Wednesday, March 31, 2010

next few discussion pointers!

as i sit and think about the next post, i thought to put down some discussion pointers for the next few posts that i would like everyone's participation in. So here they go:
  • It is widely held that if a city does not grow and change it will stagnate. How does one look at this in a format of built heritage ? also if one had to look at preservation of Living Cultures, how much does it hold true today with change being the only constant!
  • a very big question: WHAT IS HERITAGE? not looking for dictionary definitions, but more to do with what it actually means to the people living the heritage. 
  • Conservation : our attitude towards built heritage, also what do we mean when we say that we want to conserve culture?
  • What is it that makes the Bandra Neighborhood? and what is that is a misfit in it?
These are a few discussion pointers/questions that i will want to tackle through the next few please stay in touch, to participate.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

about the project and little request!

Dear All,

Diploma Project: Making the Intangible, Tangible - A Case Study of Bandra & Ranwar - a heritage precinct within Bandra. (working title)
Hi! I am Vivek Sheth, a Final Year student of Exhibition (Spatial) Design in the undergraduate program at the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, India. Right now I am doing my final thesis project, at NID. A diploma Project is the final project that a student at NID undertakes usually with a sponsor from the industry (in my case its THE BUSRIDE Design Studio, located at Bandra, Mumbai []). The final diploma project entitles me to convocate from NID, which marks the end of the academic program here.

I am doing a project on Bandra and Ranwar (a heritage precinct in Bandra). The project covers the scope of studying Bandra as a suburb of Mumbai (which also 
involves studying about Mumbai, inclusive of research), moving ahead to study, understand and analyze Ranwar within the context of Bandra. Within all this falls the importance of understanding the heritage in Bandra/Ranwar and how the rapid urban development is changing this texture that has survived generations.

About My Project:
A cottage down here and a building up in its place, is the scenario that most of Mumbai is facing today. Bandra has not been able to save itself from this 
encroachment of culture that these old style houses gives as a character to this suburb. These Pakhadis/villages were the original settlements in Bandra 
with their Colonial and Portuguese vernacular architecture giving an overall layer of character to Bandra.
My project is a humble initiative to study and interpret the intangible community cultures of one of these originalPakhadis/village - Ranwar as a whole and as a case study Bandra in parts, which I term as the dynamic heritage of Ranwar and Bandra. It will involve the study of built heritage, the spaces around as a static mode of heritage conservation. Being an exhibition (spatial) designer i want to use space as a tool of communicating these intangibles that have survived through ages around these built spaces. Also it is about looking at the life, the stories, back stories that has given Bandra its character in the past which is still contained by the constant efforts its residents.
For example: Ranwar has had a very close and active community down the years. The many organisations that were and still are active in the area are witness to that. Around 1924, well before the Bandra Gymkhana started, the Rest Ranwar was founded by a group of Ranwarites. The club served as a community ground for the various activities that tied the community stronger.

There are these kinds of initiatives by the active residents, and it’s because they feel for the space they live in. The project is taking shape and direction realizing the fact that development is bound to happen, and these sweet little cottages and houses are bound to come down one day owing to the rapid urbanization that Bandra is undergoing. But the development should happen keeping this culture intact and that is what is going to retain the Bandra character which everyone across Mumbai know and talk about. The community sense is there and its thriving through the efforts of the residents, just a little push with space as a tool is what i am trying to do.

I am not a resident of Bandra, neither do I know it in and out as the residents would. But its you all, irrespective of the fact that you live there or not, to give me valuable feedback, comments, suggestions that can make this Initiative a worthwhile exercise in restoring a suburbs culture in the overgrowing expanse of the main town.
For the same I have started a blog, and starting a facebook group soon, which will showcase my encounters with Bandra through this journey.
I request you all to follow the blog and give me suggestions, feedback, comments anything, even a direction.
Some resource you think I should read, archival data, images..just anything to share with. 
I would love to meet and chat too! the blog is absolutely open to all what you have to say, and my mailbox will be waiting for tonnes of data 
that you think you can share.
I now open YOUR BANDRA for your participation, it’s your help that is going to give this project a meaning!
the LINK:

Please do pass on the link to whoever you think would be a great resource on the subject.
Waiting for a great response

warm regards,
Vivek Sheth

In brief about Bandra and Ranwar

Bandra was the largest village in then the South Salsette District (as island bounded by Thane, Kurla, and Bhayander).  It became a tributaryto the Portuguese in 1532. Later Bandra came under the rule of various rulers starting from King Bhadur Shah of Gujarat, moving on to become a Portuguese possession, then to the Marathas untill it came under the British from 1775 till 1947.

Bandor, Bandera, Bandura, Pandara..etc.. to finally Bandra. It has undergone as many changes as its name, in its existence as a picnic/vacation hub during the British to the busy 'Queen of Suburbs' of Mumbai as it is known today. Bandra today is one of the busiest suburbs in Mumbai with the largest Catholic population in Mumbai. It is home to some of the best Roman Catholic Churches in the world in a radius of 4 KM square. Bollywood, style, fashion, pubs, restaurants is imbibed within the Bandra culture now, and it speaks of them very proudly as it is home to some of the best of these in Mumbai.

Ranwar is one of the original 24 Pakhadis that made up Bandra since the earliest documented history in early 1700s. And it has managed to retain its village character even as present-day ‘development’ has hemmed it in on all sides. Ranwar is a listed heritage precinct that comes under the Bandra Village Precinct, under the Heritage regulations in Mumbai. The typical character of the structures in Ranwar village display a strong Portuguese influence with architectural elements such as porches, tiled pitched roofs and ornamentation such as fascia boards, balustrades, wooden fretwork panels etc.

For example: Ranwar has had a very close and active community down the years. The many organisations that were and still are active in the area are witness to that. Around 1924, well before the Bandra Gymkhana started, the Rest Ranwar was founded by a group of Ranwarites. The club produced expert badminton, tennis, cricket football and hockey and other sportspeople down the years.
It has a small pavilion for indoor activities as well as outdoor playing grounds. The annual Christmas and New Year dances at the ‘Rest’ as it was popularly known, attracted crowds from all over Bombay. Today, after being dormant for many years, the Club is being revived once again. Ranwar was also home to a literary group, called The Varsity Circle, founded by a group of men from Bandra. They conducted debates and held talks on various topics of interest and also produced a magazine. This was handwritten in classic copperplate script, and which was in great demand even outside the circle of members.
Bandra (W), suburban railway station, nodes to enter the suburb - realities today!

some houses in Ranwar, you will see them quite often here now!

Conserving and constructing significance-challanges for conservation in India

Conserving and constructing significance-challanges for conservation in India
---a talk by Rahul Mehrotra at the Coomerswamy Hall, Chatrapati Shivaji Vastu Snghralya, Mumbai

This post is about my impression about this talk by Rahul, and the notes that i jotted while the talk was on.

a scan of my interpretations of the talk
Rahul Mehrotra is an Indian architect and urban designer trained at the School of Architecture, Ahmedabad, and the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. He has been in private practice since 1990, and works on architecture, urban design and conservation projects. He has built extensively in India. He is also the director of the Urban Design Research Institute in Mumbai.

While talking on significance of conservation, and the challenges that India faces today with this subject, he spoke about the works of Sir Bernard Fielden, in whose memory the lecture had been organized. Rahul mainly spoke about this subject in relative to the conservation scenario in India today.
Being the head of the TAJ restoration committee, he showed excerpts from that project to showcase what it is to conserve these monuments of world importance.
but also in the process of previous conservation and revamping how the intended beauty of the TAJ diminished is also what he pointed out. For example: the entrance and surroundings were pruned to make that place over beautiful, which it indeed become, but it lost the surprise that a visitor would receive while leading towards the monument that used to be due to excess of the green.
There are these aspects of conservation also, not only in the physical way or simple redoing the facades and pruning, but also about how just by simply over marketing the wonder one automatically conserves it and makes it larger than life.
Incase of TAJ, it has several brands by that name, and a hundred other things on which it is printed, this has made the monument important just not only to the concerned authority who are trying to get it some global attention, but also to the locals of the country, who mark to be the most no. of visitors outnumbering the foreign nationals as everyone thinks it is.
Eg: in a certain year of the total 3.8 million visitors at TAJ only 0.8 million were the stereotypical foreign tourists and the rest 3 million were Indian.

Looking at how these things apply here in my endeavor, i dont know. But these perspectives do help in generating an outlook towards multi layered thinking, which is very much needed in such initiatives.

I will end this note with one excerpt from the talk that as now did give a direction to what i am doing.
looking at the Dynamic heritage!

"Culture is not static, neither is it quantifiable"

sorry for not being able to upload any pictures of Rahul talking as i could not take any pictures there.
special thanks to David and Ved for the drive and the enriching talk on the way to the commerswamy hall from Mahim.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Street REwinding

REwind time, well maybe?, walking through these streets in Bandra just gives you the right amount of taste of how things were at one point. so the other day (11.03.2010) it was St. Andrews Church-St.Pauls road-Chimbai village road-a little of Turner road-Perry Cross Road-Carter road. whoooo

the route taken by me

looking at these streets and walking around just gives a good glimpse of how the space has changed from the 1920's, 30's, 40's, 50's with the Art Deco style in demand, 60's, 70's when the reclamation happened and the mass housing systems were put in place to today wen there is something from all the periods!

After a not so quick walk through the St. Andrew's church, mainly looking for the oldest cross in Bandra, which i got to know has been installed in the St. Andrew's Church. It is relocated on the church compound. Stands 17ft high and made of a single stone. It  was  orignally in the jesuit seminary of St. Anne built in 1610.  The building was  destroyed in 1739 and the cross was relocated to the Andrews church. The  surface is carved all over with 39  emblems of the passion of Christ. i finally did locate it, and i thought it would be re installed with much more celebration, but to my disappointment it was just there in one corner with not much attention paid to it. As a first encounter the church seemed to be facing to sides of the urban expanse in that area. One that it marked the end of Hill road, one of the busiest roads in Bandra and on the other side the bandstand promenade, opposite to which on the other side is the Chimbai village road. All three with a different character a different urban texture attached to it. While these thoughts wandered in my mind and i moved around the 1574 building that still stands in its complete modesty as shrine not only to the Christians but to a lot of other communities. The feeling of walking through the various grave stones was quite strange along with it being over whelming at the same time. The dates on the stones range from before 1800 untill today, which also proves the series of generations that have spent their lives in this suburb.
The oldest cross in Bandra, relocated in the compounds of the St. Andrew's Church.

What caught my attention was the massive Ferns Mansion, a graded heritage building by the MMRDA, and its condition today. Also famous as the Yacht Restaurant around the vicinity, this building is a classic example of a colonial vernacular architecture. As it pretty much seemed to be in a dilapidated state, a thought of converting it into a community based art gallery was what struck my mind first. It could be an artist in residency, and many more things because the space just seems perfect.

the Ferns Mansion right opposite St. Andrews Church.

After sooooo many thought pouring in and out i started walking on the St. Pauls Road. At the first glance the cleanliness of the place stunned me, and the green patch which served as a must for every housing colony, cottage or a mere small store around the place, ran through all the foot path. These roads inclusive of the Perry cross road and much of the Carter road has a good mix of Colonial and Portuguese vernacular architecture along with a good quantity of Art deco bungalows which were the flavor of the 1930's and 1940's all around Mumbai. some images of these streets and the houses.


These are various examples of the styles of architecture mentioned above.

A lot more  to talk, seems like i will have to wait till the next post, this one seems to be quite long for one more soon!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

on Waterfronts

The urban waterfront provides us with opportunities to consolidate the void, to define the edge and to create a new urban vision of ourselves. As Alex Kriegu writes, it is "along its waterfront [that] the aura of a city resides and persists."

Lets look at how we can make our waterfronts into better places to visit and an identity of ourselves.
more soon!

Monday, March 22, 2010

a walk through bandstand

We were locked out of office, thanks to our greedy chai buds, Farzin (a colleague) and i left for a walk to bandstand in the evening. sea-breeze is on and i am trying to look for Salman and Shah Rukh khans residence, thinking of what they might be thinking being residents of this queen of suburbs, Bandra! well these are thoughts that one should keep to themselves.
Bandstand- a beautiful waterfront !?, with a good promenade, a small park for the kids (mind it, 10:00 am to 9:00 pm only!), swanky apartments and bungalows, and couples all over the place- it has it all. Well, it indeed is a pristine place that invites a lot of people to come and spend some time out there!

A Little History:
In its old glory the bandstand culture, was a popular attraction since the 17th century where different bands (army, navy, colleges etc.) play to the open sky for the entertainment of the visitors which at one point were the British. It was only due to this culture that these stretches came to be known as 'Bandstands'.
Around the 1950's there was a huge old wall at the Bandra Bandstand to which the sea waves use to crash, which eventually became a dump yard, untill around 1998 the Bandra Bandstand Residents (who have a trust by the same name BBRT for future ref.) along with the MP's fund decided to clean the dump and construct the Bandstand Promenade. It was the first of it kind promenade made for the citizens in a suburb by the residents initiative which included the Carter Road promenade too.

The promenade with the Mumbai skyline.

The pedestrian foot over path is a boon for the city revelers and the health conscious. During sunsets and there after the promenade is full of joggers, family, kids, the young and of course the couples who devoid of any obvious attention have a peaceful time on the rocks. Towards the end of the promenade we saw that the waterfront being encroached by slum dwellers.
Though i was quite impressed by the efforts of the BBRT to keep the place clean, with signage and notices everywhere notifying the people about the same, but it was disheartening to see the lack of or no dustbins on the paved walk way! the visitors/citizens have no choice but to dump the garbage around as there is no provision for the same. From the looks of it i am sure there were bins installed, but vandalized by someone who needed them more. Maybe some solutions in terms of the material used to make the bins should be sought, which cannot be salvaged or vandalized or flicked!

An interesting discussion that erupted in between Farzin and me was a little concerns for the views people enjoy, thanks to the high rises there. Well no one is against development, but a sensible one is what we should demand. All the sky rocketing buildings have grabbed the sea view aways from the residents who had a ground floor construction right behind them. Not that these buildings were very pleasing to look at either. just a little planning would have kept everyones views intact.

The Amphitheatre at towards the lands end side of the promenade, where a lot of community activities take place.

Monday, March 15, 2010

encounters with the bazaar road

A new mobile connection, in a new city is a huge task. so while i was at it, i thought i might as well start my encounters with the 'queen of suburbs'. march 9, 2010, Tuesday, i start walking around asking for bazaar road.

the first encounter happened while walking down Hill Road a little and then move right to the busy Bazaar Road. It was a revelation if i must say to move around a busy street like this and still have space for all. The gully will not be wider than 10 feet, with busy shops on either sides, constant mumbling and vehicles finding their way through the already saturated bunch of pedestrians.

everyone has to talk, bargain and while i walked past it was great not be involved in any of the market activities but just hanging around to get a sense of the place. well and as i got to know later about some facts it was even more enchanting!

some facts that took me by surprise:

  • Bazaar rd is only 2 km long but houses a Jain temple, Ram mandir, hanuman temple, Khoj mosque, Christian chapel and a Sikh Gurudwara.
  • while walking through the road it was very interesting to observe the transition from a Christian culture suddenly to a Muslim culture, en route to Lucky Biryani!

The noise, commotion traffic, people, shops, bargaining..all goods, Bazaar road has it all to fulfill the stereotypical notion of an Indian bazaar.

images soon!

what is this blog about ?

this platform will have my day to day encounters with Bandra, while i rediscover it through my learnings.
the whole idea of going public with it, was to involve everyones ideas and thoughts, to render mine to better perceptions!
will try my best to write something daily and keep everyone posted!
but feedback from all the blog visitors will be much appreciated and welcome!
looking forward to a great discussion!