Rahul Mehrotra – Working In Mumbai

Lecture date: 2013-02-07

This lecture is in collaboration with The British School at Rome.

Architects and Designers working in India are now dealing with an entire gamut of social, cultural and economic phenomena that are moulding the built environment at rapid rates. In the process, the role of the professional architect has been marginalised – for within conventional praxis, the professional does not engage with this broader landscape but rather chooses to operate with the specificity of a site and, thus, in the process often becomes disconnected with the context of practice. As a result, the approach of Working in Mumbai uses the city and region of its operation as a generator of practice – as a way to evolve an approach and architectural vocabulary that draws its nourishment from a more elastic definition of the profession which sees multiple disciplines as being simultaneously valid in engaging with this kinetic landscape. The lecture will be divided into two parts. The first section will entail a presentation on Mehrotra’s reading of the city of Mumbai and the implications that working in Mumbai has on architectural choices, questions and issues. The second half will cover projects across India that attempt to express the (architectural) sensibilities that have evolved by working in Mumbai.

Rahul Mehrotra is a practicing architect, urban designer and educator.  His firm RMA Architects was founded in 1990 in Mumbai and has designed and executed projects for clients that include government and non-governmental agencies, corporate as well as private individuals and institutions. RMA Architects has also initiated several unsolicited projects driven by the firm’s commitment to advocacy in the city of Mumbai. Mehrotra has written and lectured extensively on issues to do with architecture, conservation, and urban planning in Mumbai and India. He has long been actively involved in civic and urban affairs in Mumbai, having served on commissions for the conservation of historic buildings and environmental issues, with various neighbourhood groups, and, from 1994 to 2004, as Executive Director of the Urban Design Research Institute. He studied at the School of Architecture, Ahmedabad (CEPT), and graduated with a master’s degree with distinction in Urban Design from the GSD. He has taught at the University of Michigan (2003–2007) and at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at MIT (2007–2010).

His current research involves looking at India’s medium size cities and the broader emergent patterns of urbanism in India. Mehrotra’s ongoing research is focused on evolving a theoretical framework for designing in conditions of informal growth – what he refers to as the ‘Kinetic City’. He has run several studios looking at various aspects of planning questions in the city of Mumbai, under the rubric of “Extreme Urbanism”.

Mehrotra is a member of the steering committee of the South Asia Initiative at Harvard, and curates their series on Urbanization. He currently is leading a university wide research project with Professor Diana Eck, called The Kumbh Mela – Mapping the Ephemeral City.


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