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Dharavi: Space, time, human condition towards a theory on unplanned settlements
Blekinge Institute of Technology, School of Planning and Media Design.
2013 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years))Student thesis
Abstract [en]

Dharavi, one of the largest unplanned settlements in the world, inhabit over 700 000 people. The illegal settlements dating back to the 18th century are now under threat to be torn down in order to develop highly modern office and apartment spaces. The future for the inhabitants is uncertain, only those who qualify will get a replacement home within the new development. The architecture and the urban planning of the new plans show signs of copying cities like Singapore or Shanghai rather than establishing a plan that considers the cultural, historical and contextual aspects of India, Mumbai and Dharavi. Planners and architects often see themselves as experts and they often rule by the hand of the politicians. Within this top-down planning approach the knowledge of the inhabitants and the sometimes-inexplicable bond to one’s dwelling is forgotten. The essay sets out to find answers to how people and time affect the built environment and the public spaces as well as how important the individual relationship is to the understanding of the workings of the two. The method used in this essay to find what makes Dharavi unique; observations of the urban spaces were combined with the dreams of the inhabitants of Dharavi. Pictures, sounds and descriptive text have complemented five interviews where the participants were asked to describe their future dreams for themselves and for Dharavi. Through combining the two methods a deeper analysis could be obtained where participation and individual thoughts mixed with how the space could be experienced from an outsider’s point of view. The result became both factual and democratic, an approach Dharavi has seen little of thus far. The essay also contains a large theoretical segment, as one of the purposes for the essay has been to investigate how the human relationship to its built environment has been assessed in the past and how it is in the present and how it can change in the future. Theories of philosophers, anthropologists, psychologists, sociologists, planners and architects have been investigated in order to gain a deeper understanding of how individuals interact with the physical structures around them, and in what way this knowledge can change the future of the urban planning profession. The main conclusion that can be drawn through this work is that no place exists without a context and that the human presence is essential in the understanding of the quality and uniqueness of a space. The people, their history and their stories, the culture, the different religions, the rest of Mumbai and India all affect the way in that Dharavi is functioning. Changing this dynamic and erasing it completely by building generic multistory glass and steel buildings might alter this finely tuned unity. Flexibility is also one of the key words for Dharavi as every street serves a multitude of uses throughout the day; a shift from a vertical layout to a horizontal may, as another conclusion, change that flexibility and it might harm the tightly knit social cohesion and the thriving culture that Dharavi shows today. Dharavi is socially intricate and culturally and architecturally multilayered and it is one of the largest economical benefactors to Mumbai’s fortune as a city. The question is, can Mumbai, and India, afford to meddle with its built structures?

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. , 61 p.
Keyword [en]
Unplanned settlement, Dharavi, Human condition, paticipatory planning
National Category
Environmental Analysis and Construction Information Technology
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-5607Local ID: diva2:832996
Available from: 2015-04-22 Created: 2013-07-26 Last updated: 2015-06-30Bibliographically approved

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