Vernacular and Transnational Urbanism

Over the past thirty years, the globe has seen an unprecedented economic growth, primarily fostered by the liberation of many national and international economic policies.  What has resulted is the phenomenon of globalization, which has made transnational business sprout up everywhere.  The architecture of such business is ubiquitous, in the sense that its trademark tall glass buildings are present in every major city on Earth.  For examples of this architecture in Mumbai, see the skyscrapers page.

 

Juxtaposing transnational architecture is vernacular architecture; vernacular refers to a local or geographically unique style of building, using local materials and tailored to local needs.  An example would be the pagoda-style constructions of Japan or China, which are not found in other parts of the world.   

Finding vernacular architecture in Mumbai is a bit tricky, simply because the city was colonized by both the Portuguese and the British, at separate times between the 16th and the 20th Centuries.  The Portuguese actually occupied the city first between 1534 and 1661, when the British took over power in the region.  The British occupied Mumbai until 1947, when Mumbai (then Bombay) was granted its independence.  It was renamed Mumbai from Bombay in 1995 as a symbolic gesture to shed its historic connection to the 300 years of colonization.  A complete detailed history of Mumbai can be found here.

Above are two examples of colonial architecture found in Mumbai.  On the left is a photo of Flora Fountain, and on the right is India’s High Court.

 

Below is a picture of the Gateway to India, an example of Mumbai's colonial architecture, dichotomous to Mumbai's new transnational architecture which is seen in the background of the photo. The Gateway to India is found at the tip of the city facing the Arabian Sea.

 

 

 

Photo credit: www.trekearth.com/galleryAsia/India/photo40456.htm
Photo credit: www.trekearth.com/galleryAsia/India/photo40456.htm
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/singapore_spur/409353435/
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/singapore_spur/409353435/

 

 

Much of the colonial/vernacular architecture in Mumbai is still in use.  Victoria Station, seen to the left, is a very busy train terminal that serves both inter-city and city-to-city railways.  It was built in 1887 to resemble a similar train station in London, England.  It has since been renamed  Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, or CST as it is known to local commuters.

Mumbai truly depicts both sides of the economic coin.  The city has recently developed in a way that most viscerally shows how neoliberalism distributes wealth.  The slums of Mumbai have become so much a part of the city that they may be considered vernacular to the city's transnationalism.  Many slums have developed separate economies and cultures that seem worlds apart from the transnational lifestyles that are happening right next to them.  It is truly fascinating.  Below is a picture of one point where the two come together.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28939418@N00/362514087/
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28939418@N00/362514087/

by Stephen Marotta