Tag Archives: space

Plotting & Scheming: Constructing Sandhurst Road in Colonial Bombay, 1898-1925

Please click here to download my presentation (PDF) to the faculty and students of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (CSSS) Calcutta/Kolkata on 3 March 2017. My seminar talk was hosted and chaired by historians Professor Lakshmi Subramanian and Dr Prachi Deshpande. It is based on two chapters from my forthcoming book, Empire’s Metropolis: Money, Time & Space in Colonial Bombay, 1860-1920.

Sandhurst Road Scheme no.3

In the late 1890s, an epidemic of bubonic plague swept through the ports of the British Empire in Asia, dramatising the vulnerability of imperial power in its urban centres of command and control. Colonial cities like Calcutta and Bombay served as gateways to regional and global flows of people, money and machines, centralised and accelerated by networks of steam, rail and electricity. Freedom to trade and the rule of law underpinned both business and politics. Within these cities, power was shared and contested between colonial rulers, Indian elites and urban populations.

My presentation explores the social and spatial restructuring of early 20th century Bombay in the wake of the plague epidemic, through a study of the construction of Sandhurst Road, an east-west arterial avenue. Since 1955 known as Sardar Vallabbhai Patel (SVP) Marg, Sandhurst Road was named after the British Governor of Bombay Presidency who tackled the outbreak of bubonic plague in western India in 1896 by establishing the Bombay Improvement Trust (BIT) to “clean up” the city.

Continue reading Plotting & Scheming: Constructing Sandhurst Road in Colonial Bombay, 1898-1925

आलेखन व आखणी : वासाहतिक बॉम्बेमध्ये झालेलं सँडहर्स्ट रस्त्याचं बांधकाम, १८९८-१९२५

This is a Marathi translation by Avadhoot of “Plotting & Scheming: Constructing Sandhurst Road in Colonial Bombay, 1898-1925″.

सेंटर फॉर स्टडीज् इन सोशल सायन्सेन (सीएसएसएस), कोलकाता’ इथं ३ मार्च २०१७ रोजी मी दिलेल्या व्याख्यानाचा हा गोषवारा आहे. प्राध्यापक लक्ष्मी सुब्रमण्यमडॉ. प्राची देशपांडे हे इतिहासकार या कार्यक्रमाचे यजमान व अध्यक्ष होते. ‘एम्पायर’स् मेट्रॉपलिस: मनी, टाइम अँड स्पेस इन कलोनिअल बॉम्बे, १८६०-१९२०’ या माझ्या आगामी पुस्तकातील दोन प्रकरणांवर हे व्याख्यान आधारलेलं होतं.

Sandhurst Road Scheme no.3

आशियातील ब्रिटिश साम्राज्याच्या बंदरांवर १८९०च्या दशकाच्या अखेरीला गाठीच्या प्लेगाची साथ पसरली. यामुळं साम्राज्यवादी सत्तेचं प्रभुत्व व नियंत्रण असलेल्या नागरी केंद्रांमधील असुरक्षिततेला नाट्यमय वळण मिळालं. कलकत्ता व मुंबई यांसारखी वासाहतिक शहरं प्रादेशिक व जागतिक पातळीवर लोक, पैसा व यंत्रं यांच्या दळणवळणाची प्रवेशद्वारं होती. वाफेची इंजिनं, रेल्वे आणि वीज यांच्या जाळ्यातून या शहरांचं केंद्रीकरण झालं होतं व त्यांना चालनाही मिळत होती. व्यवसाय आणि राजकारण या दोन्हींचा अंतःप्रवाह व्यापाराचं स्वातंत्र्य व कायद्याचं राज्य असा होता. या शहरांमध्ये वासाहतिक सत्ताधारी, भारतीय उच्चभ्रू आणि नागरी जनता यांच्यात सत्तेचं वाटप झालेलं होतं आणि सत्तासंघर्षही त्यांच्यातच होत असे.

प्लेगच्या साथीमुळं विसाव्या शतकातील मुंबईमध्ये सामाजिकदृष्ट्या व स्थलावकाशदृष्ट्या कोणते बदल झाले याचा शोध घेण्याचा प्रयत्न माझ्या सादरीकरणात केलेला आहे. पूर्व व पश्चिम भागांना जोडणाऱ्या सँडहर्स्ट रस्त्याच्या बांधणीसंदर्भात हा अभ्यास केलेला आहे. १९५५ सालापासून ‘सरदार वल्लभभाई पटेल (एसव्हीपी) मार्ग’ या नावानं ओळखल्या जाणाऱ्या या रस्त्याचं आधीचं नाव मुंबई प्रांताचा ब्रिटिश गव्हर्नर सँडहर्स्ट याच्यावरून ठेवलेलं होतं. १८९६ साली पश्चिम भारतातील गाठीच्या प्लेगची साथ निवारण्यासाठी ‘बॉम्बे इम्प्रूव्हमेन्ट ट्रस्ट’ (बीआयटी) या संस्थेची स्थापना याच सँडहर्स्ट यांनी केली.

Continue reading आलेखन व आखणी : वासाहतिक बॉम्बेमध्ये झालेलं सँडहर्स्ट रस्त्याचं बांधकाम, १८९८-१९२५

Plotting & Scheming: Land Acquisition & Market Values in Colonial Bombay City, 1898-1910

On 18 January 2017, I gave this seminar talk and presentation to the Cities Cluster of the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences (FASS) Research Division, National University of Singapore (NUS). The talk was co-sponsored by the Asian Urbanisms Cluster of the NUS Asia Research Institute (ARI) and chaired by Professor Tim Bunnell. This seminar talk is based on  a chapter from my forthcoming book, Empire’s Metropolis: Money, Time & Space in Colonial Bombay, 1860-1920.

poster_18.1.2017

In the late 1890s, an epidemic of bubonic plague swept through the ports of the British Empire in Asia, dramatising the vulnerability of imperial power in its urban centres of command and control. Colonial cities like Singapore and Bombay served as gateways to regional and global flows of people, money and machines, centralised and accelerated by networks of steam, rail and electricity. Freedom to trade and the rule of law underpinned both business and politics. Within these urban centres, power was shared and contested between colonial rulers, Indian elites and urban populations.

My presentation explores the social and spatial restucturing of early 20th century Bombay in the wake of the plague epidemic. In 1898, the British colonial state established the Bombay Improvement Trust (BIT) to “clean up” the city, equipped with draconian powers of compulsory acquisition and land clearance to demolish slums, erect new buildings and build broad boulevards. Within a decade, the BIT emerged as the single largest land-owner in colonial Bombay by seizing and plotting vast tracts into new planning “schemes” – though not without costly legal and technical challenges to its eminent domain from landlords and tenants, temples and mosques, and owners of shops, theatres and quarries.

Arbitrated through Victorian ideas of “market value” and techniques of measurement and valuation in colonial courts, urban environments once valued through overlapping chains of title and use were now awarded hypothetical cash values, driving speculation and generalising a new logic and political economy in colonial Bombay. I will examine this transformation in the urban land market through tribunals and court cases fought against the BIT by Indian claimants, appeals against acquisition and for higher compensation which often dragged on for years. These lengthy arguments and novel interpretations of Anglo-Indian land and property law continue to shape urbanisation in the cities of post-colonial South Asia.

Why You Should Download the Mumbai Development Plan Today

Mumbai's New Development Plan? Cartoon by Raj Thackeray, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), February-March 2015
Mumbai’s New Development Plan? Cartoon by Raj Thackeray, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), February-March 2015

The publication of the proposed Greater Mumbai Development Plan for 2034 over the past month has seen a rare coalition emerge to condemn it, from NGOs and political parties, to celebrities and artistes, and in the past week even the BMC’s own Heritage Conservation Committee. Aggrieved residents and alert activists are seeing dark conspiraces in the details of road alignments, land use reservations, and hikes in FSI (Floor Space Index) across the city. While high FSI has become central to the debate on DP 2034, what matters most for Mumbaikars is how policies like FSI, TDR (Transferable Development Rights) and other Development Control Rules (DCR) can be harnessed to create greater public goods and a better urban environment in the next twenty years.

Portrayed from Left to Right as a sell-out to the construction industry, DP 2034 is in fact a paper template, referred to when permissions are sought for development or redevelopment. Together with the DCR, they define the guidelines and recipe book of policies by which land use, building, zoning, amenities and infrastructure are regulated. DP 2034 will only be the third for Greater Mumbai. The first DP was proposed in 1964 and sanctioned in 1967 for a decade until 1977. It was a broad land use plan, a response by engineers and planners who were horrified by the Island City’s runaway population growth and industrial concentration, even after the annexation of the suburbs to Greater Bombay in the fifties, and the statehood of Maharashtra in the sixties.

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The Swayambhu Lingam of Sandhurst Road

Shorter version published as “Squaring the Circle”, Mumbai Mirror, Sunday Read, 22 February 2015.

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“I need not dilate on the urgent necessity in the interest of our work of removing temples, where necessary, otherwise than by force. In laying out schemes I exclude every religious edifice that I can. But in the case of Hindoo temples it is not possible to exclude all, for they are sprinkled over the City like pepper out of a castor. And if our schemes are not to suffer, we must treat each case liberally”.

Proceedings of the Trustees for the Improvement of the City of Bombay, Special Meeting, 15 January 1907, T.R. 11

On this week’s festival of Maha Shivratri, devotees annually offer prayers in Mumbai’s oldest temple dedicated to Shiva, the Nageshwar Mandir at Sardar Vallabbhai Patel (SVP) Marg. Popularly known as the “Gol Deval”, few who circle around its swayambhu (self-manifested) ling are aware of how this “Round Temple” came to be in the middle of a busy main road. Known before 1955 as Sandhurst Road, this arterial avenue was named after the Governor who tackled the outbreak of bubonic plague in western India in 1896. Lord Sandhurst created the Bombay Improvement Trust (BIT) in 1898 to immunise the city in the wake of the epidemic, arming it with draconian powers of acquisition, demolition and redevelopment, to unclog the city’s arteries and increase its circulation by redeveloping its slums, swamps and streets.

Continue reading The Swayambhu Lingam of Sandhurst Road

सँडहर्स्ट रस्त्यावरचे स्वयंभू शिवलिंग | शेखर कृष्णन

Marathi translation of The Swayambhu Lingam of Sandhurst Road by Avadhoot.

 

Round Temple (Gol Deval), Sandhurst Road (S. Patel Marg)
Round Temple (Gol Deval), Sandhurst Road (S. Patel Marg)

 

‘‘आपले काम सुरळीत पार पडायचे असेल, तर आवश्यक वाटेल तिथे आणि गरज भासल्यास बळाचा वापर करून मंदिरे हटविणे अत्यंत निकडीचे आहे. या आवश्यकतेवर मी आणखी उहापोह करण्याची गरज नाही. मी एखादी योजना आखताना कोणत्याही धार्मिक स्थळाची जागा त्यातून वगळतो. परंतु हिंदू मंदिरांच्या बाबतीत, सर्व स्थळे वगळणे शक्य नाही, कारण ती शहरभर गवतासारखी पसरलेली आहेत. आपल्या योजनांना बाधा यायला नको असेल, तर आपण यातील प्रत्येक स्थळाचा स्वतंत्रपणे विचार करायला हवा.’’

  • मुंबई शहर सुधारणा विश्वस्त संस्थे’च्या (द बॉम्बे सिटी इम्प्रुव्हमेंट ट्रस्ट) विशेष बैठकीच्या कामकाजातून, १५ जानेवारी १९०७, टी.आर.११.

रदार वल्लभभाई पटेल (एसव्हीपी) मार्गावरील नागेश्वर मंदिर हे मुंबईतील सर्वांत जुने शंकराचे देऊळ आहे. दर वर्षी महाशिवरात्रीच्या सप्ताहात भक्तमंडळी इथे येऊन प्रार्थना करतात. ‘गोल देऊळ’ या नावाने प्रसिद्ध असलेल्या या मंदिरात स्वयंभू शिवलिंगाभोवती प्रदक्षिणा घालणाऱ्या फारच थोड्या लोकांना हे मंदिर गर्दीच्या या मुख्य रस्त्यावर कसे उभे राहिले याची माहिती असेल. १९५५ पूर्वी सँडहर्स्ट रोड या नावाने हा वर्दळीचा रस्ता ओळखला जायचा. पश्चिम भारतात १८९६ साली आलेल्या प्लेगच्या साथीला सरकारच्या वतीने हाताळणाऱ्या गव्हर्नर सँडहर्स्टवरून हे नाव देण्यात आले होते. लॉर्ड सँडहर्स्ट यांनी या साथीच्या पार्श्वभूमीवर १८९८ साली शहराचे निर्जंतणुकीकरण करण्यासाठी बॉम्बे इम्प्रुव्हमेंट ट्रस्टची (बीआयटी) स्थापना केली. शहराच्या वाहतूक मार्गांमध्ये मोकळीक आणण्यासाठी व झोपडपट्ट्या, दलदलीची ठिकाणे, रस्ते यांचा पुनर्विकास करून हे मार्ग अधिक प्रवाही करण्यासाठी या विश्वस्त संस्थेला अधिग्रहण, पाडकाम व पुनर्विकासाचे राक्षसी अधिकार देण्यात आले.

Continue reading सँडहर्स्ट रस्त्यावरचे स्वयंभू शिवलिंग | शेखर कृष्णन

Do Buildings Have Agency?

Published in shorter form as “Do Buildings Have Agency?” in Economic and Political Weekly (Mumbai), Vol XLVI No.30, 23 July 2011

Neera Adarkar, ed., The Chawls of Mumbai: Galleries of Life (Gurgaon: imprintOne, 2011)

Can built forms have their own subjectivity? Architects, geographers and urban planners would surely answer this question in the affirmative. By contrast, most historians and social scientists have long viewed all non-human artefacts as “socially constructed”, and the structure and agency of the physical environment has remained weakly conceptualised, even in urban studies.

Given the number of published works on the deindustrialisation of Mumbai and the decline of its textile industry – including an award-winning oral history of mill workersi co-authored by the editor of this new anthology on chawls – it is significant that the most ubiquitous form of working-class housing in the Mumbai had not yet been studied in any depth until nowii. Galleries of Life is a salutary exploration of the history, architecture, culture and politics of chawls which creatively examines the tension between historical nostalgia and contemporary urban change in Mumbai.

Buildings can nurture, constrain, limit and transform those who inhabit or pass through them. Generic typologies mass produced on an industrial scale – apartments, tenements, chawls, skyscrapers and slums – are generative of their peculiar milieus and practices. Like other forms of housing, Mumbai’s iconic chawls are basically physical containers which give shelter and provide shape to social reproduction. But urban housing and the built environment can “act back” on communities and society. Housing as social space can signify a bundle of rights and claims, a locus of legal and property relations, a stage for politics and performance, and a set of resources for survival and mobility.

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The City as Extracurricular Space: Re-Instituting Urban Pedagogy in South Asia

Download “The City as Extracurricular Space: Re-Instituting Urban Pedagogy in South Asia”

Mumbai Metro RegionThis journal article, co-authored with Anirudh Paul and Prasad Shetty, was published in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies (Routledge/Taylor & Francis, London), Vol.6, No.3, 2005, in a special issue on South Asia edited by Ashish Rajadhyaksha. The original essay originated in a presentations given by myself and Anirudh Paul at the 2004 Annual Conference of the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society (IACS) in Bangalore and in the work of the Design Cell of the Kamala Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture (KRVIA) and CRIT (Collective Research Initiatives Trust) in Mumbai from 2000-2004.

ABSTRACT

This paper addresses the pedagogic and disciplinary challenges posed by the effort to understand urban spatial practices and institutional histories in Bombay/Mumbai, and other postcolonial South Asian cities. Many cities in the region, such as Chandigarh and Dhaka were designed as iconic of the abstract space of the nation-state.

The dominance of the nationalist spatial imagination in the understandings of public space, citizenship, and the metropolitan environment – combined with the functionalist perception of architecture and spatial practice – have resulted in an urban pedagogy that regards the city only as a technological or physical artefact. Architectural education and urban pedagogy is therefore unable to address the diversity of social-spatial formations in the city, and its political regime of predatory development, tactical negotiation, and blurry urbanism. To better understand this new regime, we require a collaborative urbanism that treats the city as an extra-curricular space by which we can reconstruct existing institutional frameworks.

Drawing on the work of CRIT (Collective Research Initiatives Trust), Mumbai, this papers explores the post-industrial landscapes of the Mumbai Mill and Port Lands as a case study in two extracurricular research projects, which grew into urban design and community planning interventions in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, where urban spaces became the arena for re-imagining the relations between knowledge production, institutional boundaries, and civic activism on which nationalism has imposed a long estrangement.

Mills as Public Spaces: Mumbai’s Industrial Heritage

In Mumbai, public awareness of urban arts and heritage has experienced a significant revival in the past ten years in the same historical moment when manufacturing industries have closed and factories emptied throughout Greater Mumbai. Heritage discourse and conservation practice have only implicitly acknowledged this economic context. Since the Bombay Textile Strike of 1982-3, entire working-class communities across the city have been retrenched and dispersed in the Mill and Dock Lands of central Mumbai, the chemical and engineering factories and industrial estates in suburban Mumbai, and across the Metropolitan Region.

Machinery in Kohinoor Mills no.1-2, Dadar (East), 2002
Machinery in Kohinoor Mills no.1-2, Dadar (East), 2002

With job losses going into tens of lakhs, and uncertain growth prospects for Mumbai, several years ago the media and civic elite began speaking of the “death of the city” they once knew, whereas planners and academics eagerly awaited the birth of a new “global city”. However one described this restructuring of the city’s economy, it is clear that manufacturing has declined in value compared to the new service industries, not just in Mumbai but in big cities throughout the world. The post-industrial landscapes of London’s Docklands and New York’s Lower Manhattan are oft-cited symbols of this change monstrous, gleaming high-rise districts dominated by banking, finance, and white-collar services. In today’s urban economy, the making and marketing of immaterial signs has replaced the production of durable goods as the primary circuit of wealth creation.

The concepts and practices of cultural heritage, architectural conservation, and public arts, (whether they realise it or not) are enmeshed in this new economy of image production. While buildings are still very much made of brick and mortar (or steel and RCC), the production of images of the urban built environment is one of the intangible, high-value commodities of the global city. Whether in the space-age absurdity of Hafeez Contractor’s garden city in Powai, or the sepia-tinted romanticism of the South Bombay heritage enthusiasts, the value of a building has less to do with its physical qualities than its iconic presence as an object of consumption. So it is not difficult to explain the phenomenal growth of concepts and practices of heritage conservation in Mumbai.

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The Murder of Phoenix Mills: A Case Study of Phoenix Mills

Click here to download of The Murder of Phoenix Mills (Mumbai: Lokshahi Hakk Sanghatana and Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti, April 2000).

This pamphlet was a case study of the redevelopment of the Phoenix Mills in Lower Parel, Mumbai conducted from November 1999 to March 2000 and was published by the Lokshahi Hakk Sanghatana and Girangaon Bachao Andolan in Mumbai in April 2000. The views contained herein are solely those of the publishers.

Introduction

Liberalisation and globalisation have not only refashioned our lifestyles, but also our urban landscape. In a recent article in India Todayi, a journalist has celebrated the renaissance of what she calls “Mumbai’s embarrassing eyesore”— the textile mills lands of central Bombay — as this “grim, seedy, and decidedly downmarket” area is being transformed into a new oasis of elite business and leisure. Boasting corporate offices, advertising agencies, art galleries, entertainment centres and posh restaurants, a new economy and way of life have displaced what, according to this writer, were the previously “rat-infested” mills and other parts of this “depressing district.”

This article quotes an architect who remodelled a part of the Phoenix Mills Compound into the new offices of the multinational Standard Chartered Bank, claiming that the mill “was a dead place” before its new corporate tenants arrived. Phoenix Mills now houses the residential high-rise Phoenix Towers, numerous offices and restaurants, the Bowling Company and the Fire and Ice discotheque. Nearby mills have leased their lucrative land holdings, boasting similar space and amenities. In the old industrial lands of central Bombay, gleaming high-rises now compete with chimney stacks in the urban skyline, a symbol both of “progress” and change.

That most precious commodity in our ill-planned, congested and overcrowded commercial capital, space, is up for grabs to the highest bidder. India Today shares in the excitement — central Bombay’s treasure is its “yards and yards of mill land, just waiting to be devoured.” “Everywhere poky chawls are metamorphosing into haughty highrises, pinstriped shirts are replacing blue collars, and old addas are turning into trendy little eateries.”

But what of the residents of these decrepit chawls, have they simply fled at the advance of the builders, party-goers, and advertising executives? What of the mills and textile industry, in which many of these workers and their families have worked for over a century? What of the long heritage of productive culture, and the traditions tied to these historic neighbourhoods, which nestles in the heart of Bombay’s growth as a great industrial metropolis, have the been extinguished?

Continue reading The Murder of Phoenix Mills: A Case Study of Phoenix Mills