As a part of the formal and spatial studies, the School of Environment & Architecture (SEA) focuses on typological and ontological investigations related to built form over the third and fourth semester. The question of intent and content of architecture is central to the formulation of these design studios. This presentation will focus on one such year long inquiry undertaken by the faculty and students on the question of “Home” in the city. The project “What is a Home?” was undertaken in order to compile histories of ten neighbourhoods in Mumbai (as a part of the long term Mumbai Neighborhood Studies initiated by SEA). The present sites under consideration, distributed over central to northern fringe of the city, have also been sites of resettlement and rehabilitation of migrants who were displaced to accommodate the growing city capital. The first part of the study – deriving a conceptual apparatus of the impulses of the “home” in these sites was presented at the Kochi Biennale 2016. The study was taken further to investigate as well as explore the question of “What is a home?” and strategize new design methods while acknowledging newer logics of “settling” that people in these neighbourhoods devise while finding new ways of inhabiting the city.
Histories of cities are at the same time stories of migrations, displacements and settling. These are as much about movements as about setting up of homes. This process of settling and the making of homes are complex with deep phenomenological resonances in the spaces that people create. In this extreme case of displacement, all our set categories of thinking of space as private property, as private space, as a commodity that can be bought and sold, as a bounded space that shuts the outdoors away, a space of security, a safe place to dream as Gaston Bachelard puts it, are all destabilized. The neighborhood histories of sites in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai have seen intense migrations/displacements and then acts of settling and consolidation to (re)make homes. As opposed to the generic development narrative, where the developer seems to be the only agent of housing delivery, we see how human agency contributes to the making of home in each of the above chosen cases, where the urban form gets articulated in varied ways. We extend this research to a scenario where reorganization, reconstruction and upgradation can become an alternative form of development, helping retain multiplicities and layered lives that emerge in these environments. What would such a process of architecture be? What are the various programmatic propositions of home that a rich layered living throws up, that the ubiquitous apartment type irons out? How can a rich architectural vocabulary emerge out of retaining the multiple tenures and layers of living? Through the narratives of its people, material and geographies we ask the question ‘What is a Home?’ How is a home constituted? How is it built / made / sustained / lived / loved / dreamt in?