Rahul Mehrota’s “Working in Mumbai”

Rahul Mehrota’s lecture in titled Working in Mumbai covered a broad range of issues that he had come to recognize through his years of research, teaching, and practices as an architect. One of the main issues he addressed was what he called “softening thresholds.” This concept revolves around boundaries whether they are social, economic or physical. He addressed this topic in a few different ways; the first being spacial. In Mumbai large open spaces are hard to come by but needed for common social interaction between large numbers of people. So the problem is how can we blur or soften the line of separation in spaces that have a limited amount of space, but need to serve multiple programs. One solution was at a country club, which contained a large open area that was used primarily for cricket. This space was divided into three seperate spaces by way of a temporary screen. The spaces were divided to meet the needs of three separate programs. The first was to leave the cricket court alone so members could still play. The second program was an area that the members could sit and enjoy their afternoon tea. The third and most demanding program was to facilitate a wedding party and an adjacent kitchen to serve the wedding guest. This softening or blurring of boundaries was one objective that Mehrota believes contemporary designers need to be aware of and address in their work.

This blurring is an important issue today when populations are growing at an alarming rate and divisions are put in place whether they are physical or social. One of the final projects that were covered in the lecture was a building that used evapotranspiration to cool the structure. This involved cascading the façade with plants that would do this naturally. This would require a large staff of gardeners to care for and maintain the plants. The blurring occurred socially when the gardeners some of the lowest ranked employees were engaging and working with the CEO of the company to addresses the light let in by the plants. Softening thresholds can have a major impact on improving the quality of everyday life of the people we design for and it’s an issue that we as designers should be aware of and address in our work.

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