Where are the designs on Mumbai?

Fiona FernandezThe city is being bombarded by designs and ideas spilling out of the box and the bag, these days. Minds and matter are meeting at interesting crossroads to discuss and share the dizzying proportions where art, design and culture can merge. Rarely in recent memory has Mumbai been subject and played host to gazillion thought processes. Ask around, and you’ll know where this observation is coming from. It’s all good, we’d like to believe.

In fact, we were in a feel-good space for a while now. On Thursday evening, before their sessions at the India Design Forum, one of the UK’s most brilliant, talented, young minds, designer Thomas Heatherwick, of Thomas Heatherwick Studios, London, gave the rapt, well-heeled audience at Byculla’s Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum lawns, an engaging insight into urban planning.

Thomas Heatherwick, of Thomas Heatherwick Studios, London, gave the audience at Byculla’s Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum lawns an engaging insight into urban planning. Pics/Atul Kamble

Hosting the Q&A session was another creative genius, Abraham Thomas, curator at Victoria & Albert Museum, London. A terrific takeaway was Heatherwick’s talk-through of his spectacular creation that of the Olympic cauldron at the London 2012 edition, where he used a basic metal like copper to create the toast of that memorable opening ceremony. Soon, the audience was soaking in every word, from his designs for a public library in Singapore to creating a business space in Nanking. The ideas were refreshing, spontaneous, eye-popping...we could go on, and probably end up gushing over his vision and radical idea bank.

We’ve been witness to several such stimulation sessions and debates on design and urban planning in the past as well. And as always, the optimist in oneself would imagine similar frames and realisations for the beloved city – battered, jolted with an assault of styles, yet holding on dearly to its decadent beauty that adds to its eclectic fabric and its mystique.

Which is precisely the point one is trying to make here how can our city planners and designers create urban plans that imbibe and respect tradition along with welcoming modern methodology? Rarely have we seen a calming blend of the old and new in our buildings, public structures and other elements of streetscape. If the significance of the CST building is all Gothic splendour, the eyesore of a subway design that was abruptly imposed on it, is one classic, albeit painful reminder that the city’s aesthetes must see and cringe each passing day.

We’d like to see the new breed of designers, architects and urban planners emerging from Mumbai and India’s design and architecture schools explore and explode with their ideas and designs for this city in particualr, and make it truly world-class, on par with those wishlists that our politicians famously cite from, to make it another Shanghai. It’s time we drew different lines for this magnificent, cosmopolitan melting pot.

Fiona Fernandez is Features Editor for MiD DAY  

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