The Design Cell is the research and consultancy division of the KRVIA and was started in 1995 with an intention to connect the theoretical and research agendas of the school with the practice of architecture and development in the city. The Cell interacts with various agencies concerned with development and explores methods of understanding and intervening in the metropolis. It works with a team of architects and other consultants regarding history, economy, social geography, infrastructure and planning. The process of consultancy helps the Institute engage with the actors and agencies involved with architectural production. Most of the projects are financed by government bodies like BMC, MMRDA and MHADA, and other non-governmental organizations. The Cell has created an independent research on the city and has created an archive of maps, images, and documents on various aspects of the city of Mumbai.
Projects relating to the city of Mumbai and its current socio-economic landscapes are the most important focus of the Design Cell. The city has been its laboratory for experimentations of various methodological explorations in mapping and intervening in different contexts.
Post Industrial Landscapes
Study and preparation of an integrated development plan for the Mill lands of Bombay 1995
The project was for the Correa Committee appointed by the Government of Maharashtra and sponsored by the Urban Design Research Institute. It is expected that the cell would work with the National Textile Corporation and seek funds from the MMRDA to proceed for the second phase of the project.
Studying and Formulating Development Strategies for the Eastern Waterfronts (The Port-Lands) of Mumbai
The project is done in collaboration with the Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI). The first stage of the project was sponsored by the UDRI and the K. Raheja Foundation. The second stage of the project is sponsored by the Infrastructure Finance and Development Corporation.
Urban Environmental Conservation
Conservation And Providing Guidelines For The Dadar Parsi And Hindu Colony Precinct,1999
The project was sponsored by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). This project was an effort in organizing communities towards becoming active participants in the otherwise polarized processes of urban conservation in the city.
Versova Integrated Landscape
The resident’s association of Versova has approached the Design Cell to prepare an integrated landscape proposal and a comprehensive study report for the future development of the area. The Design Cell has suggested a proposal for a jogger’s park in the neighborhood.
Conservation of Powai and Vihar Lake Surroundings
The project deals with the study and formulation of guidelines for development of the environmentally sensitive area around the fresh water lakes within the city of Mumbai. The project is sponsored by the Environment Conservation Society of the Mumbai Metropolitan Development Authority.
Enviroment Management Plan for Geothermal Zone of the Tansa River Basin-2007
The objective of the study of Tansa River Basin was to map the present conflicts arising out of the developments in the RTD zone of Vajreshwari, Akloli and Ganeshpuri located within a larger eco-sensitive zone of the Tansa River Basin. The study had been staged in three parts of which the first part examined the region in order to prepare an ecological base map for the Tansa River Basin and the next focused on the Recreation and Tourism Zone and identified the threats there. The project was concluded this year with the completion of its third and final stage which involved giving recommendations and strategies for a planned improvement of infrastructure and to draw out an Environmental Management Plan for the Recreation Tourism Development Zone to promote sustainable tourism in the place.
Study of the Transfer of Development Rights in the Island City of Mumbai
The study deals with looking at the development problems of the island city as a whole. The project is proposed to the MMRDA for sponsorship.
Initiating a Restructuring of UDPFI Guidelines
The Design Cell worked on the proposal for restructuring the UDPFI Guidelines which were prepared by the Ministry of Urban Affairs in 1996. These guidelines aimed at providing a basis for taking decisions regarding methods of implementation and providing norms and standards for projects at an urban scale. Mira Bhayandar Municipal Corporation (MBMC) was chosen as the study area where the existing land uses (ELU) were mapped using GIS. (The ELU of MBMC can be seen here)
Preparation of a Vision Plan for Mumbai - Pune - Nasik (September - December 2002)
The Design Cell has been approached by the Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation, which is involved in preparing a Vision Plan for the Golden Triangle comprising Mumbai, Pune and Nasik as a part of “Maharashtra Vision 2005” (a document prepared by the Maharashtra Economic Development Council). The scope of the project is to help articulate the changes that are being envisioned into formulating strategies for regional plans and development plans of the three cities and to co-ordinate them.
Metropolitan Lab (Feb 2001),
Metropolitan Lab is a mixed media presentation mapping of the tendencies of architectural production and urbanism in the city of Mumbai in the 90s. The project was made for Tate Gallery’s (London) inaugural show “Culture City”, showcasing 9 cities in the World, Bombay being one of them.
Documenting Works of Claude Batley, (August 2000 - October 2000)
The project included documenting works of Sir Claude Batley, an architect practicing in pre-independent India and involved with a large number of projects in Mumbai.
Documenting St. Thomas cathedral, (January 2002 - September 2002).
The project included documenting the first church in India built by the British. The Project was sponsored by the Anglo-Saxon Foundation.
Cinema City (On going)
Cinema City is a project to document, archive and re-read the city through the production processes of images and narratives in cinema and its impacts and manifestations in the lived world. The interdisciplinary project engages with issues of labour, imagination, desire, access, spacing and locations, iconisation, materiality, moving people, viewing conventions, hidden processes and so on. A varied group of practitioners in art, architecture, theory, etc are involved in creating works based on the research carried out. These works are then presented in varying forums and spaces including film festivals, art galleries, etc. In the past year the Cinema City exhibition has traveled to the Berlin Film Festival 2010 on its 60th anniversary. A panel discussion and film screenings were also part of that event. Another exhibition was set up in SNDT Juhu to inaugurate a course on “City Narratives in Cinema and Literature”. A third exhibition was held in Pune this year as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Film and Television Institute, India.
Critiquing The Dharavi Redevelopment Plan
The Dharavi project began in 2006 as a collective effort by the Design cell, SPARC and community groups to create alternatives to the proposed redevelopment plan for Dharavi . The state’s plan for Dharavi which subdivided the existing settlement into large sectors to be auctioned to international developers had ignored all the diverse existing conditions such as existing nagar boundaries, villages, industries, etc.
The counter argument forged by the institute, SPARC and the community groups led to the formation of an Expert Committee for reviewing proposals for redevelopment, that included the institute among several NGO’s, architects, community groups,etc .
This year SPARC and the Research and Design cell of the institute, released a publication “Re-Interpreting, Re-Imagining, Re-Developing Dharavi„ that condenses the study of three years as part of the attempt to disseminate knowledge about the redevelopment and possible alternatives to a larger public.
This year the Dharavi project also went into its fourth phase of detailing out possible typologies of rehabilitation housing, through a process of community consultations.