From designing a marker system at a nuclear waste site in New Mexico that would serve as a public warning to generations over the next 10,000 years, to designing a vertical cemetery in Tokyo, where graveyards located right next to homes in densely populated neighbourhoods is a common occurrence, arch out loud’s international Open Ideas Competition gives designers the opportunity to explore the relationship between the structured processes of the built world and the unpredictable peculiarities of culture, around the world.
Mixed Housing Design
In 2018, Zeitgeist, in collaboration with DDIR, participated in arch out loud’s Reside – Mumbai Mixed Housing international open ideas competition.
In this instance, entrants were required to design a mixed residence development at the Worli Koliwada coastline in Mumbai, home not only to the indigenous fishing community (Kolis) that has occupied the site for many years, but also to the affluent demographic that has more recently been drawn to the area.
While coming up with ideas, participants were encouraged to answer the questions: What might a successful mixed residence look like in Mumbai? Is there a way to capitalise on the city’s rich traditions and history without destroying them?
We saw this as an opportunity to apply our design thinking skills in a different scenario. While developing design solutions in an architectural context was not new to us, in this case we would be looking for a single solution that would simultaneously serve the needs of not one, but two very distinct groups of end users, at two ends of the socio-economic spectrum.
Co-creating For Enhanced Value
Zeitgeist was happy to collaborate with DDIR, an architectural firm with whom we have had a long association, on this project, as both firms recognised the strengths – experience and modern thought – that we would be able to draw on from each other.
Our initial inspiration was derived from two places – a piece of art by Dominic Dube – artist, architect and now CEO of DDIR, and the Bombay Duck, a local delicacy and key source of revenue to the Mumbai fisherfolk. Thus our starting point, besides being representative of the concept of art in architecture, also drew together two very different worlds, much like the two groups we were designing a solution for.
We wanted to create a modern, minimal, clean-lined development that also respected the culture and history of its indigenous people.
Designing For Diversity
Once we had developed our main concept, it was time to get into the intricate details of how we could create a space where the two specified and diverse groups could co-exist. Much like our co-creation venture with DDIR, we wanted the two communities to appreciate the uniqueness of the other, while being able to draw economic and cultural benefits from each other.
We realised that from a cultural point, the Kolis would not be happy living in a high rise building and neither would this operationally support the nature of their livelihood.
So while we designed an avant garde residential tower with rotating floors for the newer, affluent residents, for the Kolis we developed the innovative ‘Bombay Duck’, individual 700 sq ft floating homes, capable of housing two families, powered by solar panels and with a floor plate that allow boats to nest securely, almost as an extension of the home.
The largest space frame at the base of the residential tower was created as a bio structure, with the form fanning out to house semi-public activities such as a cultural hub, hospital & clinic, schools, a centre for marine science and a playground. The intention was not only to anchor the tower, but also to emphasise its foundation as a humble beginning – an important aspect representing a merging point between two polar opposite demographics and dynamics.
The areas earmarked as public spaces house floating restaurants, parks, market places, activities for tourists, an aquarium, a marine research institute, religious places of worship, a wedding hall and a crematorium area for the fisherfolk. These areas not only serve a functional purpose, and offer tourist activities to visitors, but also provide the fisherfolk with additional employment opportunities and new avenues of income. Doing so draws them into the larger social community and begins to blur the lines between the rich and the poor.
We also revived the lost and historical Worli Fort into the design, giving it the credit it deserves being one of Mumbai’s heritage buildings.
While the piers create viewpoints for the public to enjoy various perspectives of Mumbai city and the sea, some of them also extend further into the ocean, serving as jetties for unloading fish. Pathways have been designed around the entire area that serve the logistic purpose of transporting fish, and also act as a common walking, jogging and cycling path or simply an opportunity to enjoy the captivating views.
What The Future Holds
As we move towards a world where cities will be more densely populated and over-burdened than ever before, being able to coexist with culturally different people is the need of the hour, But successfully moving towards new ways of doing things also requires an acknowledgement and respect for the past.
The Reside competition gave Zeitgeist and DDIR the opportunity to explore and appreciate the important role softer aspects such as culture, emotion, pride, heritage and tolerance must play in the design and development of public space projects of the future.