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Tag: urbanism

Lost & Found: Toward a Living Heritage

MariaLetiziaGarzoli03RamBagh0065By Jane Philbrick, with Maria Letizia Garzoli, ‎MDes Critical Conservation CandidatesHarvard Graduate School of Design

The following essay is based on Philbrick and Garzoli’s experience in the Harvard Graduate School of Design studio ‘Extreme Urbanism III: Planning for Conservation,’ taught by Rahul Mehrotra, which explores interventions at the intersection between critical conservation and urban planning and design for Agra, India, an exemplar of contemporary urban challenges.

A brutally frank, recently published New York Times Op-Ed, “Holding Your Breath in India,” gives the authors of this text pause.  How to persist in matters as rarified as Imperial Mughal-era cultural heritage amidst the escalating crisis of India’s toxic urban centers?  Now-former Times South East Asia correspondent Gardiner Harris recounts the chilling physical toll exacted on India’s youngest city dwellers, children whose physical capacities are stunted, lungs wasted by polluted air, life expectancies cut by the poisons they live with day after day.  Medical facts:  a child raised in one of India’s 14 of the world’s 25 most-polluted cities[i] will suffer respiratory impairment; diminished IQ; chronic gastro-intestinal illness from exposed, pestilent street-level gutters conveying human and animal effluence and industrial waste, prevalent open defecation, and bathing in and drinking from the slow coursing sewer drain that the magnificent Yamuna River becomes in the nine non-monsoon months of the year, into which spews raw sewage and waste, measured in terms of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), at a rate escalating from 117 tonnes per day (tpd) in 1980 to 276 tpd in 2005.[ii]  Offering anecdotal evidence that underscores how endemic and systemic the crisis has become — the rule, not the exception — Harris reports discovering that the water tanks of his four-year-old Delhi apartment complex had been contaminated by sewage channels illegally dug by the developer.  Prising the floor tiles to investigate the source of foul odors emanating from his sink and shower taps, “brown sludge,” he writes, “seemed to be everywhere.”[iii]

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Mapping and urbanism: Q+A with Chitra Venkataramani

chtraChitra Venkataramani is the SAI South Asian Studies Fellow for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Before coming to Harvard, Venkataramani completed her PhD at Johns Hopkins University. She also ran an art studio in Mumbai, and has trained as an illustrator and graphic designer.

Her research focuses on the emergence of a visual economy organized around the production and circulation of cartographic images in the context of urban planning and ecological governance in India.

SAI recently spoke to Venkataramani about her work and what she will focus on while at Harvard.

SAI: Can you tell us a little about your background in art and how that impacts your academic work?

Chitra Venkataramani: I ran a visual arts studio, and we were drawing a lot and painting a lot. It was a lot to do with: how does one describe a city though images, and how does one put together an account of the city? My feeling at that time was that I was drawing in a language that was kind of repetitive. That was actually my first motivation to see if I should go back again to university.

And I happened to run into Arjun Appadurai at a lecture. Afterwards I told him about what I was doing, how I’m interested in the city and maps, and I asked him for advice. He asked me to think about anthropology, which offers an opportunity to come at these questions from many sides. So then that’s what I did.

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I have no idea what a smart city means: Rahul Mehrotra

Mehrotra says the problem with smart cities is that they are founded on capital and investment, but don’t consider the human being as part of this equation. Photo: S. Kumar/Mint

This article was published originally in Livemint.

By Dhamini Ratnam

Mumbai’s National Gallery of Modern Art will host a series of talks, events and exhibitions on contemporary architecture in India and South Asia early next year, organized by Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI), an independent think tank based in the city. The exhibition has been co-curated by architect Rahul Mehrotra, cultural theorist Ranjit Hoskote and architecture critic Kaiwan Mehta, with the objective of bringing the discussion on architecture back to the centre stage.

Mehrotra juggles many roles—he is the founder of Mumbai-based RMA Architects, a trustee of UDRI, and over the past decade, professor of urban design and planning at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. He is also on the steering committee of the South Asia Institute at Harvard University. His latest collaboration with a team of researchers and students from the institute led to the book Kumbh Mela: Mapping The Ephemeral Mega City, which was released in New Delhi earlier this week. The book looks at the way the Kumbh Mela operates quite successfully as a temporary city.

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Virtual tour: Temporary Landscapes of Religion in South Asia and Latin America

The exhibition Temporary Landscapes of Religion in South Asia and Latin America, which is now on display at Harvard, looks at ephemeral urbanism of various religious festivals in Latin America and South Asia.

In partnership with the Harvard David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, the project is led by Rahul Mehrotra, Professor of Urban Planning and Design and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design, GSD, and curated by Felipe Vera, Universidad Adolfo Ibañez, Chile, and Jose Mayoral, GSD.

SAI, in partnership with the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies is hosting a seminar on Wednesday, April 22, 2015: The Ephemeral City: Looking at Temporary Landscape of Religion in South Asia and Latin America.


About the exhibit:

Religion, a taxonomy of the ephemeral city, is constituted by cases in which the urban space is modified, totally transformed or even created in order to facilitate the practice of faith. These cases present thoughtful strategies for ephemeral configurations deployed to celebrate religious beliefs. Some of the cases in this exhibition go as far as generating temporary megacities from almost nothing, such as the ephemeral constructions set up for the Qayllur Rit’I and the Kumbh Mela.

Others convert streets into open temples, such as the light constructions made annually to host the Durga Puja in Calcutta, while others transform massive regional infrastructure into a procession path, as in Lo Vázquez, Chile. Among others, the cases shown in this exhibition help us challenge the pace at which the generic city is progressively constructed, showing us how the intensity of the events stretches the physical and symbolic boundaries of the everyday functional spaces.

The exhibit will be on display until July 2015 in CGIS South, Second and Fourth floors, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA, open to the public Mondays through Thursdays 7am to 9pm, and Fridays 7am to 7pm.


Lo Vázquez, Chile

Every year during the first week of December, tens of thousands of Catholic pilgrims from Santiago, Chile and Viña del Mar begin a journey to the small town of Lo Vázquez to visit the shrine of the Virgin, a site where multiple apparitions have occurred. The major highway connecting both metropolitan areas to Lo Vázquez loses its functional role and gets reinterpreted as a religious path for pilgrimage.


Lo Vazquez





























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The City and South Asia Podcast: The Season of Migration in the City

How should we plan and perceive the urban?

In this podcast, Namita Dharia, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University, and Graduate Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study, talks about the life of a migrant worker in urban India and how the construction industry is addressing issues of child labor and women’s safety.

Namita spent over a year at a construction site in India working on an ethnography of the real estate and construction industry in India’s National Capital Region, and is the author of “The Season of Migration in the City” in SAI’s publication The City and South Asia.

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The City and South Asia Podcast: Floating on Waste Islands