Event Details

Urbanization in India today is altering the physical, cultural, and social landscape. In the last two decades, cities and urban forms have experienced unprecedented growth, development, and change. A sense of speed, simultaneity, and complexity accompany urban transformations: India, a land of ancient wisdom and heritage, is today a paradoxical landscape of global modernity and desperate poverty, grand technological projects and religious festivals. Urban development is India is often seen as a choice between history and technology; local particularities and globalized universality; timeless continuity and radical transformation; tradition and modernity. An implicit assumption is that one must be sacrificed for the other. The creative processes of building new mega-projects have been accompanied by the destructive un-building of heritage, identity, and the natural environment.

This conference explores ways that globalization and technology can and should intersect with history and heritage to enhance sustainability and alleviate urban poverty. In addition to the sprawling landscapes of slums, historic parts of cities and towns are often places of poverty with inadequate services, informal economy, decrepit housing stock, and marginal access to the global technology and finance as the engines of India’s growth. These less visible slums of historic quarters test the limits of mass production and markets and are as much a challenge to democracy, citizenship and governance as the endlessly expanding landscapes of squatter settlements. As it explores the prospects for livable cities that preserve and nurture the more intangible non-economic aspects of urbanization, the symposium also hopes to critically examine aspects of public and private financing of sustainability and heritage in urban areas.

The two-day symposium, Urban India 2030 would bring together experts, scholars, and critical thinkers of urbanism to explore these paradoxes and to rethink universal discourses of sustainability in contextualized ways for urban futures in India. How do experts on urban India envision the convergence or reconciliation of technology and history to alleviate poverty and rethink sustainable futures in the coming two decades? Given the growing salience of the global agendas of sustainability and heritage preservation, India’s prowess and priority in technology, and unrelenting poverty, how do they see the twin processes of building and un-building being played out in the contours of urban areas under pressure for development? How can global agendas and identities be reconciled with regional histories and local culture to pave pathways to development that is inclusive, and environmentally and culturally sustainable? Transitioning from identities that are historically and culturally defined to global ones of technology and finance, questions of right to the city represented, mediated, interpreted, experienced, and arbitrated become particularly significant.

As Mumbai aspires to become a world financial center, examining the trajectory of Mumbai’s development and its sustainability are particularly urgent. Mumbai is also in the process of developing a new Masterplan – a perfect opportunity to discuss alternative trajectories of development. A half-day panel discussion would be devoted to Mumbai.

This conference is part of a larger series of symposia by SUI, Columbia University, planned for Beijing, Mumbai, Rio and Amman. The Beijing symposium was held in November 2010.

View the Detailed Conference Schedule here.

View Conference pictures here