Arjun Rathi loves Mumbai. He loves it somuch that unlike those who just complain about the city, he actually has planson how to make it better.
Rathi, 26, is an architect, industrial designer and photographer, well known for his urban designs and for turning afridge door into a coffee table. The latter was his first piece, made with avintage Kelvinator fridge door, procured from various scrap markets. Havingstarted his design studio in 2011, Rathi work on interiors and creates furniture and niche lighting solutions. Yet, through it all, the city has remained infocus. "I believe it is the responsibility of the architects of the present generation to tell the public about how good urban design can benefit them," he says.
His projects on the city are based on the simple fact that urban architecture can be made relevant to the public; forinstance, 'The Extension to Existing' project takes existing structures in thecity and improves them using paper cube furniture. A module attached to lonetrees on pavements can work as a rainwater-harvesting system, and a lighting system attached to stone benches can use solar panels to power the structure through the night. There is also a project to make use of the stone wall of the Portuguese church in Dadar and turn it into a green cover using wire mesh,detachable green panels.
Rathi has lived in Andheri since the age often. It is no surprise then that his major project proposal for beautifying the city came out of one of the most congested and busy suburbs. The Metro Sky Garden project works on the concept of utilising the space wasted under the Metro to create green play and leisure areas. "You have half a million peopleliving along the Ghatkopar-Versova stretch and they do not have too many options in terms of open spaces or parks," says Rathi. The idea is to build another level below the Metro without adding any load on the existing Metroline and dividing them into modules. These modules will include play and recreation areas, sky gardens and nurseries, flanked by a continuous cycling track. The project will not only make good use of empty spaces but the nurseries could add a bit of green cover to the entire Metro line.
Another ambitious project proposal also involves the city's trains. "Abroad, the train is part of the landscape. Here too we should embrace the train and make it part of the landscape," says Rathi.The idea he worked upon uses the area outside Goregaon East station. It involves using the railway boundary wall and the unused pavement near it. "Add solar panels on the wall, shift the hawkers behind the wall and create a market system, open up certain panels to provide a view of the urban farming happening on the stretch behind, use some of the concrete slabs for vertical farming, and suddenly the area has a new topology," he says.
All of Rathi's projects are self-initiated and are ready to be pitched to the right people. Rathi works with a team of project interns and all of them invest 50% of their profits into the detailing and prototyping of the urban design schemes called Bombay Transformers. There is a fun element to Rathi's work, asin the niche lighting solutions he provides to the furniture inspired by ghungroos and sari folds. Rathi's Churchgate studio bears witness to his many completed projects but in origami form. "Origami is a fun way to explore formand turn an idea into a concept model," he says.
If Rathi has his way, the city's streets could be transformed into beautiful design spaces. And Andheri's Metro line would notbe an ugly grey blot on the landscape. Now, here is something to look forward to.