In a large hall in an old textile mill in Parel on the evening of June 27, nearly 100 artistes, businessman and Mumbai-based foreigners sat enrapt before a screen as a series of Dutch architects, designers and entrepreneurs presented innovative ideas for urban planning and sustainable living.
The event was the screening of seven TEDx talks — ideas conferences organised in association with the US-based TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) foundation — held in the Netherlands earlier that month; the venue in the old mill was the Dutch Design Workspace, a suave, high-ceilinged office space that was launched in February by the government of the Netherlands to promote collaborations between Dutch and Indian designers by organising public lectures and discussions on design, architecture and urban space.
It is one of many new cultural spaces that have mushroomed in Mumbai over the past few years, offering free, non-academic, public forums for intellectual engagement between citizens. These spaces are also hubs for the growing interest in researching Mumbai as a city.
“Cultural and intellectual spaces enhance the quality of life and contribute to the city’s social fabric and cultural diversity through collaborative networks,” says Prashant Parikh, managing trustee of the Mohile Parikh Center at Kala Ghoda, the first such space to open in the city back in 1990. “The presence of various new organisations in Mumbai is an indicator of the growth of the arts and culture sector, enabling a flow and sharing of different ideas to possibly imagine new futures.”
Researching Mumbai, by the Urban Aspirations in Global Cities Project
A public lecture series held at TISS
Launched in: June 2012
Urban Aspirations was started in 2010 by NGO Pukar, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and Germany’s Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. The forum has started two monthly lecture series: Researching Mumbai and City Conversations, in which urban researchers discuss their work.
The lecture series can offer diverse perspectives about issues in a city that is in transition.
Ajinkya Shenava, 24, communications officer
A research space for exploring the city
Launched in: February 2011
Studio X in Fort, funded by the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, is part of Columbia’s Studio-X Global Network Initiative. It organises workshops, discussions and interactive exhibitions to promote dialogue about architecture, urban planning, aesthetics, sustainability and public art.
Studio X has created space for intellectual conversations in the city. The space is not intimidating and allows like-minded people to meet and talk.
Nasrin Modak, 29, writer
Arbour: Research Initiatives in Architecture
A Fort-based forum for conversations around architecture and visual practices
Launched in: December 2010
A non-profit organisation, Arbour is funded by the city-based Priyanath Banerjee Memorial Trust. It organises curated discussions on the practice of architecture and the visual arts and on related books. The audience usually consists of architects, artists, photographers and filmmakers.
Arbour brings people from different fields of art to the same platform. Since there is no formal institution to do this, such a space becomes very important.
Deepika Sorabjee, 48, writer
An organisation in Fort that aims to facilitate critical thinking within the arts
Launched in: July 2007
Run by a Varanasi-based family-funded trust, JnanaPravaha organises about 36 public
lectures, seminars and conversations a year, involving researchers, authors, musicians, filmmakers and other artistes with the aim of making the arts more participatory.
Jnanapravaha events feature speakers from around the world discussing a wide range of topics. The space allows for intellectual stimulation and a strong exchange of ideas.
Ardeshir Khambata, 76, surgeon
Dutch Design Workspace
A workspace in Parel funded by the Dutch government to promote collaborations between Dutch and Indian designers
Launched in: February 2012
The Workspace organises a Dutch Tuesday in the second week of every month, in which designers from the Netherlands hold interactive discussions with an audience. It also plans to organise monthly workshops open to anyone in the community of design, architecture and art.
The TEDx event had people from diverse background discuss new concepts in urban planning. I found this space to be an important source of learning.
Ashit Chheda, 31, businessman
Pukar (Partners for Urban Knowledge, Action & Research)
An independent research collective
Launched in: 2002
Founded by anthropologists Arjun Appadurai and Carol Breckenridge, Pukar’s flagship project is its annual, year-long Youth Fellowship Programme, which guides youngsters from different backgrounds across the city to do research and study issues in their communities.
As a Pukar Youth Fellow, I learnt how question things around me.
Surekha Jadhav, 28, Class 11 student