Kevin McCloud’s “Slumming it” is currently running on the ABC (available at iview for short whiles). I had been turned off by its name but in the end decided to switch on. The word ‘slum’ has always had a derogatory slant to it that doesn’t help these towns and neighbourhoods at all. It can even provide instant justification for the wholesale demolition of them, so that they can be replaced by much posher and much less dense condominiums – it’s happening in Cambodia right now.
Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs is a curious choice to embed in Dharavi for two weeks. Dharavi is a one million strong informal settlement in the middle of Mumbai. Making the switch from “reality” to “documentary” TV, in the first episode he seems quite lost for things to say, filling gaps with clangers like, “I just don’t fancy catching bubonic plague. I really don’t”. Then a few wows before another offhand comment… “I’m sorry but I assumed everyone had a washing machine at home.”
Despite this being one man’s journey out of cosy clean England, we should be grateful they didn’t set Jeremy Clarkson to the task. McCloud starts to loosen up after the initial shock of arriving in a place where there is one loo per 1,400 people, and through a series of organised rendezvous he starts to uncover how a city of one million can fit into a square mile, without sanitation or regulations, and yet have a $1B industry and 85% employment. And happy people… not like England.
McCloud’s main interest in visiting is to follow up on why unnamed architects and planners say Dharavi is a model for socially sustainable community. So far we’ve learnt that this is because there are 20 people per house, no straight lines, lots of texture, and the generations talk to one another. And every space is flexible.
The last episode (#2) takes us on a tour of the rubbish dumps and recycling factories, before for going to the top end of town to interview the architect championing Dharavi’s redevelopment. McCloud grills him as we see what Dharavi will probably become.
Worth a look. Now only on iview. Ep. 1 expires tonight (Tuesday).
Posted by Peter on 08.11.10 in urban planning
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