Location: Belapur, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India Project Work Status: Completed Projects Project Duration: - This project, located on six hectares of land about 2 km from the city centre of New Bombay, attempts to demonstrate how high densities persons per hectare, including open spaces, schools, etc can be easily achieved within the context of a low-rise typology. The site plan is generated by a hierarchy of community spaces, starting with a small shared courtyard 8m x 8m around which seven houses are grouped. Each of these houses is on its own piece of land, so that the families can have the crucial advantage of open-to sky spaces to augment the covered areas. Furthermore, they do not share any party-walls with their neighbours - which makes these houses truly incremental, since each family can extend their own house independently. These houses cover almost the entire social spectrum from squatter families to the upper income brackets - yet, in order to maintain the fundamental principle of Equity, the sites themselves vary in size only marginally from 45 sqm to 70 sqm.

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It holds lessons for housing design and production in both developed and developing countries. Behind the eastern coastline of Bombay harbour, the hills descend into a series of dry brown valleys, splattered with dark green scrub. This is the site of New Bombay, an idea first promoted by Charles Correa and a group of colleagues in the s as a means of reducing pressure on an old city physically constricted at the bottom of the peninsula between the harbour and the Indian Ocean, yet subject to an enormous-and increasing-influx of work-hungry country people.

At last, the New Bombay project seems to be taking off. National and municipal agencies have moved parts of their operations to the eastern side of the harbour and there is a healthy growth of private investment in new factories and offices.

Housing is, of course, an integral component of the strategy, but is usually realised as serried ranks of system-built blocks already showing signs of decay. If the present process continues, New Bombay will consist of a series of rather dull work buildings set in a grim slurry of housing built on year-old European patterns which, for climatic and cultural reasons, degenerate into squalor much faster than their models.

It is a model which draws on the immemorial patterns of Indian life while being related to the structure physical and economic of the New City.

In the scheme, Correa has been able to put into practice several long held beliefs about the nature of housing and community. The geometry of Belapur is a direct interpretation of this syntax. The basic element is the house. So each house has a private yard in which is a lavatory block. Lavatories are paired to reduce service runs and three or four pairs of houses are grouped round courts which, in turn, open on to larger public spaces where, given the boundless energy of Indian entrepreneuralism, shops and other enterprises will doubtless quickly spring up.

So the strutures at Belapur are one or two storeys high, built traditionally and are seen as the basic armatures onto which families will model dwellings which reflect their particular life styles. Incrementality acts as a spur to producing housing quickly because people who build their own houses are highly motivated to complete the job. At Belapur, Correa has been at least partially able to put into practice his notion of equity plots. On such sites, the poorest could have a couple of trees, a lean-to and a tethered goat; the richest could develop town houses as sophisticated as those in London or Udaipur.

Section and drawings Of course, Belapur is not perfect. For a start, there are no tethered goats. It is still in many ways a middle-class housing scheme. Nor is it clear how houses will be easy to expand incrementally.

Pitched roofs and complicated sections do not make for very easy addition. But Belapur is a built manifesto and, like all manifestos, it tries to encompass everything.

Correa has attempted a complex programme in which a revolutionary social proposal grows out of a deep appreciation of tradition. It is easy to assume that people who imagine in this way can do nothing to combat the horrendous problems of Third World poverty, that the statistics of poverty are too overwhelming for any sensitive individual to copy.

Correa Courts.


Charles Correa – Church At Parumala and Belapur Housing



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