Rahul Mehrotra and the idea of “Softening thresholds” (Updated)

Harvard Magazine’s May-June 2012 issue, features a great piece highlighting the work of architect Rahul Mehrotra. I know of him mainly through his written and spoken word not through built projects and it was a treat to see the range of his work.

I would note the form, material choices, an aesthetic of contemporary vernacular(ism). Similar in some sense to the work of 2012 Pritzker Prize winner Wang Shu. Between rough, and worked, being historically yet practically contextual.

A key goal for Mehotra is “Softening thresholds” between different sectors of society a point clarified by the firm’s “crazy mix” of historic conservation, new construction, and projects with social motives.

The Hathigaon (a low cost social housing project for mahouts in Rajasthan) seems to share something in spirit with Alejandro Aravena’s Quinta Monroy project, as well. Witness, just visually.

Quinta Monroy by Elemental/Alejandro Aravena

Back at Hathigaon, an elephant and its mahout enter their dwelling. Photograph by Peter Pereira

Plus, later in the piece we read “Though most of the homes still had their original exterior finish of rough local stone, Mehrotra hopes for more customization—with plaster, whitewash, or brightly colored paint—as time passes: ‘We are hoping that in 10 years, you won’t be able to recognize them at all.’ In his years as an architect, he has become less concerned with controlling all details; instead, he is fascinated by the way the residents’ contributions become part of the final product.

In a late update the NYT blog India Ink posted A Conversation With : Urban Planner Rahul Mehrotra in which the professor laid out his personal agenda; of nuance, a non binary or formulaic positioning “more with how do you shift the planning debate to area-wise planning and away from the blanket planning attitudes that have engulfed the decision-making process in our cities…For the sake of the future of our cities and for safeguarding the kind of pluralism that exists…we need to nuance our planning by having different approaches for different parts of the urban landscape.


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