When Architects Created Worlds - The New York Times

Rahul Mehrotra, the architect and Harvard professor, writes in the catalog about the housing challenge. Faced with millions of refugees,...


Rahul Mehrotra, the architect and Harvard professor, writes in the catalog about the housing challenge. Faced with millions of refugees, the new nations of South Asia eventually proliferated developments that paralleled centuries of class division. Islamabad was built for Pakistan’s military and bureaucratic elites. Refugees and the poor settled in Korangi.

There were a few exceptions, such as Anguri Bagh or Correa’s Artists’ Village of the early 1980s in Belapur, on the edge of Navi Mumbai, a new town that Correa also helped plan. As Mehrotra points out, Correa recognized a kind of organic intelligence in the evolution of Mumbai’s slums and other informal settlements: he learned from the creative ingenuity and optimism of people building homes and urban spaces for shared communities, with little or no means.

Correa attempted to codify these lessons at the Artists’ Village, a collection of free-standing whitewashed houses with stone courtyards and pitched tiled roofs, organized around common spaces: a low-cost, low-rise progressive development , high density for a mix of different classes.

My guess is that the artists’ village has now dissolved into the sprawling megalopolis of Navi Mumbai, a bit more worn down like all aging developments. But as Correa hoped, he still expands on the urban DNA he planted, confirming his dream of a better India.

The same cannot be said of the Hall of Nations, alas. He was shaved one night in April 2017, after officials from the heritage conservation committee of the current Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, turned a deaf ear to architects and historians around the world who pleaded to save the project. The hall was not old enough to be protected, officials explained, and it needed to make way for a shiny new development.

In the exhibition catalog, Stierli calls the demolition “an act of vandalism” against a work of architecture that had symbolized a progressive vision of India now “fundamentally at odds with the Hindu nationalist position of the current government”.

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