A Tale of Two Projects
Driving through Navi Mumbai, one sees remnants of the dream it was to be, a dream of many descriptions, but primarily an antithetical twin to the burgeoning monstrosity of a city across the creek.
This new city, as stated in its Draft Development Plan was imagined for the common man, suggesting on the one hand a better quality of life but on the other implying that it’s older sibling had no place for its most commonly denominated citizenry. Bombay was shutting its gates.
New Bombay however depended heavily on the benevolence on the economy of the city whose name it shared and was relegated for over 3 decades to be little more than a dormitory town.
However passing though Navi Mumbai today, one can see the beginnings of the self-sufficiency it’s planners anticipated. State mechanizations that were blamed for the city’s inability to become autonomous have persisted and with the help of the liberalizing economy and a dominant private sector, Navi Mumbai is starting to rationalize its ties to Mumbai.
|CIDCO HOUSING by Raj Rewal. |
Photo: Shravanthi Kumar
|Artist Village by Charles Correa|
Photo: Saurabh Suryan
It is against the backdrop of this broad framework that we examine two residential projects commissioned by CIDCO (the planning authority of Navi Mumbai); the Artists Village by Charles Correa built between 1983-86 and CIDCO housing by Raj Rewal built between1988-1993.
Low-rise built fabric interwoven with courts of varying scales characterizes both projects but barring this and the programmatic similarity, today the condition of these two projects on comparison varies dramatically. It is within the nature of these differences that the two projects become extremely instructive.
|The Nallah at Artist Village, Belapur.|
Photo: Sidharth Somana
The Artist village is sited such that a natural stream originating in the nearby hills bisects it into two halves. The stream has its banks walled into a quasi drain, going against the standard practice of littoral restoration today, but even in its present day avatar it appears as a welcome schist in the grid becoming both a divider as well as relief.
The CIDCO housing project is engaging in its articulation of ascending streets and multi level courtyards and terraces but in the process of doing that and while ascending the slope it opens up the majority of the spaces and building surfaces to the southwest and consequently to the brunt of the harsh Mumbai monsoon.
|Multi-level Courts of CIDCO Housing|
Photo: Aparna Dhareshwar
Both architects employ signature strategies in planning the two projects. Whilst Charles Correa operates with his well documented hierarchical open space diagram in the Artists village, scaling inward from larger public courtyards to smaller more intimate courts; Rewal employs his Cartesian grid based modular patterns abstracted from desert cities like Jaisalmer etc., applied by him previously in housing projects in and around Delhi.
It’s a relief therefore that between the two it is the Correa project that is the one situated on a flat site, which with its sequence of hierarchical spaces creates varied experiences. Had the Rewal project not been on a contoured site, its iterative and axial organization might have been staid but the contoured topography of the site spares it from the monotony of a repetitive grid.
The Projects Extant
|Extreme Appropriation at Artist Village|
Photo: Saloni Parekh
|Nature take over at CIDCO Housing|
Photo: Dharal Surelia
The two projects as seen today are poles apart from their initial constructs, while one project is appropriated in extreme the other is completely abandoned. The Artists Village was designed to enable incremental additions by the residents but a disruptive increase of FSI has meant that in most of the village the original fabric has almost disappeared. The spatial experience of the courtyards and their suggestion of hierarchically scaled spaces however marginalized still exists.
The CIDCO housing inspired from the patterns of cities like Jaisalmer unfortunately was detailed as if it were located in the dryer climate of the North too. Flat roofs, rough plaster finish walls with innumerable tile joints made it extremely hard to maintain with the result that the complex today lies partially abandoned. Besides poor detailing, ownership patterns too had a role to play in this. While the blue collar government employees who would have neither the means nor the leverage to move to better residences have stayed on in easier to maintain apartment building types, senior government employees who lived in the more exuberant blocks of the complex have chosen to move out.
The changes in both these projects have been significant, and today while one project is being consumed by FSI the other is consumed by Nature.