The Design comes as we build


  • Rahul Srivastava urbz / Urbanology
  • Matias Echanove



Design, Dharavi, Contractors, builders, artisans, jugaad


This essay discusses urbz' 'The Design Comes As We Build Project' which recognizes local builders in homegrown settlements by providing them a space to showcase their design imagination. The project started in Dharavi, Mumbai, a settlement populated by self-taught experts with a strong, practice-based, and experience-rich learning background. By recognising the agency of local actors in the production of their own habitats, this essay focuses on the processes at work in this context. We employ an ethnographic lens informed by the language of architecture to illustrate how artisans imagine and build thousands of tiny houses on a daily basis. These anonymous “contractors”, usually blamed for operating illegally and without formal education, are shown to be the heroes of an epic story in which neighbourhoods are created out of nothing through the transformation of meager local resources. Typically selected on the basis of previous work and common acquaintances, these artisans belong to the same community as their clients, often living in close proximity. Together, they design and build without formal plans or contracts, using trust and reputation as the cornerstones of their professional relationship. As a result of their collaboration in all stages of the project, unpredictable features become an inherent part of the structures that emerge organically from this process.




How to Cite

Srivastava, R., & Echanove, M. . (2021). The Design comes as we build. Ekistics and The New Habitat, 80(2), 4–11.