Unlike the classical or the medieval city, the neoliberal city -which has acquired several nicknames as megalopolis and the liberal monument among others- has posed some unique contexts for the contemporary practice of architecture. For one, it poses a context of perpetual crisis defined by many unjust, territorial occupations spread over an endless and even field. With crisis as the norm, what practices are architects –the ‘city-zens’ of the city- employing to engage with the city?
Cities, the human artifacts par excellence, have since their conception, remained the great fields of exchange. They have also remained an important site for architecture and its practice, as they have for several other disciplines and fields of engagement. This obvious, symbiotic relation between architecture and the city seems to have been, over time –and with changing political scenarios- rendered oblivious. This state of obliviousness has, in recent history, steadily shifted the focus of architecture away from the city and to other streams of interest that allow its conjectures to flourish and develop. Does this oblivious relationship mean that the architect of the city is no longer relevant? Does this mean that there is no longer any room for critical engagement of architectural provocation with the city and within it?
With this provocation we invited five architectural practices to talk about their forms of engagement with the city. The film is in that sense a documentation of five positions on the contemporary concerns and ways in which architects and hence architecture is engaging with the city. This by no means claims to be a comprehensive document but it wishes to document ideas of five architects from various disciplines who we thought have been actively thinking about and engaging with the city at various scales, ideas and methods.
Unlike a typical interview piece where only one voice is heard (or read) we thought it would be worthwhile to read and understand the multiple ideas that emerge from the profession of architecture in the city? At the same time, it is not just a series of interviews. It is also our reading of the various contemporary conditions of the city hence the film takes the form of a montage of three documentaries coming together to produce a vivid reading of Mumbai through ideas of practice, the camera on the street and the camera from the sky.
What has emerged, interestingly, is an overwhelming common idea for the need to not only engage with this highly charged city, but at the same time the need to work together, think together, talk to each other, talk with the others and other ideas for collective engagement with the city and its people.
As a documentary of ideas for the city, we hope that everyone watching this will be able to take some of these ideas back with them or perhaps be inspired to develop their own ideas to engage with the city nonetheless.