A large number of Mumbai’s towers are designed by European architects. Dobrucka is interested in intercultural transfer and feels “that the architecture of the newly builds is ‘borrowed’ from western office constructions which have mutated into these huge glass and concrete structures, which in India serve residential purposes.” In addition she points out that “the materials used for the new construction are not local and damage the environment. Large glass windows require air conditioning, which in turn increases the consumption of electricity.”
Even the so called ‘eco’ Atilla residence raises many questions about sustainability. The 27-story building, built for a single family in a city where the average dweller has just 4.5 square meters, has understandably attracted criticism and allegations of greenwashing. With flats out of reach of the majority, 60% of Mumbai’s residents live in slums.
Dobrucka cleverly uses phrases from marketing brochures as titles for her dystopian images of skyscrapers set amongst Mumbai’s sprawling slums. “Wake up every day to a spectacular view of the blue sky romancing the sea. Come home to beach side joys.” reads the caption to an image of row after row of blue plastic topped slums filling the view from one of the towers. One would hope both for the slum dweller and skyscraper tenant that city planners and developers can find a way to create positive urban environments for all.
Shooting the series was not an easy task for the artist using a large format 5×4 camera. “As soon as you pull out a tripod the problems start,” she says. “In India the first answer you get is a ‘No! Not possible.’ and you have to find a way to make it into ‘Yes!’”
The series will be shown at Columbia University’s Studio Xin Mumbai and Bohnuk Institute in the UK in 2014.
+ Alicja Dobrucka