24 June, 2019

Realities of the housing crisis in India

A two-volume publication, supported by the Tata Trusts, documents the intensive research conducted by the Urban Design Research Institute into the state of housing in India

Volume 1 cover – “Housing in India: Aspirations, Imaginaries and Realities”, Ed. Rahul Mehrotra, Kaiwan Mehta, UDRI & Architecture Foundation, 2018

Urban Design Research Institute’s three year project, supported by the Tata Trusts, to undertake intensive research, and the dissemination of said research via pedagogical exhibitions, on the state of architecture and housing in India, came to an end in December 2018.

The end of the project was marked by the publication of “Housing in India” a two-volume set that amalgamates all the research conducted for the State of Housing exhibition that was on display for two months at Gallery MMB, Max Mueller Bhavan, Mumbai between February and March 2018. As one of the key outputs of this project, the two volumes are the documentation arm of the pedagogic exhibition, bringing together the voluminous research conducted into the subject.

Volume 1: “Housing in India: Aspirations, Imaginaries and Realities” presents a holistic timeline of the development of housing keeping in mind the political and economic ethos of the country through the decades. Prefaced by a comprehensive timeline of housing in India, some of the key writings in this volume explore the housing crisis as the result of growing urbanisation; question the very notion of ‘housing’ and its myriad meanings; debate the role of the State and its efficiency in providing housing; try to make an argument for inclusive housing, not just in terms of housing beneficiaries, but also in terms of inclusive disciplines that define housing policies. 

Volume 2 cover – “Housing in India: Mapping of Precedents and Prototypes”, Ed. Rahul Mehrotra, Kaiwan Mehta, UDRI & Architecture Foundation, 2018

Volume 1 also brings together synopses of talks/lectures from the Opening and Closing conference sessions that sandwiched the two-month-long “State of Housing” exhibition, as well as independent essays on critical topics around housing in India. Written and presented by leading scholars, urban planners, architects, policy makers and cultural theorists, the writings and lecture synopses give insight into how housing is currently being understood, analysed and debated in India and the possible scenarios that can potentially mitigate the housing crisis in India.

If Volume 1 is presented as a series of conversations and dialogues around housing, Volume 2 specifically focuses on the forms of dwelling in India, and takes the reader straight to the core of housing – the structure of the dwelling/house/home itself. The bulk of Volume 2 comprises 80 detailed case studies of seminal housing models from across the decades that were either State sponsored or privately built, or sometimes self-built. It captures the systematic study of individual housing types not only representing their physical form but also the protocols, procedures, forms of patronage, policy and financial arrangements that contribute to the final production of the housing project. It is the presentation of case studies that renders this volume unique in that, perhaps for the first time, a historical timeframe is appended along with a spatial analysis of the housing model making it possible for the reader to contextually understand experiments in housing in India through its history. 

SOH – State of Housing exhibition on display at Gallery MMB, Max Mueller Bhavan, Kala Ghoda between February 2 and March 18, 2018

Housing remains a critical need for India and understanding its nuances is a complex task. UDRI’s two-volume publication is a much-needed resource not only for all the stakeholders within the housing scenario, but also students, researchers and residents. In addition, UDRI also commissioned filmmaker Sanjiv Shah to additionally document the on-ground reality of the housing situation across India. The film, shown as part of the State of Housing exhibition, can be viewed here. A longer version of the film, titled “Place to Live”, can be accessed by contacting UDRI directly.

— Paroma Sadhana