Conversation Between Rahul Mehrotra and Kazi Khaleed Ashraf—BI Between 02

Thu 20 Aug - Thu 20 Aug' 20

In the second video of the BI Between series, Rahul Mehrotra and Kazi Khaleed Ashraf discuss the scope of the city, especially in South Asia, and the agency of the architect in this critical time.

Rahul Mehrotra is one of the leading architects of contemporary India, and an articulator of the city of Mumbai/Bombay. Between a practice based in Mumbai and Boston, and teaching at Harvard Graduate School of Design, Mehrotra’s work encompasses architectural and urban design, conservation, research, writing and activism.

Kazi Ashraf and Mehrotra discuss how cities like Dhaka and Mumbai are changing dramatically every second, and how we have reduced the city as a kind of crisis that serves as a backdrop. In the discourse of the city, a new kind of imagination is needed. 

Ashraf points out that COVID-19 and the city are unfortunate companions, or in Ashis Nandy’s words, “intimate enemies”. Many of us are living in the city and also retreating from the city. Rahul Mehrotra mentions his thoughts regarding the post-COVID world, and believes it can be discussed in the context of our own existence. According to him, the relationship between the home and the world is altering.  We are no longer under the illusion that the world is the stable entity and home is a transient place; that idea has reversed.

They also discuss what architects and urban designers can do in terms of rearranging the city. They question if it is a futile task for architects, or if it is megalomaniacal to expect one person to take all that responsibility for bringing change. Here, Mehrotra mentions his book Working with Mumbai, which is about the city grappling with change and questions the architect’s relationship with society. He believes that cities grow by either expanding or by colonising land in the periphery, which can happen organically or in a planned manner. Cities also grow by rearranging landscapes within their own existing organism. Professionals tend to do one or the other. 

Kazi Ashraf also talks about real appraisal of home, not just in geographical or aesthetical sense but also in social sense, which Mehrotra thinks cannot be explained in binary terms. These are new formations and tensions that are evolving on a temporal scale within the period of pandemic. 

Recorded: 20th August, 2020 online from USA and Bangladesh | Published: 21st August 2020. All projects by RMA Architects ©RMAarchitects