Anthony Wood, CTBUH Executive Director and Associate Professor, Illinois Institute of Technology found himself amongst twelve of his architecture students from the same institute to be given a sponsored opportunity to visit the streets of Mumbai for a way to rework C-ward, by the CTBUH organizers of the Remaking of Mumbai Federation (RoMF). The brief had asked for redesigning parts of the ward through the means of tall buildings. He was just the person to achieve that, as this was his forte. He considered a physical project in Mumbai. The students would need to use a holistic approach to design as there would be a significant impact on the site, the residents and the skyline. Thus bridging the gap between academia and industry. There were several sites within ward C that were considered as places for intervention with the end goal of working on five or six buildings. The goal was to visit the city and understand its various components and functions to conclude with a justifiable reason for intervention in an already dense yet organic fabric. This would occur over ten days, with the batch of students being split into pairs to pick aspects that they felt were prime constituents of the city’s characteristics. 

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Ward C, Mumbai_©

Understanding the City

According to the twelve students and their faculty, Mumbai was “a simply staggering city of contrast.” As described by them, even though the city had great vitality and energy and was booming with cultural experiences in every nook and cranny, which were plenty to begin with, it seemed the governance and its neglect led to the majority of the population having no choice but cooperate and make do with what existed. With current population of approximately 1,71,59,000 as of 2023 (16 million during the time of the project in 2010), it is imperative to constantly work on maintaining, if not improving several infrastructures that make up this city. Roughly half of the built environment during the time was either dilapidated or considered unsafe. Constructing new buildings that would be structurally sound but also followed the urban grain while essentially lifting the happenings of the city on the ground was a way for them to create an architectural intervention without it becoming yet another out-of-context glass box or a visually impressive yet city icon isolated from its surrounding. The group thus spent their days deeply analyzing the activities and elements that could help them design a structure that would not only be a mixed use live, work, and experience-based places of residence but also one tied to the vernacular culture. 

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The Process

For the team to justifiably create an intervention, they had to manage to tackle both site as well as the built-in idea. Due to the term-end deadlines of IIT college, the site strategies were only conceptual. It would not do the study justice if this aspect had not been dealt with. The buildings had to respond to the site, which in itself, required changes in terms of waste management, traffic and movement, and more. The dense city fabric needed to be changed to a certain extent to incorporate these buildings that would eventually be merged into the same. The team desired to create something that was both local as well as cohesive as a whole. During the design process, site sections and plans became salient features to understand what would eventually be growing upward into the form of the buildings. It took the team a great deal of reiterating and changing their tactics towards designing as each pair of students created what would be icons- in ways, separate from their contexts in a need for them to stand out amongst their peers- something which can quite commonly be viewd in architecture colleges around the world.

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Project models made by students_©IIT/CTBUH

Cohesion is Key

Anthony decided that few parameters be set in a manner for each pair so that the design would seem similar enough to be cohesive as a whole as well as allow students to create their unique interpretations. A pair of students were then chosen to design a bridge that would connect all five buildings. It was also in their purview to make sure each building was related to the master plan and the context as a whole. Five towers were organized in rows of three and two, connected by sky decks as a whole while bridges from the floor on the intermediate levels connected across each building. The towers had been located parallel to the grain to flow with the urban context. The idea was then to allow a view of either side of the sea as well as the opening in the north-south directions so every user could see the city skyline. Each group could thus focus on their problem statements or constituents that would make the site and the city, by extension, work better. While one pair focused on waste management systems, others focused on food culture, water as a resource, or the rich textiles art. The sky decks became key stages for social gatherings and festivities, as can be seen in day to day lives of Mumbai residents.

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Student project for Mumbai_©IIT/CTBUH

The Final Design 

The overall form of the building was inspired by eroded pockets created in rocks by weathering. These in the building would eventually be the public pockets for various interactions and activities. Each of the five buildings represented core ideas that were considered by the IIT students. The Annapurna Tower (or Food Tower) focused on creating food at the point of need. It was developed from the problem of depleting agricultural land in the country. This building would aim to provide food for its residents and eventually, the surrounding. Sun and ventilation were therefore, crucial aspects of this building. Barsat (Rain) Tower would collect the maximum amount of rainwater to allow the reusing of the same by the vertical community. Practical and leisure activities related to water, can be found here. Bhangar (Recycling) Tower would become the center for waste management and recycling zone. Natural ventilation and shading were crucial points for consideration, while the building itself focused on locally available materials, thus reducing carbon usage.  Gyana (School) Tower catered to providing housing and education facilities for the neighborhood. It was noted by the team that ward C lacked education facilities. This building was a way to give back to the community and uplift them. The Swadeshi (Textile) Tower would include the façade becoming the place for clothes-hanging and directly displaying the variety of fabrics in the region and the country as a whole. This is inspired by the dhobi ghats in the city.

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Design process stages_© CTBUH Journal 2010 Issue 1

Introspecting the Intervention

The final work done by students of IIT in collaboration with CTBUH and RoMF, was exhibited in the architecture department of the university. The public’s reaction, as expected by the team, was mixed. The very need for skyscrapers around the shorter building of Ward C stuck out as a sore thumb. Though this was the brief provided, the sensitivity with which the team had undertaken the project was much appreciated. The result manifested by the team of 12 students and their faculty head through an arduous and enlightening journey from visiting and mingling with Mumbai residents while soaking up as much information as the ten days of visit could provide them with. They dealth with catering to a physical brief and required to come to a design conclusion by transcending their egos and truly collaborating to produce a result as considered by Anthony Wood as” bringing the richness and multi-functional vitality of the city into the sky.” 

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Visitors looking at student work_©IIT/CTBUH


Wood, A. (2010) Vol 1. 2010th edn, The Remaking of Mumbai: A CTBUH-IIT Collaborative Architectural Design Studio. 2010th edn. rep. Illinois, Chicago: CTBUH, pp. 22–33. 

Ltd., N.M.Pvt. (2010) The remaking of Mumbai: A CTBUH–IIT Collaborative Architectural Design Studio, NBM Media Pvt. Ltd. Available at: (Accessed: 31 August 2023). 


Arryan Siingh is currently a fifth year architecture student studying in Balwant Sheth School of Architecture, Mumbai. Poetry and prose became a way for him to internalize his thoughts as well as channel them to pragmatize the intangible ideas of architecture and search deeper to uncover the field’s essence.