Urban issues in a lab

Last Updated: Sat, Dec 08, 2012 18:55 hrs

pConfrontation between the comforts of an individual and that of a community has always been historically true around the world&rdquo says Richard Armstrong director of the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum and Foundation New York &ldquoOne of the indicators of becoming an advanced civilisation is having that individual and community comforts in balance&rdquo he says while elaborating the theme &ldquoMEWE&rdquo of the BMW Guggenheim Lab that opened in Mumbai this weekppCalled &ldquopart urban think tank community centre and public gathering space&rdquo this mobile laboratory will for the next six weeks address challenges and opportunities in balancing individual versus collective comfort related to public space in MumbaippThe Lab supported by the BMW Group was launched in New York last year before making its Berlin halt in August this year Unlike the previous two cities the Lab in Mumbai is presented in collaboration with an existing cultural institution the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Byculla Secondly the Mumbai Lab apart from its central site at the backyard of the museum is designed like an Indian weddingfestival emmandapem using local materials like bamboo and has five off-sites from where a travelling satellite Lab will engage with the publicppThe Lab projects include both design and research with local organisations A research project with Partners for Urban Knowledge Action and Research seeks to understand how community perceives privacy There is an international design competition asking students and professionals to re-imagine the Kala Nagar traffic junction in Bandra one of the busiest traffic spots in Mumbai with new public space and pedestrian functions The Land Link design project developed by Neville Mars a Dutch architect and one of the four-member Mumbai Lab team is about exploring ways to refit some of Mumbai&rsquos old water pipe infrastructure like the 120-year-old 75-km Tansa pipeline for public good It is believed that within the foreseeable future these pipelines will lose functionality while their actual infrastructure probably will remain in place In his pilot project for the specific stretch of pipes that run between Dharavi and Bandra Mars designs three distinct layers placed on top of the pipes creating an auto rickshaw highway and a pedestrian connection between different neighbourhoods and at the same time providing a large public space at the heart of the cityppAccording to Mumbai Lab curator David van der Leer the programmes include design projects participatory studies tours talks workshops film screenings and cultural activities that reflect the unique conditions and challenges of Mumbai &ldquoEveryone who lives in Mumbai has a stake in its future and therefore the lab is designed to bring everyone together to address issues related to urban life in Mumbai&rdquo says LeerppNaming the initiative as a &lsquolab&rsquo according to Armstrong was &ldquodeliberate&rdquo &ldquoWe wanted to make it semi-scientific We wanted real people and results too&rdquoppTasneem Mehta managing trustee and honorary director Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum thinks the Lab is about &ldquothinking through&rdquo issues related to urban life &ldquoIt is about ideas and the world of tomorrow is about ideas&rdquo says Mehta who is inviting city&rsquos crucial decision-makers like the director of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority and urban planners from the Municipal Corporation of Greater MumbaippWhile the Lab is an exploration of ideas and offers to create forward-looking vision for urban life implementing some of those radical ideas may take yearsppThe BMW Guggenheim Lab is scheduled to travel to nine cities worldwide in a period of six years three down and six more to go in the exploration of public space and urban lifep

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