Shortlisted Entries 2020

Spaces of Interplay: Between the planned and the lived in a BDD chawl

Saniya Ranade
School of Environment and Architecture (SEA) | Mumbai


The city of Mumbai is a vast landscape of various housing typologies. The thesis argues that the configuration of architectural elements affects the affordance of those elements in these typologies.Affordance here, through the readings of Gibson (1979) is defined as something that the space offers an animal i.e. what the space can let you do in it. The thesis further introduces the idea of interplay as the effect two spaces tend to have on each other and examines whether the various elements engage in interplay with other elements or not and how that affects the affordance of those spaces. 

As Lefebvre (1974) argues, it is very important to understand space as it is practiced rather than space as it is planned. This narrative of the lived space is currently missing in the discussions on housing. The current narrative is dominated by standards and economic affordability. The thesis operates in this constant flux that currently exists between the planned space and the lived space. There is a constant conflict between the intentions of design (planned space) and how the space is actually used or experienced (lived space). 

The aim of the thesis, hence, is to bridge the gap between the planned and the lived. The essential tool to do this is the introduction of interplay. The moment there exists interplay, two spaces start having an effect on each other and this in turn helps us realize the kind of space we are in. If we imagine two spaces as thin strands having no body but just something to move through, we will end up rushing through it. As soon as you introduce an intersection between the two there will be a creation of a body, a volume which will generate an opportunity to dwell and experience each space as well as the form of the interplay. The idea of the interplay itself emerges from the observations of how people live in the various housing typologies. 

The site of intervention is the BDD chawls, Worli. The extensions in the design are visualized as an extension to the corridor rather than the existing unit because the people used to spend most of their time in the corridor, activities and objects would spill out into the corridor. Learning from other case studies like the Poonawala chawl, this new extension starts behaving as the “big living room” with no walls in between houses and a space where the living can happen through the day. The railing is imagined as a space frame that can hold activities as well as objects and doesn’t merely become a uni-functional element. There are kitchen gardens, nurseries, chowks among many others that the railing generates. It also generates opportunities for nuanced activities like planting pots, altering the grid by adding perforated screens and using it as storage,etc. As one moves inside towards the existing building the spaces of the house become more private. The internal spaces are designed as anchor objects and the idea of architectural scale is reimagined by thinking of elements like lofts and some transforming furniture. 

The affordance of spaces depends on how people perceive the space too and their ways of seeing. That is a complex thing to consider while designing and was one of the major challenges faced while designing. The thesis hence to me is a useful lens for validation of spaces designed by us.