3×3 developed alternative development strategies for Reinventing Dharavi, a call for ideas that solicited innovative methods to address livability new urban uses in Dharavi, Mumbai, one of the largest informal settlements in the world. This proposal was awarded 2nd runner up and completed in collaboration with HybridCities, an Indo-French urban design collective – Degré Zéro, Atelier Anonyme, Troiséme Paysage, RR&A and OGI.
Dharavi is one of the most notable informal settlements globally, spanning 200 hectares of land in the heart of Mumbai. With approximately 86,000 informal structures and an estimated population of 1,000,000 inhabitants, Dharavi has a thriving entrepreneurial community despite a lack of basic infrastructure and services. As a response to the Dharavi Redevelopment Plan (DRP), UDRI launched ‘Reinventing Dharavi’ to pioneer new ways to generate alternative development strategies, encompassing housing, sanitation, education, public space, governance and cultural programming improvements for Dharavi and other informal settlements throughout India.
Instead of proposing another project for Dharavi, a mere drop in the ocean of existing studies and projects, we developed a process to bring all stakeholders to a common ground. The proposal reinvents the concept of urban democracy through ‘Dharavi Festival’, a strategy to formulate the local area plan of Dharavi in consultation with the local living and working population. The strategy is guided by three spatial design principles, all three use public space as a starting point that creates a neutral and common ground for all stakeholders. First, creation of an Island City National Park forming a 9 km continuum of open space from Mahim Creek to Mahul Estuary. Second, a “plugged in” public space on the railway fringe of Dharavi, connecting it to Mumbai city and creating a major hub. Third, redevelop the core of Dharavi through acupuncture and incremental principles with the aim to bring basic services to each house.
At the heart of the Dharavi Festival is the need for participatory negotiation. We propose the creation of a neutral body – a team of technical experts chosen by UDRI, local authority, local NGOs and community leaders. The experts will be chosen for their integrity such that there is no conflict of interest with the redevelopment of Dharavi. They will work in tandem with elected representatives of Dharavi Sabha – an institutional platform comprising of local residents including Dharavi Mohalla Committee, Co-operative Housing Societies, Dharavi brand Association, Advanced Locality Managers and other interest groups. The objective is to create a global vision that incorporates the views of community members as well as existing studies, followed by multiple site specific competitions in various neighborhoods of Dharavi. The festival is a starting point and will be held annually to enumerate the progress of the projects leading to a step-by-step modification of neighborhoods in consultation with the residents.