Envisioning the future of Bombay’s slums


Urban Typhoon is a participatory urban planning workshop on the future of the Koliwada region of Dharavi, Mumbai’s staggeringly large and impossibly dense million-resident slum.

The objective is to produce creative alternatives for the future of a neighborhood threatened by a redevelopment plan of the government as well as a multimedia testimony to the unique spirit of Koliwada. The workshop itself is a joyous and participatory takeover of the neighbourhood. It combines the city’s historic spirit of activism with the celebratory, independent and culturally dynamic traditions that the Kolis of Mumbai have always demonstrated. The plan builds on these impulses in the best traditions of a festive exchange with visitors, guests, strangers and locals of all shades and hues.

While I have some issues with the ideology of the conference organizers, who I feel are overly quick to characterize an incredibly complex issue as a struggle between an oppressed indigenous minority and a cold and corporate-friendly bureaucracy, I salute the effort. The workshop looks like it will bring a vibrant mix of international urban planning perspectives, technological savvy, and an eye for design to one of Mumbai’s thorniest challenges – the future of its nearly ten million slum dwellers. I hope there is some useful output for the residents of Koliwada and the rest of Dharavi.

Interested parties had better act quickly – it appears the week-long workshop (March 16-23) is only accepting 50 entrants (Why so small??). Interested partiers, however, now have an excellent option for the night of Holi, Saturday the 22nd. Mad Decent’s Paul Devro is flying out to spin a wicked set at Blue Frog to cap off the Urban Typhoon workshop, with 100 free tickets going to kids from Dharavi. While I probably can’t afford a week off to attend the workshop, I am definitely going to hit up that show!

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