New Ways of the World : Lille Exhibition

The ‘New Ways of the World’ exhibition was a rich showcase of the ways humanity inhabits spaces presented through a fusion of architecture and social realities.

The ‘New Ways of the World’ exhibition was a rich showcase of the ways humanity inhabits spaces presented through a fusion of architecture and social realities. It took place in Lille, France from the 9th of September 2020 to the 8th of November 2020. The French title of the exhibition, “Les Usages du Monde” which translates as ‘Uses of the World’, perhaps provides a better perspective into the aim of the exhibition. Architecture has the ability to provide an outlook on how we use our surroundings in the context of community, culture, and politics and also allows us to become aware of the ways we can be held accountable. The exhibits, which consisted of solutions to the issues the world faces today, were presented through the lens of ‘design’ and gave viewers a visual medium to understand how we occupy and affect various environments around us. Moreover, this new perspective towards ‘spatial and temporal aspects of life’ is a step towards implementing these proposed solutions as equitable actions to decrease pressures on the living environment.

The Concept and Design 

The evolution of Dharavi over the decades has happened in the most natural way possible- structures were developed out of necessity and modified as per the convenience of the inhabitants. It is a homegrown street and neighborhood that has grown and matured with close to no help from the government or outside agencies. Local contractors and builders usually don’t have a formal education but conduct their work according to the requirements and demands of their clients. While some clients need to expand their houses for their growing families, others focus on creating economic opportunities by investing in their toolhouses. For our participation at the Lille exhibition, we expanded our vision of The Design Comes as We Build the project and focused on three clients who live or work in Sangam Gully. 

Behind the Scenes 

Sangam Gully is a narrow street that consists of around 16-17 houses. Urbz is in the process of documenting communities, housing structures, and spatial interactions of Dharavi. We approached families and building owners to first understand their vision and assigned each client to a builder. The designs were then taken to a local artisan who modeled the existing structure along with the construction suggested by the builder. This intensive project is participatory by nature and was attainable through the collaboration of these various participants. 

Three different models were thus created and presented at the Lille exhibition. The first was a steel model created for Jaya, a social activist, whose house doubles as a store-front on the ground floor. She wished to renovate the building to meet her needs as an aging woman and her children’s family. The model was designed by contractor Giriraj and Artisan Tahir.

The wood model was a rendition of Ibrahim Khan’s house designed by contractor Sudhir and modeled by Manoj. The G+1 structure acts as a residence for Ibrahim and his wife, Shehnaaz, and their son, along with a garment store, readymade dress shop, and bag making factory. Ibrahim wishes to expand his residence and provide a larger living space for his family while continuing to rent out the store. 

The third and final model displayed was a clay model of Manoj Restaurant which proved to be a challenge to complete. Aided by contractor Joseph and artisan Abbas, the building that comprises Anil Hinduja’s family-run restaurant, a garment store, a garment production factory, and a loft where the restaurant's staff sleeps, was modeled. This model was difficult to complete because unlike steel or wood, the clay needs to be of a certain consistency before modeling as it is sensitive to moisture. The model, therefore, took a long time to dry during Bombay’s monsoon season. It also has to be baked in order to solidify, but our model happened to shatter in the oven, necessitating us to redo the entire process.

Other than the mishaps with the clay model, the pandemic certainly created many challenges for our team in terms of deadlines and mobility. Not only did the form of communication switch over to remote mediums such as phone calls or Whatsapp, many artisans had to return to their villages due to the lockdown. Coordinating tasks for such a project where many individuals were contributors led to a plethora of issues. The team however persevered and the delicate models arrived at Lille on time for a successful exhibition.

The ‘Design Comes as We Build’ project is one of a kind because of its participatory nature and the spotlight it provides to local builders and artisans. The clients are also provided with an honest sense of responsibility and ownership to the future of their property. The results in such scenarios, especially for locations such as Dharavi, thus prove to be more efficient and desirable. The urbz team is striving to create even better models using this process for the entirety of Sangam Gully.

New Ways of the World
New Ways of the World
Steel Model by Tahir and Wooden Model by Manoj
Steel Model by Tahir and Wooden Model by Manoj
Clay Model by Abbas, Mishaps during the firing process
Clay Model by Abbas, Mishaps during the firing process
Project banner and the models at the exhibition
Project banner and the models at the exhibition