Cities For Whom, Cities With Whom

Over a period of nearly two years at Avani Institute of Design, I led and collaboratively detailed a studio-based field archive of coastal community infrastructures made fragile by technologies of dispossession. This undergraduate semester nine studio also served as a space for students’ pre-thesis orientation to design research.

Cities for Whom? Caring for Infrastructural Lives and Futures in Vizhinjam, Kerala Monsoon 2019 (Studio Faculty Team: Kush Patel, Nimisha Hakkim, Mithun P Basil): Situated within the communities of Madhipuram and Kottapuram in Vizhinjam, the year 01 studio made visible the otherwise palpable infrastructures of access, equity, waste, economy, and climate change involving the local fisherfolk’s lived realities. Vizhinjam is a port community located towards the south of Trivandrum with a history of growth and displacement since the 1960s. Today, the livelihoods of these fisherfolks are under new uncertainties from the construction of another project: The International Transshipment Terminal, currently being built near the villages towards the south. By the end of four months, the studio shared deep insights into how these infrastructures are shaped by the people in-situ and in relation to the port project. Students in groups also produced critical transects, oral transcripts, photo essays, individual poems, and a group song. During the final stage, students in pairs made a set of spatial drawings and a corresponding set of process and policy documents to depict how the design processes might differ from convention or how to sustain the proposals.

Cities with Whom? Supporting the Infrastructures of Community Protection in Vizhinjam, Kerala Monsoon 2020 (Studio Faculty Team: Kush Patel, Nimisha Hakkim, Shyam Gandhi): In year 02, students and I deepened our engagements with the overlapping infrastructures of equity, access, economy, waste, and climate change on land and in the sea; oriented ourselves explicitly around questions of community protection; and began with questions of the digital archive. The architectural resolutions during this completely remote and online semester covered critical spatial and infrastructural insights as well as neighborhood-level projects specific to community protection and even public health, bringing into discourse micro-infrastructures without whom there can be no city and with whom we can realize the possibility of a socially and an environmentally just city.