Selected Entries 2018
NMIMS | Mumbai
Alvin Toffler, a proclaimed American author and futurist, in his books ‘Future Shock’ and ‘The Third Wave’ dwells upon the effects of accelerated rate of change brought in by technology, media and information on emerging societies. Toffler comments that the post-industrial society is moving in the direction of increased temporality and argues for more flexible, impermanent and transient architecture.
Cedric Price’s ‘Fun Palace’ and ‘Potteries Thinkbelt’ emphasize on these notions of ephemerality and transience in architecture, where ‘events in time’ rather than ‘objects in space’ become the core design principle. In ‘Potteries Thinkbelt’, Cedric Price outlines the intrinsic problems of university education, and its architecture, and proposes a new university-town emphasizing on the ties of students with the community.
Price critiques the existing isolation of university campuses, where the design of the university (Gated campuses, ‘cathedral buildings’ and permanent sites), and the education imparted, separates itself from the needs of the community around it. This lack of social relevance and little contact with the local industries discourages innovation and capacity to adapt to the changing society. Price proposes a radical new campus in a derelict industrial town in central England built around a road and rail network. Rather than a centralized campus, the university spreads across the entire town, and occupies sites close to existing industries, airports, transport hubs and workshops. It relies on temporary buildings and involves the whole community. Housing, partly for students and partly for local inhabitants, is integral to the design of ‘Potteries Thinkbelt’. This emphasis on physical links between the community and the industry breaks down the isolation and ‘elitism’ associated with the university campuses.
This thesis attempts to comprehend and test the ideas explored by Price in ‘Potteries Thinkbelt’ in the context of Mumbai. The thesis strives to understand the current ecology of universities and centres of higher education and its relationship to the communities and industries around it.
Mumbai is an important centre of higher education in the country and a number of national institutes impart technical education to students from around the country. Indian Maritime University, Institute of Chemical Technology, and Central Institute of Fisheries Education are some of the important national universities located in the city. These universities, despite having strong programmatic links with their immediate neighbouring communities, have little or no formal communication links with them.
The Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE) occupies a large land near the Versova fishing village on the western coast of the city. With a stagnant fish catch and dwindling fish stock, the fishermen need to adapt to the modern fishing technologies and develop value added fish products with the help of the university. In contrast to this, the university functions independently of the community. The students live and study in the gated university campus and collaboration with the fishing community is minimal. Sustained interaction is key to bring about much required social and economic change in the fishing economy.
The thesis attempts to address this issue by studying the functioning and programs of CIFE and distributing these programs in five fishing villages on the western coast of Mumbai making a ‘decentralized’ university instead of a ‘centralized’ one, thus physically overlapping the community, industry and the university. Each of these smaller campuses sit within the fishing village and are connected by a ferry network, forming the ‘Fisheries Thinkbelt’.
The ‘Fisheries Thinkbelt’ has three components: Instruction Areas (Madh, Versova and Uttan along with the existing CIFE Campus); Housing (Gorai and Manori) and the Transport Network (Ferry and Road). The Fisheries Thinkbelt includes and supplants the existing campus, but is closely tied with the local community.
The built form is fragmented into three masses which are connected by an external staircase. The external staircase is a key element in the traditional houses of the fishing villages. This allowed the owner to rent out parts of the building for extra income. These staircase blocks are the main visual elements and become the identity of the buildings of ‘Fisheries Thinkbelt’ acting as extension of the ground in multiple levels and directions. Shared spaces between the community and the Thinkbelt (Social Exchange Zones) bridges the divided between them and creates various opportunities for formal interaction.