Selected Entries 2019

Architecture and Memory: remembering home in involuntary dislocation

Dhruv Chavan
School of  Environment and Architecture | Mumbai

There have been many cases in Mumbai, and elsewhere in India, where masses have been dislocated due to reasons beyond their choosing. Their dislocation has been involuntary and irreversible, often being a result of events or projects that have unfolded at disjunct times and scales. Such instances result in loss of identity, belonging and damaging one’s sense of home. This thesis acknowledges the effects of involuntary displacement and the existing study as well as the measures taken towards it. It argues for a different approach towards addressing the issue, through the memory of home.
In my dissertation I argue that the study of memories of home in involuntary dislocation can help advance a more humane approach to envisioning architecture in sites of resettlement and rehabilitation. This argument moves beyond commemoration and glorification of the past and engages in a critical conversation with the contributions of Aldo Rossi and Kevin Lynch in the study of memory and architecture. Addressing these urban memories through thick visual and textual narratives, it states that the sense of home is not bound within the walls of a house but lies largely within the social aspects of life. Therefore, in order to create an architecture to rehabilitate one’s sense of home, it should be done through the social domain. These can be categorised into four spatialities: Threshold spaces, Performance spaces, Psychological spaces and Leisure spaces.
Mumbra, a small suburb on the outskirts of the city, faced a sudden spike in its population post the 1992-93 Bombay riots with an inflow of a large chunk of the minority community from all over the city seeking refuge. This has led to a high-density housing scenario which is now approximately 400 T/Ha. With the rapid construction of infrastructure needed to house all the masses, any and all sorts of social amenities were neglected, resulting in a perpetual state of frustration and placelessness for the inhabitants. Thus, arises a question, what is the importance of an architectural intervention in such cases? How does it help ease the resettlement of one’s home and associations to a newer place and in turn create more social spaces within an already over built landscape?
In response to the above question, this project undertakes five main lanes in a neighbourhood to demonstrate through five architectural interventions, retrofitting of social spaces. The programs of these five sites emerges through its immediate context while also serving to a greater narrative of the neighbourhood. These interventions serve as new anchor points in one’s mental map and aid in building one’s association to the place through increased instances of social interaction.
This project uses architecture not as an image or an identity in itself but as a tool to aid reconstruct lost identities and associations of home in an existing built environment. It addresses design problems through methods which allow for an ease of construction, creating larger open spaces and allowing for quick evacuation in cases of emergency. The programs and the configuration of spaces are specific to their immediate context thus keeping the ‘where’ of the project relevant.