Building Green: Environmental Architects and the Struggle for Sustainability in Mumbai 1st edition by Anne Rademacher pdf download
1. City Ascending, City Imploding
2. The Integrated Subject
3. Ecology in Practice: Environmental Architecture as Good Design
4. Rectifying Failure: Imagining the New City and the Power to Create It
5. More than Human Nature and the Open Space Predicament
6. Consciousness and Indian-ness: Making Design “Good”
7. A Vocation in Waiting: Ecology in Practice
8. Soldiering Sustainability
Preface by Anne Rademacher:
How does an anthropologist focused on environmental and political change in Nepal come to study among environmental architects in Mumbai?
One of my most constant, and constantly fascinating, groups of interlocutors in Kathmandu was an extraordinarily committed and effective set of workers for the non-governmental organization called Lumanti. Tireless in their advocacy, and fearless in the face of repeated official threats and obstacles, I was fascinated by the group’s tenacity and effectiveness. But I also noticed that part of its strength derived from connections to a robust network of housing advocacy groups across South Asia. Among the most prominent members of this group was the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers, or SPARC, and the network of organizations that made up Slum Dwellers International. SPARC’s central office was in Mumbai, and so, expecting to further my understanding of South Asia’s regional urban housing politics, I traveled there for the first time in 2008.
A few weeks into that first stay in Mumbai, I received a call from the head of the Rachana Sansad Institute of Environmental Architecture. We had never met, and I was, until then, unaware that RSIEA existed. The institute head invited me to deliver a lecture to environmental architecture graduate students on the subject of urban ecology. My first response was a confused hesitation. What, I wondered, did architects have to learn from an environmental anthropologist? However, in part out of sheer curiosity about how this community of architects—a group with which I had not previously had research contact, and a field in which I had no formal training—would engage with a lecture on urban ecology delivered from the perspective of someone trained in environmental sciences and sociocultural anthropology, I accepted.
Continuing my conversation with the head of the institute, I quickly learned that RSIEA was the first architecture program in India to offer a formal master’s level degree program in environmental architecture. It had pioneered what has since become a widely replicated training model throughout the country, adapted in some places with a heavier emphasis on theory, and in others with a more intensive focus on professional praxis.
As we discussed the Institute and its mission, it became clear to me that the form of “environmental architecture” codified through the creation of this formal degree program, and made up of specific and selected content, was a potentially important arena for understanding urban ecology in practice in a guise I’d not previously considered. It suggested the potential to challenge my longstanding focus on marginalized groups and marginal urban landscapes by considering how ideas and practices of nature are made among a very differently positioned group of social actors, professionals seeking to balance ecological and social well being through design. The relationship between the built form of slum housing and environmental politics had occupied my analytical attention for over a decade, but I understood little about how power and wealth asymmetries figured among professionals caught between those making policy and those who commissioned and controlled the making of the formal built landscape. My optic into coupled political and environmental transformation thus shifted from informal and marginalized housing to the ways that the makers of the formal built landscape imagined and enacted an alternative eco-political urban future. In the process, I found the distinction between the formal and informal built landscape to be, at best, a heuristic.
The present project connects to my previous research through its central theoretical and analytical questions, but the histories of Kathmandu and Mumbai are quite distinct, separate, and unique. They undergird dramatically different social and biophysical settings within which to undertake any study of the social life of urban environmental sustainability. At the same time, the connective flows of information, ideas, and affinities that brought these locations together in my field research experience—as nodes in a housing advocacy network that brought together Kathmandu and Mumbai-based rights activists—were real and significant. Specific relations of power were formed and reinforced as interconnected local organizations worked to address their cities’ housing and environmental dilemmas, forms of power we stand to miss if we stop at the conceptual boundary of two distinctive, separate cities in two countries with wholly distinctive histories. Nevertheless, Nepal’s capital city, Kathmandu, has a long and layered history as a trading center of many kingdoms; it remained on the outskirts of colonial empire. Mumbai (earlier Bombay) is quite roundly a colonial city, and its fort, white and native enclaves, slums, and suburbs have distinctive qualities even as they compose patterns that one might also see in other modern Indian ports and presidency cities that were forged in the colonial encounter with the British. As Gyan Prakash writes, “the physical form of Mumbai invites reflection on its colonial origin . . . in fact, the Island City occupies land stolen from the sea,” and it “bears the marks of its colonial birth and development.”1 Unlike Kathmandu before the tragic earthquakes of April 2015, Mumbai’s built environment has few monuments to a deep past, yet it testifies to land reclamation and occupation in the construction of a vast empire of colonial commerce.
2 To recall its past as built on land “stolen from the sea” also invites consideration of the Anthropocene future, in which the entire Indian subcontinent is cast, first and foremost, in a sea sure to “steal” coastal zones afresh.3 But the coming dynamics of sea level rise and transformed water access patterns in Mumbai and across South Asia form only one cluster of the many questions that bridge matters of ecosystem ecology to the contemporary making of this city that was first rendered through land filling, concretization, and encroachment. Mumbai is many islands fused into one; its present coastal, littoral, and intertidal ecosystem dynamics are that transformation’s legacy.
Arguably, the ecological ruptures through which contemporary Mumbai was made over the past one and a half centuries were, at the time of my fieldwork, more dramatic than those that had shaped Kathmandu. But as two of the fastest growing metropolitan centers in the region in the later part of the twentieth century, Kathmandu and Mumbai experienced similar conditions as well. With the project at hand anchored to Mumbai, then, my challenge was in part to bring a legacy of tracing political-ecological connections between two South Asian cities to a grounded investigation of the unique ecological, historical, and social context of environmental architecture in Mumbai. It was also to move from an optic on the social experience of informal housing and slum advocacy to a formal and professional world of practicing urban architects. It is this endeavor that I undertake in Building Green.
From the Inside Flap⏬⏬:
Building Green explores the experience of environmental architects in Mumbai, one of the world’s most populous and population-dense urban areas and a city iconic for its massive informal settlements, extreme wealth asymmetries, and ecological stresses. Under these conditions, what does it mean to learn, and try to practice, so-called green design? By tracing the training and professional experiences of environmental architects in India’s first graduate degree program in Environmental Architecture, Rademacher shows how environmental architects forged sustainability concepts and practices and sought to make them meaningful through engaged architectural practice. The book’s focus on practitioners offers insights into the many roles that converge to produce this emergent, critically important form of urban expertise. At once activists, scientists, and designers, the environmental architects profiled in Building Green act as key agents of urban change whose efforts in practice are shaped by a complex urban development economy, layered political power relations, and a calculus of when, and how, their expert skills might be operationalized in service of a global urban future.
“Highly germane to our times, Building Green examines the role of urban ecology in envisioning new kinds of sustainable cities.”
CHRISTINA SCHWENKEL, University of California, Riverside
“A lucid and rich ethnography of environmental architects in Mumbai.”
NIKHIL ANAND, author of Hydraulic City: Water and the Infrastructures of Citizenship in Mumbai
⏩Edition: 1st edition
⏩Author: Anne Rademacher
⏩Puplisher: University of California Press
⏩Puplication Date: October 31, 2017
⏩Size: 16.3 MB
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