What will our future cities look like? Whether they will be zero-carbon communities, socially inclusive societies, underwater cities or all of the above, one thing is certain – it is not possible for only architects or even economists to envision a sustainable city in isolation. It requires a collaborative, inter-disciplinary approach, similar to the one that the MSUD course is tailored around.
It was along these lines, bringing together a variety of professionals from diverse disciplines and from different countries (and hence contexts), that the ‘Future Cities’ Unbox Labs 2014 (http://labs.unboxfestival.com/) was hosted. Held at the National Institute of Design in India from 24th February to 7th March, the fellowship brought together creative professionals and researchers from the UK and India. I had the fantastic opportunity to participate in this two week, intense workshop, seeding a new art project with Professor Paul Sermon, University of Brighton and Dr Claire McAndrew, The Bartlett UCL.
The lab provided us with the means and tools for the inception of the ‘3 x 4’ project, which we now hope to develop over the next few months. ‘3 x 4’ is a project that seeks to look at informal settlements differently by envisaging a future where everyone has the right to the city; informality is not viewed as a problem, but as a self-made solution. 3 x 4 metres is the plot size provided in some ‘resettlement colonies’ in Delhi, India. ‘Resettlement colonies’ are set-up by the government to relocate people from informal settlements within the city to vacant land usually on the periphery. The project explores the qualities and values built through self-organised communities that are lost in the resettlement process.
It is about identifying and providing alternative digital platforms – another experience that connects people, in a way that creates ownership and authorship. The project aims to explore new hybrids of digital space and how the boundaries of space are shifting as we look toward the future. It also aims at studying and exploring the connections between the shrinking rural and the rapidly expanding urban populations of today, as it is from within this rural-urban continuum that our future cities will arise. At the Unbox Labs, we built an installation to develop and share our thoughts and also allowing us to experiment with space and people’s interactions with the projected realities within it. This has been documented as a video:
Swati Janu is a studnet on the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development (2013), currently in her first year. Swati is an Architectural Consultant at Micro Home Solutions, a social housing initiative in New Delhi, India.