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The Weavers of Bombay

Part 2 Dissertation 2013
Simhika Rao
University of Westminster, UK
This Dissertation examines the history, background stories and architecture of the textile mills in Bombay. The mills were a key element in the growth of the industrial city and in the formation of its working class movement. A few mills are still in use but many are left as empty shells; others being torn down for redevelopment, leading towards a gentrification of the city.

The stories, history and social and urban narratives that have taken place surrounding the mills of Bombay have been largely left untold. Once branded as symbols of opportunity and reinvention, the mills are now largely empty shells that hold promise of an uncertain future. The dreams of the city’s postcolonial urban life are now counter-pointed by the seductions of a fabled city on the edge of both destruction and development. The mills stand as an architectural typology that is instrumental in both conditions.

The absence of homogeneous proposals for the complex networks within these spaces suggests that new proposals are necessary to allow for architecture to create an identity for the people and the community. The 20th Century has brought about an increasingly commodified culture, wherein there is a danger that the redevelopment of the mills through shopping malls, real estate and skyscrapers has lead to the gentrification of the city to the detriment of what the area stood for originally.

The text is based on a series of interviews and first hand research carried out in Bombay during the summer of 2012. An overview of the history and development of the industry may be reached through these overlapping and sometimes contradictory narratives.

Simhika Rao

William Firebrace
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