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Samira Rathod’s ‘Project Boject: Demolition v/s Dismantling’

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on October 10, 2016 at 02:18 PM

In the year 2013, Architect Samira Rathod of Samira Rathod Design Associates (SRDA) and Spade India Research Cell (SIRCLE) teamed up to come up with an interesting proposal for the development of the city. Today, all around the city, we see redevelopment projects going on. Old, heritage structures are being taken down to be replaced by expressionless vertical towers with lucrative deals offered to the occupants by property developers, who get a huge footprint to build upon - after grabbing all possible additional FSI. Our city, therefore, is losing out on its rich, valuable, age old heritage in the name of development! Samira questions this practice and suggests an alternate approach to development.

What if old buildings are dismantled and parts reused instead of being demolished completely? In this way, buildings can be ‘reincarnated’ to suit modern times yet keep the essence of the heritage alive. That is the angle Samira Rathod and her team are working on! Samira explores the idea of reutilizing fragments of buildings in a contemporary setting and presents her research in the form of ‘Project Boject: Demolition v/s Dismantling’ which was on display at the annual Kala Ghoda Festival.

© Courtesy of internet sources

After hunting the inner city of Mumbai for an appropriate site and studying several old buildings, the precinct of Khetwadi was selected. The project was phased in two main stages. First stage involved study of sites with different building typologies and documentation of the context and built form. Khetwadi is a part of the city, which is already going through a phase of redevelopment. While most of them have a heritage value, they are on the verge of dilapidation. A lot of the old buildings here have already been replaced by non-contextual and mundane structures guided by developer’s norms completely taking away the essence of a locality. After zeroing down on the site, a plot within the site was chosen for rigorous documentation. A detailed material inventory of the building on plot was carried out. They also studied the policies that governed development in the area regarding setbacks, height restrictions etc. Second stage was to dismantle the building and design a new one reusing the old building materials and elements, in a way that retains the essence of what the place used to be. 

The team studied the densely populated area of Khetwadi and the mixed used buildings to discover an eclectic mix of materials that included stone, steel, stained glass, finely detailed railings, teak wood, blue glass. A detailed study of the materials led them to estimate that reusing 70 percent of the old materials clubbed with debris blocks from the remaining debris would give them an efficiency of as high as 90%. Permissible FSI of the area was also considered while designing and it translated into 8378.35 square meter of built up area out of which 6620 was utilized and remaining was reserved for future expansion. The four buildings that were selected, were merged into a single plot for design purpose to utilize space optimally as well as have a stronger street presence. The program for the new intervention included the existing functions like café, retail and residential spaces along with additions like theatre, art gallery, library, offices and car parking. It is reffered to as 'Celebrating the Notion of the Small Public Space' and Architecture of 'BLIRS' - Beautiful, Local, Indigenous, Recycle, and Small by Rathod. 

With the hope that effective urban policies and technology of connectors for the different recycled materials, Mumbai could be the hub of a new form of architecture. "What is needed is the support of policy and finance; new industry collaborations and research to create the connectors; community acceptance for this new aesthetic and skilled and unskilled labour," she says.

In her own words, “The premise of the project lies in challenging the explosive trend of wiping away buildings along with the collective memories of generations of inhabitants in various areas across the city, only to be replaced by orthogonal projections derived from mere administrative regulations. Looking at these precincts with an introspective lens and suggesting the preservation of not just the building but a sense of place; thus aiming to reinvent our methods of construction and build with the existing material palette. In the wake of sustainability; is dismantling, as a method of construction, the way ahead? Can we explore the idea of recycling dismantled material from the given building bank to create a new construction with the same material into a more contemporary and relevant architecture? Buildings thus reincarnate themselves to fit within the context of changing times, yet retain the soul and spirit of the building that was....”

She says that project boject doesn’t end here. “To elevate the idea of project boject as a comprehensive system of construction will result in the recycling of thousands of buildings across the city fabric. Addressing larger issues of heritage preservation and sustainability through architecture, coupled with developing a construct of connectors will give birth to a precinct or a city of several Project Bojects. Years hence, each of which could be dismantled and re-designed to from a newer architecture relevant to that time. Project Boject thus reincarnates itself, into a project boject of a project boject & in due course of time a project boject of a project boject…And a project boject of a project boject of a project boject.”

At the Kala Ghoda Festival, panel was held discussing ‘conservation in a rapidly transforming city’ along with the presentation of 'Project Boject'. Important issues like housing in the city, FSI and coexistence of heritage with high rise buildings were discussed. List of participants was a good mix of professionals from associated fields including Abhisheck Lodha, MD, Lodha Group; Parimal Shroff, a leading lawyer; Vikas Dilawari, Conservation Architect; Sudhir Deshpande, Structural Engineer, Aneerudh Paul, Dean, Kamala Raheja School of Architecture and Pranay Vakil, Chairman, Praron Consultancy. Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte was the Chief Guest. Though the idea of project boject was well received, alternate viewpoints were presented. Pranay Vakil expressed the urgent need to create more space to meet with the rising housing demands. While Kunte, mentioned that once a building was declared as heritage, it cannot be redeveloped. There is a value attached to properties and the issue of compensating the owners of heritage properties prevails. Despite the alternate viewpoints, majority saw potential in the concept. It is worth considering the loss of character that these old precincts of Mumbai’s inner cities suffer from which once gone can never be undone.

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