October 2018 //

A Sustainable View on Mumbai’s Housing Crisis

By Cece Roque and Trevor Gunderson

A year-long journey became a reality as MG2 supported and sponsored its first external design competition. The Competitions Team, established by Kylie Kusleika and Trevor Gunderson, aims to create an environment where people can discuss different design challenges and receive feedback and critique from the larger MG2 community. After numerous discussions about the possibilities, benefits and culture-altering potential a competition team could have, Tim Zielke and David Russell (leaders in the Commercial Market) offered their support. As momentum grew, MG2 leadership saw the benefits a team like this could bring and offered additional support and insight. This year showcased the first steps in beginning to change the way we think, talk and design as a firm. Teaming with Cece Roque, a member of the sustainability team, the article below offers insight into how the Competitions Team went about tackling a housing crisis in Mumbai.

“To put back what we have taken. To embrace what we have created.”

Resilience is ultimately what lies at the core of our solution. It’s about curating a sustainable community – not just environmentally – but socially and economically. We began our proposal by taking a step back and addressing the more complex challenge first, climate change.  Water remains one of Mumbai’s biggest assets, yet it also lies at the core of some of its biggest problems. Our proposal addresses the uniqueness of the Worli Koliwada peninsula as well as acknowledges the opportunity to change the framework of how we shape our environment no matter the location.

By first preserving the peninsula, we acknowledge the lack of public open space in Mumbai as well as establish a new way of organizing growth and density through ecological regeneration intertwined with urban infrastructure. Once the open space was preserved our aim was to restore the peninsula to its natural state, this meant cleaning the water in rings (layers). The rings serve the following important purposes for Mumbai:

  • Protects the coast line against powerful storm surges during monsoon flooding
  • Acts as a barrier to help collect ocean garbage
  • Creates smaller near shore eco-systems that promote sustainable fishing as well as bolster the local economy

The rings also address an often-overlooked aspect of architecture and infrastructure, expansion. This system is designed with expansion in mind by having structure already established, working with natural forces to collect sediment and grow mangroves to create future rings. As an established community grows in numbers and density, a future habitation ring is already being created. The timing of this transition from one established ring to the next is dependent on the formation of a new outer ring, not on an immediate need for community growth. Building a future for Mumbai is just as important as solving for now. Working with nature to inform architecture and density allows for a resilient solution, nature’s regulated expansion.

The community built here becomes a community that is:

  • Rooted in the dynamics of water – where fisherman maintain the rings and live along its pier
  • Where the garbage that is created and captured is treated on site
  • Where water is captured and stored for the dry season; its’ built above the yearly monsoon flooding
  • It’s a community with a public market at its center, and where coastal fish and wildlife can live and reproduce.

When combined, the system begins to take on a new identity, an identity that goes beyond sustainable or resilient design: the system becomes regenerative.

During the design process we realized how vulnerable the site, its people and their economic livelihood are. In retrospect we began designing for the triple bottom line: economic (profit), environment (planet) and social (people). Our two advisers Cindy Davis and Adrian Lam helped us focus our design decisions to address these underlying problems.

Sustainability was a requirement for the Mumbai Reside competition; however, we wanted to take this further by incorporating resilient design and restoring the natural systems, the economic livelihood of the fisheries and the social equity of the community. Restorative Measures is one of the MG2 sustainability values and this competition allowed us to conduct research and implement design solutions to explore potential strategies and outcomes.

This competition marks a significant stepping stone in the future of the MG2 Competitions Team in terms of how we think and represent our designs and ideas. We want to encourage more spaces and opportunities for challenging conversations, outside the box thinking and critical opinions. Our team believes that the more people there are contributing to the development of an idea, the more diverse and potentially game changing an idea can be.

Did you enjoy this article?