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The Contemporary South Asian City

Unlike most regions in the world, the common underlying theme that permeates through South Asia’s major urban centers including Colombo, Delhi, Dhaka, Karachi, Lahore, and Mumbai, is a shared colonial past. In each city, post-colonial transformation has generated similar socio-economic tendencies, population growth dynamics and migratory trends, albeit different trajectories in political development.

South Asia includes some of the largest and fastest-growing urban agglomerations in the world today, all of which are becoming increasingly interconnected with the larger regional and global economy. Equally relevant is the experience of small and medium-sized cities in each country, and the economic, social and spatial possibilities they represent. This shared past, as well as the comparative points of divergence, merits a deeper examination into how we conceptualize, document and conduct practice in South Asian cities.

Research will include day long workshops in the six cities, followed by a synthetic seminar at Harvard to explore the potential research projects that might emerge from these workshops. The findings from the workshops could be developed into a semester long studio taught at Harvard. The themes would include issues of affordable housing, conservation, public space, urban infrastructure and sanitation.

Faculty Director: Rahul Mehrotra, Professor of Urban Planning and Design, Harvard Graduate School of Design


Arif Hassan, Karachi
Fuad Mallick, BRAC, Bangladesh
Jagath Munasinghe, Colombo, Sri Lanka

This project hopes to generate a literature review on existing materials on urbanism in South Asia and continue to build linkages with professionals and intellectuals in the region. Eventually, the team hopes to sponsor a series of roundtable meetings in Dhaka, Mumbai and Colombo.