Design Trust Seed Grant

Mythical Dwelling

Several fast-growing South Asian cities exemplify development patterns where shining man-made urban centers are driven by subversive, de-Westernized forces of slum communities and squatter settlements that are strategically removed from the glorified image of The City. In an age of authoritarian urbanization they are either deliberately silenced, or preferably unheard. A similar scaling and behavior of territories that articulate an absolute urban space, driving growth, cultural flow and truthfully promoting democratic connections across ethnicities, economic and social backgrounds, such entities constantly questioning the idea of The City as a Ghetto or the Invisible City as a Ghetto. As a dialogue between a mythical Kowloon (Hong Kong) and diagonally opposite, a burgeoning Dharavi (Mumbai), this project explores the physical and non-physical values of an interminable, organic form of heterotopic urbanism, which is unique to South Asian mega-cities as negotiated middle-grounds and spaces of exception that redefine modernity, desire, happiness and hierarchy.

About Saswati Das

Saswati is a designer from India based in California, with a background in architecture, liberal arts and urban design. She is currently pursuing independent research exploring ideas of displacement and impermanence of space, as a living non-physical entity, broadly across Asian cities. She presented her project titled New Delhi: the urbanizing ‘dilliwallah’ at the Pecha Kucha Festival, Ann Arbor in 2015. She is also a qualified Indian classical vocalist.

Previously, she has worked in Los Angeles, New York and New Delhi, across a broad range of projects including low-cost housing development in slum settlements, multi-city light rail expansion and speculative experiences in the Pacific Aquarium in the event of climate change. Most recently, her work in collaboration with Design Earth, was exhibited at the Oslo Architecture Triennale (2016), Times Museum, Guangzhou, China; Cooper Union, New York City, USA and the Onassis Cultural Center, Athens, Greece.