“Un/belonging to and in the city” 

Delhi, 2023

The focus for joint fieldwork and teaching was on the way communities can claim, retain and make places of belonging in a rapidly changing city. In most traditional settlement fabrics, the ‘street’ has remained the social space of community life for centuries, where the private worlds of families gave way to the public sphere of the community. The collective association and connected meanings of spaces of dwelling intertwined with the dynamic public life of sur­rounding urbanity become the foundation of community belongingness and social cohesion. This forms the connective thread weaving the social and physical fabrics of our cities. However, over time, the processes that determined the making of physical environments, for example, the joint family as the primary social unit, have either eroded or been replaced with emerging patterns of change. New populations, speculative real estate pressures, commercialization of residential areas, dying industries, and gentrification have added to alterations and transfor­mations to older neighborhoods. Such juxtapositions of the old and new in terms of social flows and urban form result in a condition of mix and increasing heterogeneity in an already diverse scenario. Whom do these places now belong to? How does placemaking happen in a mixed multi-faceted group of urban dwellers? Who is included and who is excluded in the occu­pation and use of spaces with the altered complexion of social structure? How is the ‘new’ neighbourhood defined now?

The key area where students will be trained and the joint module tested is the 15th-century Mughal city of Old Delhi, and in particular, Dherampura Gali. Known as Shahjahanabad, this was a city of havelis (man­sions), katras (housing clusters), kuchas (residential alleys), galis (lanes), and mohallas(neigh­bourhoods) to be seen as the physical counterparts of the social content of the city. From the idyllic walled city for a flourishing empire of the past to one of the largest centres of commerce in the Asian sub-continent, comparable to Kathmandu, Old Delhi encapsulates ur­ban transformative forces that mega-cities in this part of the world have confronted and offers invaluable lessons of change and adaptation. It is important to re-visit such local urban refer­ences to study and learn for future habitations, to re-orient educational perspectives towards these enriching sources of knowledge systems that are today more relevant than ever before. The second field site was a main road in the urban village of Kishangarh, South Delhi. Here, the idea of the village is challenged because though certain ‘village types’ might be retained (e.g., farming, cattle-breeding), the urbanization is in full swing, the most recent transformations being introduced by the construction of a metro stop.  

More than 20 students participated and worked in interdisciplinary, international teams. The faculty comprised of all three partnering institutions, including urban geography, art history and architecture.