Rahul Mehrotra served as jury president for the 2019 Schindler Global Award.
He is Professor of Urban Design and Planning at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. The jury was held in Mumbai over the course of three days.
The range of competition entries surfaced two primary issues in urban design. The first is the importance of using landscape as an instrument to mitigate the potential impacts of climate change. Various schemes demonstrated anticipatory strategies to absorb tide surges, but more importantly to created new imaginings in terms of urban form and infrastructure and their interface with the water’s edge.
The second issue is the competition challenged students to think across scales and negotiate the small scale or fine urban grain with questions of regional dynamics. These issues are primary to the development of Mumbai’s Eastern Waterfront, but also in many cities around the world.
The relevance of the competition in the context of the contemporary debates in Mumbai about the development of the Eastern Waterfront lies in the spectrum of propositions that emerged through the competition. These include extreme provocations about catastrophic climate-driven change in the landscape of the city, along with those that are more realistic and challenged specific aspects of the present governance and policy structure for urban development in the city. These range from questions of participatory governance to specific housing typologies as well as propositions for formbased code.
Schemes of particular potency were those that suggested the generosity by which land could be shared through the idea of the commons, for the greater good and the betterment of citizens. The jury commends the entrants who challenged the business-as- usual presumptions about urban development and in particular interrogated the popular notion of monetizing land as an asset of the city through real estate development.
The potential impacts of the competition could occur at many levels. Most importantly the competition interrogates and challenges current norms and practices of urban development. The provocations present in the range of winning entries could hopefully shift and perhaps transform the conversation about this crucial postindustrial land asset for Mumbai. More importantly the imaginings, the propositions in the competition could facilitate the discussion about creating a new commons along the Eastern Waterfront.
In fundamental ways this could alter the structural perception of the city, its relationship to the water and the metropolitan landscape beyond. Specifically and operationally the competition surfaced some crucial suggestions for the modification of policy and regulations. These have the potential of being productively embedded within the conversation about renewing regulations and building code in the city, a crucial discussion for the future of the urban form of Mumbai.
By taking part in the competition, the students have clearly gained a greater understanding of urban design processes and projects, but also provided valuable ideas for Mumbai’s Eastern Waterfront. The jury commends the hard work and participation of all students in the Schindler Global Award 2019.