When design studio “The Busride” moved into the village of Ranwar in Mumbai, India 5 years ago, they also began an ongoing project in conservation. Here’s their story.
9 January, 2012
Upon witnessing the alarming rate at which the traditional, interconnected way of life in Ranwar was rapidly disappearing, The Busride made the decision to embark on a heritage conservation project that involved a detailed study and documentation of the village and its fragile fabric.
The idea, says Ayaz Basrai, the studio’s proprietor, was “to propose sustainable micro-economic directions to conservation”.
Ranwar has 42 houses, and a population of approximately 400 registered residents. Being landlocked, the village is “almost in a time capsule”, says Basrai, which makes it unique.
“You can easily go back 150 years in your mind when you walk through the village,” he says.
Ranwar is one of 21 original Pakhadis (hamlets) in Bandra, popularly known as “The Queen of the Suburbs”. Bandra has a very diverse, mixed community population, including a large number of Catholic communities.
“Mostly out of insensitive developments, and very serious market forces… this village is under serious threat of disappearing into the concrete jungle that is Mumbai.
“With the expansion of Mumbai northwards, the city centre has pretty much shifted to Bandra, which is now a major commercial, cultural, retail and event hub. From our perspective, Bandra is one of the last few places with a surviving sense of community, where people still know their neighbours, and there’s still a surviving street and pedestrian culture, which fosters incidental interactions,” says Ayaz.
A key example of urban development affecting village life can be seen in the treatment of leftover open spaces, according to Ayaz.
“The biggest problem is developers and builders who wouldn’t care to study these spaces as examples of village-style interactions, and look at them as ’wasted’ space.
“These are extremely active vibrant spaces in the village context. For example, they are used for resident gatherings in times of prayer… to dry masalas in the summer, and to play and recreate for the children in almost all other times. When these are covered or overshadowed by large multi-storey developments, all these activities effectively stop.”
The solution, from the studio’s analysis, lie in economics. “The village is subject to massive market forces, and it needs to make tangible financial sense for the residents to live there,” Ayaz explains.
Phase 1 has been to bring attention to the issue and in the next phase, The Busride plans to embark on a more macro study of Bandra, the ’mother suburb’.
Also check out our story on The Busride’s Smokehouse Deli project.
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