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Is the Urban Future Livable?

Balancing the World - Outwitting Temptations

Paper presentation by Suvir Mathur, at University of Derby. Organized by AMPS - Architecture Media Politics Society.
June 22 - 23, 2017

Exploring the root cause - as against the solution - of the complexities of urbanization today. The World has evolved from a mere patchwork of countries to a network of developments, where communities merge with neighborhoods and cities merge with villages. Propelled by the then Industrial revolution that throttled an exponential growth of human population from a mere 1 billion to 7 billion in under two centuries, to the much more powerful yet exceptionally quieter technological revolution that now seamlessly connects these 7 billion socially.

While the advent of high-rise and urbanization were a direct consequence of industrial revolution, the technological revolution failed to trigger any corresponding revolution in the way housing and architectural technologies emerged. The top-down approach of the planners, governments and financial institution focused primarily on return-on-investments models, completely neglecting the R&D, paradigm shifts in social behavior and new opportunities in design.

The sole purpose of an urban system is to enhance efficiency and productivity by bringing people, resources and talent together. A successful Urban ecosystem continues to renew its unique history and evolution while fostering local practices, thus providing economic and political stability that cannot be substituted with top-down master planning schemes and "international designs" that most often do not engage the sidewalk-up lower income majority. This disconnect between financially-driven real estate and harsh grass-root realities seeded in faith and ideology, has created a chaotic urban fabric. Even as people struggle with regional, linguistic and cultural crisis in the wake of globalization, chasing the diminishing line that divides contentment, challenge, sense of belonging and love, from rat race, humiliation, instability and narcissism. Humans are built for community, their realties defined by less than half a dozen touch points. More often, the realization comes in too late. King Ashoka, propelled Buddhism to world religion, only after running one of the bloodiest empires in history.