Dharavi has achieved mythical status in recent years. It is a symbol both of Mumbai's inability to respond to the basic needs of its population, and the ability of Mumbaikars to address these needs on their own. Oscillating between indignation and admiration, commentaries on Dharavi usually fall back on the slum narrative. Represented as brave, entrepreneurial, resilient, exploitative, competitive, dirty and backward all at once, the slum is seen as necessarily extreme and in need of radical intervention.
URBZ believes that it is time for this narrative to be rewritten. This lecture argues that, for Dharavi natives, the slum is always somewhere else. Only by understanding how those who live and work there are creating a different reality for themselves can we get the best clues about how architects, urban planners and policy-makers can engage with Dharavi in constructive ways. The bipolar way in which Mumbai sees itself, divided between (“backward”) slums and (“modern”) high-rises, must be challenged for Dharavi to fulfill its potential of becoming an integral part of the city.
URBZ is an experimental urban research and action collective. It organises collaborative workshops, facilitates hands-on research projects, creates urban forms and concepts, and develops web content about urban space and places.
Its byline and philosophy is encapsulated in the phrase; user-generated Cities. URBZ believes that residents are experts in their neighbourhoods. Their everyday experience of the places where they live and work should constitute an essential knowledge for planning and urban development. URBZ was co-founded by Matias Echanove, Geeta Mehta and Rahul Srivastava in 2008 in Mumbai.