, but this is what ive got so far .... its still way too lengthy to technically be an abstract, and i'm trying to figure out how to pare it down (and concurrently, streamline the logic behind it as well). constructive comments / criticism are very welcome.


    This thesis studies the case of urban migration in Mumbai, and proposes a design for a relocated administrative state government which would serve the additional function of facilitating the migration of new incoming urban migrants into Navi Mumbai. The thesis establishes how the city’s colonial development, characterized by specific patterns of both human and ideological migration, has created a condition of multiple imagined urban territories, which the city’s post-colonial, globalized urban development has largely failed to address. The project seeks to engage the city’s hybrid condition by understanding migration as a civic act, and establishing a new urban type within the city, one that facilitates future infra-urban migration, as a platform from which to address Mumbai’s new globalized hybrid public sphere. The study assumes the intermediary power of the built public work to provide a platform upon which the tensions between local, municipal, national, and global interests can be confronted and navigated.

    The issue of globalized modernization vis a vis local pluralism arises a salient factor regarding case of Mumbai as a “late-industrializing” city: the current economic success of the city, which has largely been the result of advancements in the communications and I.T. services sector, was possible largely in part due to the prolific production of the informal services sector, which comprises more than 80% of Mumbai’s total service economy. This economic sector is primarily comprised of urban migrants, and in essence, provided an economic vibrancy which allowed Mumbai to overcome its infrastructural shortcomings in the inter-period between independence and its global emergence. Migration has played an essential civic role in the success of Mumbai.

    Mumbai’s migration has also prompted one of the largest urban projects in Asia. In 1972, pressures upon the city in terms of congestion and overcrowding led to the government’s founding of Navi Mumbai, a twin city planned to absorb future migration by taking on the planned new seat of State Government, and serving as a new Metropolitan financial center. The Capital was not moved, however, and while the city has indeed become a successful upper and middle class economic center, it has largely failed in relieving the over-densification of the old city. Given the forthcoming development of a city-wide rapid transit system, the thesis examines the potentials of a re-invested look at moving the Capital with a new role – to serve in the facilitation of urban migration into Navi Mumbai through the provision of economic, literacy, and social welfare services. The urbanistic goal of the project is to promote, through both spatial and programmatic juxtaposition, a reciprocated civic exchange between the city’s leaders and its urban poor, creating a pluralist “third space,” and forging a strong statement as to the direction of Mumbai’s developing global identity.


    • removing some of the words through editing may help, but apart from grammatical errors here and there, and some archi double speak at the end it seems pretty clear as a background to the project.

      i would say what remains is description of HOW you will investigate the potential, what scale you will look at, or if there is more than one scale what purpose each might have.

      if i can ask a question...why is there a need to make a third space? what will be achieved by that, really? i am skeptical that a space will creat a bridge between the elite and the urban poor, and even if it did what would come of it. is it possible, culturally to do this? it used to be like that in medieval europe, but the third space of london (mews, etc) are all middle class housing now and segregation by social status is fairly controlled geographically. does mumbai allow for that kind of trend to be overturned? or maybe it doesn't exist? the reason i ask is because here in tokyo there is not so much class segregation as a result of the particular culture here. if mumbai is similar, it offers a real reason to search for it in new planning and architecture. if not then it may be an arbitrary and unrealistic goal placed on an eastern nation from a western philosophy that does not match...

      one of the issues i often read about regarding globalisation and planning is that eastern concerns are often responded to with western preconceptions about space and culture that are not always appropriate, and tend therefore to be less than this case if there is something locally true about spatial inhabitation that can be used as a starting point it would be fascinating to see how it could be used...

      just a thought.

      Nov 5, 07 10:45 pm  · 
      Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke

      yeah .... i'm tangled up by some of the jargon:

      1) what is "ideological migration"?
      2) what is "spatial" and/or "programmatic" juxtaposition?

      This topic is, of course topical and of interest to many. However, I am a little confused on what you are actually trying to propose? I am not sure if a "third space" is something to promote. From my understanding of the term (via Ed Soja), "third space" is only an analytical device.

      I think that the last couple of sentences ("a reciprocated civic exchange") sound like you are advocating an empowerment scheme. In other words, perhaps you should see the conditions of migration as a type of investment -- such a view would take squatting, for example, as a type of urban development. There is a wide-ranging literature on this type of approach to urbanism, especially in India. It also looks to impromptu forms of "investment" among the urban poor with revolving credit associations (ROSCA's), such as KKb's in Bangladesh. Perhaps this is a way to start exploring your topic? For starters, check out Vinit Mukhija's Squatters as Developers?: Slum Redevelopment in Mumbai.

      Nov 5, 07 11:17 pm  · 
      Arjun Bhat

      thanks for the input you guys, i appreciate it.

      and before i continue - i admit i need to clear up the jargon -- its a fault of mine, as one of my professors has told me "you get caught up in the bureaucracy of your ideas sometimes..."

      jump - its interesting u bring up class segregation. In mumbai, most development that has occurred since the late 70s has been predatory private speculation, usually catering to specific income demographics. The result has been new development creating enclaves for the elite, selling the schemes to local govt officials under the guise of "redevelopment" (sounds kind of similar to what went on here in the US as well). The big criticism from many of the sources i've been reading has had to do with a complete lack of understanding regarding the nature of local productions of space on the part of the govt, which, in the Indian urban context, have been critical to the life of neighborhoods. The fact that many houses are also the sites of economic production and distribution (what has loosely been termed the "informal economy") inscribe housing with an intrinsic economic value (which hits upon your point, Smoke). These local sites of production have been vital socio-economic boons within the Indian city, and are typically non-class specific in terms their served localities (that is, rich and poor alike require these networks). Also, from my personal experiences spending the summers with my family in Chennai, you will largely find a diverse mix of economic classes living within proximity to each other. This is not to say that there aren't slums, or elite enclaves, but predatory development practices have contributed to polarizing the space between either poles of the continuum.

      i suppose something I'm getting at with the "abstract" is the economic value of inhabitation, which puts an interesting spin on social housing in this specific context. and in reference to whether or not it is possible to create spaces that bridge across social strata - I think it is possible within this context - in fact, it may even be necessary given the form development has taken up to this point. I'm taking what both of you said into careful consideration and I've already found some pretty interesting papers which address some of these comments, so you've certainly been helpful. thank you!

      Nov 6, 07 1:27 am  · 

      Why is migration a 'civic act' ? From what I understand about Mumbai, there are three major classes of immigrants; 1.the 'cosmopolites' i.e. expats and returning NRIs 2. local 'information' workers who have come to Mumbai for employment in the service sector and 3. less skilled workers who are here to in search of better livelihood through the informal economy.. the housing needs of ALL of these clases are I think important in order to sustain India's growth the risk of sounding a bit callous and neo-con, I think it is most important to address the well-being of the 20-80th percentile of income earners...they are the ones who would produce the most measured in terms of economic "spread" ...Another question is : Do you intend to design any physical "thing" in this thesis.

      Nov 6, 07 2:02 pm  · 

      cutting to the chase: your proposal will be a combination of some sort of hub of civic government services in combination with transitional housing?

      sounds like a difficult mix if it's a single design project - a combination of institutional/long-term use with short-term/transient use, but maybe you're proposing a more general urban design proposal for how these things work together as part of a larger planned environment...

      my thesis advisor challenged me to say it in 180 words - one of the most difficult but productive things i ever tried to do. i failed, got down to about 250, but it was a huge help.

      Nov 7, 07 7:41 am  · 
      Arjun Bhat

      steven, thats basically it. the two sites i'm looking at are both - one is more for a single design project, the other larger, more suitable for an urban design scale project. It is indeed a difficult mix, but part of the formulating idea is that this difficult mix is something that happens with various results within the city, and if that can somehow be articulated in a project ... i was somewhat inspired by theoretical urban design proposals which "structure flexibility," and am wondering if this can be an operation which functions at multiple scales from that of the urban scale, all the way to the building scale, and what that could mean in a site such as Mumbai. I feel that such a system could be especially fruitful within this city's context. If Colonial Infrastructure was a sort of physical armature that lent itself to flexible patterns of informal economies which have come to define a generally positive notion of Mumbai's urban quality, can this be used as a departure point?

      I have a habit of borrowing from literary theory a bit, and Ecco's "Open Work" and Bhabha's "Third Space" have inflected my thinking, and I'm still wondering if those are valid sources of inspiration.

      I had a studio prof once who would insist that we articulate our design concepts using no more than 9 lines on a sheet of paper. It was one of the most useful exercises i learned in B.Arch. I've been trying to do the same with my thesis (except with words) but still have a long ways to go ...

      Nov 7, 07 2:20 pm  · 

      literary theory as source material is good, but the application to 'stuff' is always tricky. 'open work' could be interpreted to be a perfect argument for manhattan - really more of a land surveying proposition than an architectural or fleshed-out urban design proposal - which is probably not what you're going for. sorry i don't know 'third space'; will have to check it out.

      Nov 8, 07 7:01 am  · 

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