- Speaking at the India Culture Lab, Rahul Mehrotra held forth on aspects philosophical and rooted in ground realities, ranging from the idea of the urban in India to the agency of architecture and design.
- Mehrotra is of the opinion that the current definition of urbanity based on the 2011 Census gives us a very incorrect picture of urban India.
- A disproportionate distribution of power and the greed that sets in within the elite who are worried only about their problems is how you get projects like the Coastal Road, he says.
“From the time privatisation gathered pace in India, leading to a corporate culture, people from the corporate world have almost completely disappeared from democratic participation. There are very few exceptions. Scarcely anybody ventures out of his or her firm. It’s as if anybody who enters the corporate world is out of the democratic set-up, leading a lifestyle that prompts him or her to value democracy less and less…. The more privatisation increases, the more democratic spaces shrink.”
At his masterclass at the India Culture Lab, architect Rahul Mehrotra chose to begin not with an anecdote from his practise or the words of a famous architect, but rather lines from journalist Ravish Kumar’s book The Free Voice. It set the tone for his masterclass, which was titled ‘Architecture in Context’. The founder principal of the architecture firm RMA Architects of Mumbai + Boston, and professor of Urban Design at Cambridge, held forth on aspects philosophical and rooted in ground realities, ranging from the idea of the urban in India, the agency of architecture and design, and how we can expand our spheres of influence as concerned citizens.
Mehrotra says that architects look at context in very narrow terms: the climate, geography, and materials locally available. A more ambitious architect may look at culture or the history of the site. “And yet it is site-specific or territory-specific. The real question is, what is the context of the context, and how do you nestle the context within the context? That becomes a productive way to look at architecture. Otherwise, we get stuck in the idea of binaries, which don’t result in hybridities. Binaries are about pulling apart. Design, on the other hand, is about synthesis and blurring binaries,” he explains.