Spring '11

Contested Waters

Designing Bazaars for Asian Megacities

Design Studio

  • Start 22.02.2011
  • ETH Zurich, ONA
  • Prof. Alfredo Brillembourg & Prof. Hubert Klumpner
    Michael Contento, Lindsey Sherman, Marielly Casanova


The post-colonial Asian megacity of Mumbai is a city of perpetual and conflicting pressures; it is an urban context of contested territories. The Back Bay, located on the southern tip of the city, is an area where these evident pressures collide; it is a place on the edge of conflict, on the edge of the city – on contested waters.

It is the task of the studio to research and unfold these forces of tension, pressure, and conflict in order to understand relationships in Mumbai beyond simple binaries (formal/informal, colonial/indigenous, wealthy/poor, common/spectacle, etc…). By building a comprehensive typology of the Back Bay, these conventional oppositional frameworks will be expanded to more fully understand the complex layers and unique pressures of the city. The studio will discover new possible truths and develop new agencies in which we can act as architects and planners. The studio will uncover the complex framework of organization to generate a discourse on the perpetual reorganization of the urban context and to develop alternative methods of analyzing Mumbai and contemporary, informal cities.

The Back Bay in southern Mumbai – the last of the reclamations and apparent endgame of the long process of land reclamation in the city – establishes one of many thresholds poised to react to the discordant pressures of the city. After many decades of development with little or no reflection on the consequences, this waterfront is a place that can now accept new ideas in the interest of integration. The site is also home to one of the city’s Koli fishing villages. This neighborhood, conventionally termed a “slum,” is in direct competition with new development, high land values, and the ongoing deterioration of the waterfront. The goal of the studio is to re-imagine the city of Mumbai through this waterfront – to develop and maintain a strong connection to the water, preserve the integrity of the fishing village and generate a process of integration.

In order to navigate and connect the complex layers acting within the city, the studio will design a bazaar. The bazaar has played an important cultural, social, economical and historical role in the development of the city. It provides unique moments of intense urban interaction through the buying and selling of goods, food and services. The bazaar is not monumental or mono-functional; it is a malleable moment that can integrate social, economic and ecological conditions in order to encourage dynamic exchange. However, the challenge of this studio is to transform the traditional bazaar. How can the physical and ideological make-up be re-envisioned to solve the complex problems of the 21st century city?
Set on the edge of Mumbai, this market becomes an interface through which the dichotomies of the city – rich and poor, land and sea, formal and informal, temporary and static, indigenous and colonial – can be expanded and integrated.