In its 25th year, Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies (KRVIA), Mumbai, announces an ideas competition “The City and the Waters Edge”, open to multi-disciplinary teams of professionals and students across the country. Aneerudha Paul (Director) and Rohan Shivkumar (Deputy Director), KRVIA, and Neelkanth Chhaya, Ahmedabad-based academic and architect, talk about why waterfronts are important and how design education can lend itself to new perspectives
Why did you choose the theme ‘The City and the Water’s Edge’?
A large number of cities in India have bodies of water (rivers, lakes, tanks, canals and the sea) that they have a strong relationship with. In the past, there were social sanctions (both religious, legal and ethical) towards the manner in which people treated them. This ensured that the water bodies were kept in good order and enhanced the life of the city. Today the situation is different. Thus, there is a need to re-vision, reimagine the relationship between human settlements and water bodies. How do we create new ways of integrating them into our cities? How do we make such places completely inclusive, while still respecting ecology? These are the questions that we hope that the participants will address. Ultimately, the competition is a vehicle for stimulating awareness, and democratic discussions, which we hope will lead to better forms of urban action.
While the revitalisation of the Patna ghats are more in keeping with tradition, and folklore, and quite people centric, the Sabarmati Riverfront Project, has taken away the softness of the riverbank itself. How can designers be more empathetic to their context and environment?
The Patna ghats and the Sabarmati Riverfront Project are two divergent approaches to the water’s edge. Our cities and bodies of water are multifarious, and there could be many solutions, which address all sections of society, keeping in tune with the traditions and aspirations, and at the same time are ecologically responsible.
Do you think design education can build new perspectives?
Design education must go beyond simple training of technocrats or aestheticians. It can only be called education when it helps students (as well as faculty) build new perspectives. It is in this spirit that the competition is initiated.
Majuli, recently declared India’s first island district, was a studio project for students at KRVIA. What was your experience ? Will you be working with the Assam government on this?
Majuli is a unique historic cultural landscape with an extremely fragile ecology, where there is an intricate relationship between the natural, the social and the built environment. The students and faculty, who visited Majuli, have been able to see these patterns. We have been trying to get support, financial as well as organisational, from the local government as well as other sources, to be able to continue our work in Majuli. We do believe that the archiving of the intangible and tangible cultural artifact of this place will help the authorities prepare a sensitive plan for this unique geography.
What are the other plans for the 25th year celebrations?
We have four public events planned — a seminar on affordable housing, an exhibition of faculty and alumni, and a symposium on Asian architecture and urbanism, where architectural colleges from around Asia will participate. The event will include a seminar that examines approaches towards architectural education in Asia.