￼There are half a dozen cities of over 10 million inhabitants each, most of them in the richer countries. By the year 2000 AD, there will be almost 50 cities of over 15 million - of which 40 will be in the Third World. One of them will be Bombay.
Today the city has 8 million people. As recently as 1940, the number was 1.2 million. This s&e of growth generates enormous pressures-and perplexing new issues regarding the architect and the political parameters which define his tasks. For in’India, as in most third world countries, he is involved, almost exclusively, with a very special clientele-the upper 10% of the population. These are the people who commission the office biddings, apartments, factories and houses, that make up the bulk of his practice. The situation is not of the architect’s making; it merely reflects the skewered income profile in society itself.
Ironically enough, of course, it is the remaining 90% whose needs are the most desperate. Today in Bombay, almost 3 million people live on the pavements and in illegal squatter colonies. Is the architect, with his highly specialised skills, of any relevance to them? The buildings he designs (necessarily multi-storeyed because of the high land values) are beyond the resources of the poor, and it isn’t just a question of finance: at the national level, there is not enough steel and cement to meet the demand.
Nor has self-help housing provided any panacea; since most of the desirable land in Bombay has already been preempted for alternate uses, these schemes usually are on the edge of town, away from jobs and public transport. The poor (at least the smart ones) move back on to the pavements around the railway stations. After all, they are not coming to the city for houses, they are coming for work. To make this kind of housing viable, we will have to increase the supply of urban laud (i.e. land related to job opportunities and transport) at a rate commensurate with the scale of the demand, This is going to necessitate changes in the urban structure, i.e. in the deployment of jobs, hence desire lines, etc. across the city. To concptualise -and help catalyse -such restructuring is, I believe, the key responsibility of the Third World architect.