Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs at Brown University
CHAIR: SAI BALAKRISHNAN
Assistant Professor of Urban Planning, Harvard Graduate School Of Design
Drawing on fieldwork in a range of communities in Delhi, Patrick Heller documents inequity, and exclusion within basic service distribution across the city. These exclusionary practices have both a formal character built into policies that differentiate citizenship rights across settlement types and an informal character driven by political arrangements.
The collaboration between Avijit Mukul Kishore and Rohan Shivkumar emerges from the intersection of their respective disciplines – architecture and documentary film. The film opens these disciplines to self-critique and looks at the way that they imagine and construct a nation and its citizen.
As a point of entry and exit, a threshold has a dual coding in society as both a physical and symbolic marker of separation and connection. Thresholds are often explicitly hard-edged or even brutal in their expression, demarcating rigid boundaries, as in the definitive lines of walls, barricades, and security checkpoints in buildings, around cities, or across larger territories. Too often, thresholds also divide human activity or communities according to social, ethnic, national, or economic characteristics. Architecture and planning can unwittingly contribute to these different forms of physical separation, especially in ways made visible through their practitioners’ interpretations of culture, religion, or legislation. As the academic disciplines that inform spatial practices, architecture and planning are themselves often similarly separated by disciplinary thresholds, inhibiting porosity between fields of research. By definition, an individual discipline necessarily is organized around a self-referential center of discursive production, but this often happens at the expense of the richness found at the intersection of multiple disciplinary perspectives. Is architecture, in its compulsive drive to create the autonomous object, inherently hardening the thresholds separating it from other disciplines and, by extension, reproducing those schisms within the built environment? Can architecture and planning intentionally construct soft thresholds―lines that are easily traversed, even temporarily erased―thereby allowing for multiple perspectives across different modes of research and practice and catalyzing disciplinary and social connections? What, then, is the physical expression of a soft threshold―a space that is visually and physically porous, plural in spirit, encompassing of its context, and yet rigorous in its expression?
This exhibition on the works of RMA Architects, Mumbai + Boston, represents the compulsive drive of the practice to construct soft thresholds―through research, engagement with the city, and making of architecture.
Tarun Khanna, Director, Harvard South Asia Institute; Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School
Jennifer Leaning, François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights; Director, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health
Rahul Mehrotra, Professor of Urban Design and Planning, Harvard Graduate School of Design
The Kumbh Mela is a Hindu religious fair that occurs every twelve years in India, and has become the largest public gathering in the world. The most recent observance of the festival took place in 2013 in Allahabad, with an estimated attendance of over 80 million people. Because of its size and complexity, the 2013 Kumbh Mela inspired the Harvard South Asia Institute’s flagship multi-year interdisciplinary research project in a number of complementary fields: business, technology and communications, urban studies and design, religious and cultural studies, and public health. Launched in 2015, the Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity book and exhibition consolidate research findings and serve as an example of interdisciplinary research conducted at Harvard.
Ranjani Mazumdar, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Chair: Rahul Mehrotra, Professor of Urban Design and Planning, Harvard Graduate School of Design
This paper looks at the role of media and communication technologies in the imagination of urban spaces in contemporary Bombay cinema. If surveillance practices and their resultant structuring becomes one part of this imagination (No Smoking 2007, LSD 2010, Ugly, 2013), we also see the role of the internet and social media in the framing of spatial encounters in small town India (Masaan 2015). A fascination for ‘obsolete’ technology frames another order of space linked to the recent past (Gangs of Wasseypur 2012, Miss Lovely 2012, Dum Lagake Haisha, 2015), while documentary films like John and Jayne (2005) invoke the call centre imagination within a fractured urban subjectivity. In these films, the themes of violence, love, tragedy and comedy are enacted within a spatial terrain triggered by new media technologies. Taken together these films offer a new geography of the experiential changes unraveling in contemporary India.
Ranjani Mazumdar is Professor of Cinema Studies at the School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her publications focus on urban cultures, popular cinema, gender and the cinematic city. She is the author of Bombay Cinema: An Archive of the City (2007) and co-author with Nitin Govil of the forthcoming The Indian Film Industry. She has also worked as a documentary filmmaker and her productions include Delhi Diary 2001 and The Power of the Image (Co-Directed). Her current research focuses on globalization and film culture, the visual culture of film posters and the intersection of technology, travel, design and colour in 1960s Bombay Cinema.
Henrik Valeur, Architect-Urbanist, Founder and Creative Director of UiD
Chair: Rahul Mehrotra, Professor of Urban Design and Planning, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Can India use urbanization as a driver of economic, human and social development like China has done? How can Indian cities be made more inclusive, productive and livable? Are there any simple solutions to the seemingly insurmountable problems of urban India – the life threatening levels of air pollution, the desperate lack of water, the precarious food situation, the squalid living conditions in the slums, the chaotic, choked and congested road traffic? This lecture will discuss some of these problems and propose some possible solutions, using the cities of Bangalore in South India and Chandigarh in North India as its primary cases. The concept of smart cities will briefly be discussed and co-evolution and development urbanism will be introduced as alternative strategies.
“Re-thinking Local” will examine how architects are developing new models of locally-based design practice given the changing realities of urbanization around the world, with a particular focus on South and Southeast Asia.
These two public events feature Vo Trong Nghia, the most prolific contemporary architect in Vietnam, and Marina Tabassum, the leading female architect in Bangladesh – both speaking at Harvard for the first time.
In addition, Nghia and Tabassum will be joined in a round-table discussion by Michael Murphy, Executive Director of MASS Design Group, and Rahul Mehrotra, Professor of Urban Design and Planning at Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
This public discussion program will thematically explore how architects are responding to new patterns of urbanization, creating models for construction and fabrication that support sustainable development, and catalyzing local institutions to promote dialogue about the role of design in improving cities. Together, the work of these architects gives new meaning to the model of practicing locally.
Roundtable discussion with Vo Trong Nghia, Marina Tabassum, and Michael Murphy, moderated by Rahul Mehrotra Monday, February 22, 2016, 6:30 pm Tsai Auditorium, CGIS South S010, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA
Lunchtime Lecture with Vo Trong Nghia Tuesday, February 23, 2016, 1:00 pm
Portico 124, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, 48 Quincy Street
Please contact Michael Haggerty, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, email@example.com, with questions.
Cosponsored with the Boston Society of Architects Foundation, Harvard Asia Center, and Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative.
Welcome by Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Director, CSMVS Museum
Introductory remarks by Vikram Gandhi,Harvard South Asia Institute Advisory Council Member; Founder, Asha Impact
Diana Eck, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Harvard Divinity School
Devesh Chaturvedi, Divisional Commissioner, Allahabad, at the 2013 Kumbh Mela
Satchit Balsari,Weill Cornell Global Emergency Medicine Division; Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Alok Sharma, Inspector General of Police, Allahabad, at the 2013 Kumbh Mela
Facilitated by Rahul Mehrotra, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Since its inception early in the first millennium CE, the Kumbh Mela has become the largest public gathering in the world. Today it draws tens of millions of pilgrims over the course of a few weeks. Among the pilgrims at the 2013 Kumbh Mela was a team of some 50 people – faculty, students, and researchers from Harvard University. The team was making an in-depth study of a gathering that is not only a remarkable religious experience, but also a remarkable exercise in urban planning, public health, government administration, security, and commerce.
Launched in 2015, the Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity book and exhibition consolidate research findings and serve as an example of interdisciplinary research conducted at Harvard. The faculty leaders and Kumbh administrators will discuss their experience studying the world’s largest festival, and lessons learned for future research.