reading ^ the lines

reading ^ the lines

Project 88 and Contemporary Urban are proud to present Reading ^ the lines, a re-evaluation of the project representing

Mumbai at the 10th Venice Biennale for Architecture, 2006. The starting point for the Venice Biennale project was the Bombay Municipal Corporation’s Development Plan (1) and the citizen’s desire for accessible and serviceable spaces for leisure or domestic use. Various playful and productive engagements with the Development Plan have resulted in this exhibition with videos, installations, and models. The concerns from the original Venice Biennale project have been examined and expanded with new works for Project 88 by Neha Choksi (artist), Niti Gourisaria (spatial designer) and Kapil Gupta (architect). Ashim Ahluwalia and Shumona Goel (film-maker) were part of the team that designed the original presentation for the Urban Design Research Institute, which was invited to represent Mumbai at the Cities show at the 10th Venice Biennale. 

Reading ^ the lines engages the discrepancies between as well as the felicities of official land-use policy and actual practice on the scale of the personal user, developer, city planner, and the larger social concerns. (2) Reading ^ the lines presents poetic and polemical takes on the invigorating and enraging evidence of these competing agencies and its resulting silences, voids and relics in Mumbai’s built environment. Although there is nothing novel about misreading a map, the extent of citizen misbehavior has provoked us, the collaborative team, acting as agent-provocateurs, to engage on the same level with the Development Plan. We too read between, within, in and around the lines for a rather simple purpose—to create space. Real space, psychic space, elastic space. In the spirit of the city we honour the development plan by willfully and systematically misreading it in an effort to note the resultant relics and voids, the fiascos, failures and efflorescence of effort and imagination.

(1) The first Development Plan for Bombay was produced in 1964, and sanctioned in 1967, by the Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) under the statutory authority of the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Authority. It was updated in the 1981 but only ratified in 1993. This plan has been extended to serve up to 2013 as the guide for the spatial development of Mumbai. The Development Plan consists of 127 sheets showing the zoning of Mumbai and the reservations, designations, allocations, etc.

(2) Due to the disjunction between the Development Plan and a rapidly changing ‘ground’ and the sheer inability of the city to reconcile the two, the Development Plan is understood as an imperfect synchronic map of overlaid intentions, systemic loopholes, unrealistic hopes, unfulfilled desires and more. It does not help that the plan’s own proposals are variously archaic, ungenerous, unrealistic, or outright fantasy. The plan legitimizes and overlooks “uncivic” intentions of all agents in the city, from large developers, who pay for changes in the development plan’s prescribed land uses, to small-scale squatters, from middle-class balcony extensions to large-scale urban slum-dwellers, who account for 50% of the city’s population and whose settlements are voids in the map.