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Being Nicely Messy

This project is a part of the Audi Urban Future Inititiatives, 2012 curated by Stylepark. CRIT was invited to discuss the future mobilities of Mumbai along with four other groups from Istanbul (Superpool), Boston-Washington Region (Howeler and Yoon Architecture), Pearl River Delta (Node Architecture and Urbanism) and Sao Paulo (Urban Think Tank).

For CRIT, mobility is about navigating different ecosystems of the city to make one’s own future. This project conceptualizes the city’s ecosystems, future trajectories and tools and for such navigation.

Being Nicely Messy 2


On future: 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 homogenous 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 either 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.

On Mumbai: In the past two decades, Mumbai has seen some of the most innovative policies, institutional arrangements and projects planned to produce efficient and equitable urban systems for an intelligible future. Large-scale infrastructure projects, cross-subsidization of housing, geographical and demographic information systems and new urban (re)development policies, are being put in place. But Mumbai, like any city, is a composite body, where spaces, identities, and forms constantly blur. Here, no form of policy, governance structure, or infrastructure can provide a platform for different groups to pursue their aspirations equally. Rather, they unsettle the city; create new ruffles, new possibilities, new actors, and new relationships. But the act of blurring creates interstices with high transactional capacities. It forms the logic through which the city opens for many to use and create their many futures.

THE WORK/EXHIBITION – The exhibition in Istanbul was an attempt to give form to the complex urban ecosystem, where different kinds of relationships play out to produce a highly networked city. It is through this ecosystem, that one has to navigate in order to mobilize one’s own urban future. The exhibition had five sections:

Future’s TrajecTrajectorytories –  Our method involved studying urban conditions at nine typological sites, which represented various contexts of the city and its mobilities. These conditions were then projected to identify the different futures possible in each of them. From these projections of multiple futures patterns are drawn, which indicate the possible trajectories of the city in future. This became the basis for further engagement. Four broad trajectories were identified  that will significantly (re)shape Mumbai’s future in 2030:  First; the trajectory of polarized landscapes, where social and physical boundaries between communities will harden and reduce the blur of the urban form. Second; the trajectory of economic restructuring, where older economic generators of commerce, finance and business process outsourcing will decline and new enterprises related to culture, environment and old age will emerge. Third; the trajectory where environmental concerns will intensify. And fourth; the trajectory of higher average age of people creating a city of the old. These changes will restructure space, relationships, work, leisure, production and movement. This restructuring, while opening up newer possibilities, will also eradicate certain platforms, cut certain connections, and foreclose possibilities for certain actors to use the city and mobilize their own futures. Thus the future of Mumbai will be neither singular nor will its landscape be engendered by a single causality. Rather the future city will be shaped by a series of urban contradictions emerging from the unsettled conditions in the present. In the exhibition, an animated projection illustrated the multiple trajectories the city will take in the future as well as our method of engagement with these trajectories.

Future cities – The patterns were further distilled to provide indications of the new city conditions that will emerge in Mumbai by 2030. The miniature models housed within 16 poles detail these conditions. Although seemingly dreary projections, these we argue, are urban contradictions that will shape the everyday life of Mumbai in 2030. These multiple cities of 2030 are: City of Polarized Landscapes – A city characterized by rich and poor enclaves with restricted movement in-between. City of Hardened Boundaries – A landscape wherein ambiguities of space, claims, and edges, which hold multiple activities and high transactional capacities are clarified. City of Aggression – Civil society, multinationals, and political parties all aggressively contest for mental, physical, and sensorial space of the city. City of Urban Renewal – The unavailability of empty land and the growing dominance of developers in housing markets results in a city of large scale displacement and gentrification.  City of Large Scale Dilapidation – The inner city where a heightened intensity of use result in a fabric of large scale dilapidation.  City of Piecemeal Redevelopment – A city where the fragmented form of city has led to a landscape of piecemeal development.  City of Cleansed Waterfronts – A city wherein the civil society groups have appropriated  for leisure by displacing work based forms  like  fishing, ship breaking, etc.  City of the Old – A city with a large number of old people, whereby infrastructure designed for mobile productive bodies has marginalized the slower unproductive bodies.  City of the Insane – Forms of security and coping mechanisms  have declined and the city has become a site for the insane.  City of Speculative Landscape – The mega projects have produced a landscape of high real estate speculation. Here developers, financers, land assemblers, real estate agents, banks, politicians, and local goons collaborate to clear multiple land claims and inflate real estate prices. City of Proliferating Entreprises – The change in the economy will result in a new wave of entrepreneurs in 2030.  City in the Under Belly – Mega projects such as mono-rail, skywalks, metro, and flyovers have produced a new ground level in the city and a new under belly. This underbelly  hosts significant amount of city life that is invisible from the high-rises. City of Culture Industry – The culture industry has emerged as the most important sector to provide entrepreneurial opportunities. Here, the objectified past is aggressively marketed.  City of Environmental Tourism – Shifts in Mumbai’s economy, a heightened environmental consciousness, and the presence of a rich biodiversity has resulted in a city of environmental tourism.  City of Information Utopias – A city controlled, managed, and securitized through high-end technological infrastructure, huge date base, and unique biometric identification numbers. City of New Typologies – High polarization has produced new typologies with securitized systems. In the exhibition, sixteen poles with miniature models dipicted different urban conditions in 2030.

Tools – Our response to such an urban future is not to articulate a single idea of the future, but rather formulate tools that can be used and modified by different urban actors to negotiate with the emerging contradictions and alter their urban surroundings. These include tools to blur the social and physical edges to allow for higher transactions, tools to help create and harness new economic opportunities, tools to engage with the environmental crises and tools to make the city livable for the elderly. The future city then becomes a site open for different actors to use, claim, and appropriate in order to pursue their desires and mobilize their own futures—a city open for multiple futures. The tools in the exhibition are suggestive and provide research frameworks for the future. The tools included are:

Catalogue for New Programmes – As Mumbai’s economy, environment, and demography will change to create a landscape of high polarization, newer programmes will have to emerge to manage the ruffles created by these changes for the city to readjust itself. This is a catalogue of such  programmes.

Catalogue of Boundary Walls – In an urban landscape wherein ambiguities of space, claims, and edges, which hold multiple activities and high transactional capacities have been clarified this catalogue offers possibilities to reshape  boundary walls to increase transactional capacities.

Catalogue-enterprise-2030 – The changes in economy, environment, demography and intensified polarities will generate a context for new entrepreneurships. This catalogue is a compilation of such enterprises.

Catalogue for Retrofitting Infrastructure – Mega projects often provide opportunities to accommodate activities and spaces other than transportation. This catalogue explores the possibilities of retrofitting bridges and skywalks to not only decrease their impacts on surroundings but also accommodate new activities.

Catalogue-Retrofitting old fabric – In a context of large scale urban redevelopment and renewal the existing occupants of inner cities, slums and old buildings are threatened and often displaced. This catalogue discusses many ways in which such older settlements could be retrofitted.

Catalogue of Waterfronts Edges – In 2030 edges between water and land will be highly contested by interests wanting to use them for leisure,  work and real-estate. This catalogue provides alternative architectural possibilities where multiple claims and activities could co-exist.

Catalogue-Senior-City– In 2030, Mumbai will have much more old people. This catalogue is a compilation of new possible institutions, programmes, enterprises, infrastructure and systems that respond to the city of the old.

Catalogue-Bombay biodiversity guide– A heightened sense of environmental crises and acute environmental stresses alongside the presence a rich biodiversity in Mumbai provides an opportunity for proliferation of environment related enterprises. This book is a guide book to the various sites in Mumbai that showcases its rich biodiversity.

Catalogue-The greening book – In 2030, environment will be central to discussion on urban crises generating a context for greening vertical blocks. This manual is designed to convert high resource consuming apartments into green blocks.

Catalogue-the redevelopment book –  The new redevelopments of Mumbai tend to be highly unsustainable as they tend to be insensitive to local cultures and environmental aspects forcing the older occupants out of the property. This tool-box is designed for the old occupants as a checklist of things that they should ensure while redeveloping their properties so that they are not forced out of the new developments.

In the exhibition, a series of shelves housed different tools devised by CRIT to engage with the future.

Possibilities – In the exhibition, four screens were included illustrating how the new landscapes could be reshaped using the tools at different sites. These slow animations describe the changes and the proposals. Dahisar Checknaka – This proposal uses the catalogue of new entrepreneurship to explore possibilities of intervening in highly securitized areas of the city. Here new agents and entrepreneurs emerge to mobilize movement of different kinds of goods, emotions, and relationships. Bandra skywalk – This proposal uses the catalogue for retrofitting old infrastructure to modify an existing skywalks. Here the skywalk is re-imagined as a sky-garden and sky-lounge creating the much needed public space for the dense nearby slum.  Mohammad Ali Road – This proposal uses the catalogue for retrofitting old settlements to develop a skin of staircases. These staircases provide not only infrastructural support and fire escapes to the dilapidated buildings, but also provide spaces to house new enterprises and everyday life.  Mumbai Trans Harbor Link – This proposal uses the catalogue for waterfront edges, particularly the architectural strategy of the  stilt, along the eastern waterfront of Mumbai. This strategy preserves the sensitive coastal ecology, provides space for work environments, and simultaneously allows for the growth of environmental tourism industry (bird watching). In doing so, it resists the speculation spurred by the proposal of THE Trans Harbor Link.

Stories of Urban Mobility – The exhibition also contained a text-collage describing the complex urban ecosystem and identifies relationships, tools, agents, and platforms that constitute it. These stories run across the exhibition space connecting the different elements of the exhibition. For CRIT, mobility is about navigating different ecosystems of the city to make one’s own future. This ecosystem constitute of different forms of relationships, actors, tools, and platforms. This ecosystem is illustrated in the form of a text-collage that narrates different stories of urban mobility. These stories not only help understand the form of the ecosystem of urban mobility but also helps identify the actors, tools, platforms and relationships that are at work in it. These markers then provide a path to develop networks, partnerships, collaborations, and ways to circulate the tools devised by us.

For CRIT, mobility is about navigating different ecosystems of the city to make one’s own future. This project conceptualizes the city’s ecosystems, future trajectories and tools and for such navigation.

Find below a detailed presentation on CRIT’s Work:


The team for the project ‘Being Nicely Messy’ included: Rupali Gupte, Prasad Shetty, Prasad Khanolkar, Chitra Venkataramani, Rohan Shivkumar, Khyatee Kanchan, Anuj Daga, Jeet Dutta, Kartik Gala, Vinita Gatne, Shivani Shedde, Prachi Patel, Apurva Talpade and Namrata Kapoor with support and assistance from RR Planks, Addmake India and Lycodon fx.


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