India is the second most populated country in the world, counting for over 1,3 billion people, a number that is rapidly increasing. In line with the rest of the world, India is, next to its increase in population, seeing a rapid urbanization, with Mumbai in the centre of it all. Considering the increase of population and the urbanization of India, it is only a logical cause that its capital is now growing at an unprecedented pace. In only fifty years’ time, the population of Mumbai has tripled, with no apparent end to be seen. Almost needless to say, the city is struggling with these numbers. What might be even more striking is the fact that in the same time span, the percentage of people living in slums has risen from roughly ten percent to as much as fifty percent of total population. And although slum dwellers form half of the population, their homes only take up 6% of the total land area. The conditions in which many of these dwellers live, are alarmingly unhygienic and according to the Census of India unfit for human habitation.
Many of them will end up in so-called “Chawls”, five story high apartment blocks, closely packed together. From an economic perspective it is almost impossible to compete with the developments of the Chawls. It is simply not possible to house any more dwellings on a piece of land, without making substantially higher buildings, which would no longer be economical. The developers have maximized their profits, with hardly any regard for the dwellers needs.
When visiting the village of Nalasopara, a mere 2,5 kilometres away from the Chawls, the stark contrast between the two becomes obvious. Whereas the village accommodates in many of the social and economic needs of its inhabitants, the Chawls are very monotonous and lack the richness in sociospatial layers. A large variety in hierarchy of spaces can be observed in the village, constituting a layering in the way spaces are used and the interactions between people taking place. This hierarchy is not present in the Chawls, resulting in a scarce variety of spaces and how they are used. Although most of the dwellers have broken the bonds of village community, that does not mean the spatial practices originating in the village are also thrown away. Moreover, the “village way of life” has certain qualities, which can serve also those who do not originate from the village. Not paying attention to those, which is happening now, is a lost opportunity. These qualities could be used to overcome the problem of the lack of sociospatial layers and not meeting the social and economic needs of the dwellers.
This project represents an attempt to overcome some of the issues described above and will show a design that tries to combine the qualities of the village together with the reality of the Chawls. It will show a design that introduces hierarchical spaces in the overcrowded areas of the Chawls, to blur the boundaries.