Material worlds : [de]constructing the ethos of concrete in Mumbai
Author(s)Shah, Priyanka (Priyanka Dinesh)
Deconstructing the ethos of concrete in Mumbai
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
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What can a building material tell us about a city? As the most widely used structural building material in the world, reinforced cement concrete shapes the urban form of several of our largest megacities Sao Paulo, Cairo, Karachi and Mumbai, to name a few. The predominant building form concrete takes in these cities, is of the concrete frame. This dissertation traces the emergence of the concrete frame as the preferred form taken by reinforced concrete in widespread urban applications, over a myriad of sculptural possibilities that the material offers. Proceeding from the assertion that the manifestation of form reveals to us the condition of its production, in other words the built environment of the city can tell us about the society that inhabits it - I investigate what I call the ethos of concrete in Mumbai as a way of understanding the state of some aspects of the city's society. It must be emphasized that I look specifically at ethos of production rather than reception of concrete framed buildings in the city of Mumbai. The findings of this thesis are both its method of investigation and its discoveries. The frame is seen as the form concrete takes in Mumbai; hence for the scope of this thesis, the frame is concrete in Mumbai. Using the concrete frame as a heuristic device to investigate the production of urban form in the city, the thesis constructs a narrative of the physical formation of buildings that make the urban form of Mumbai. The frame is investigated at two scales, the terrain of the city, and level of the singular building. The ethos of concrete here is its spatial ethos and its productive ethos, each of which are seen at the scale of the city and the building.(cont.) The spatial ethos at the building level tell us about the evolution of the space between individual buildings and the genesis of gatedness in concrete apartment buildings in India, as well as well the development of bye laws which govern the form buildings can take in the city. The spatial ethos at the scale of the city tells us about the relation between land subdivision and the spread of the frame on older patterns of land holdings in the city. We find that the Concrete frame buildings occur in areas that have previously had larger plots, or on reclaimed land, while dense areas in the central part of the island city with small individual land holdings do not have many concrete buildings. The ethos of production at the scale of the city characterizes it as a "topological field" utilized for the serial production of the concrete frame as a lucrative commercial entity. This field of the city's plan on which the extrusion of concrete buildings takes place is seen the basis of the "chaotic" appearance of the city. And the productive ethos at the scale of buildings, seen as the generation of aesthetic design, shows us how the planimetric basis of the city is overcome by its buildings to invent new visual orders. Finally the productive ethos at the scale of the building is seen as the work of architects, developers and labourers involved in the construction of the concrete buildings in the city. While the vast availability of informal labour perpetuates the use of concrete at the level of the structure of the building - I have found that a hybrid practice of professional architectural design and informal artisanal labour enables the reinvention of the generic concrete frame in the city - hence allowing it to periodically reappear in new incarnations.(cont.) In conclusion the paradox of the material of concrete is that it enables both perpetuation and reinvention, Its plasticity enabling newer facades to be applied to the same underlying frame, and its labour conditions facilitating upward mobility for the middle classes while reinforcing its own entrenchment at the bottom of the productive order.
Thesis (S.M.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Architecture; and, (M.C.P.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2008.Includes bibliographical references (p. -155).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Architecture.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Architecture., Urban Studies and Planning.