Speculative City: Architecture and the Arts of Dwelling in Global Mumbai

Speculative City is a book and research platform about the rapid spatial transformation of Mumbai as urban territory is systematically transfigured into real estate products. The book and associated materials explore the regulatory and planning adjustments which have allowed the city to scale up vertically and have added hundreds of thousands of square feet of new built stock.  These rules explicitly connect the expansion of the real estate market to the redevelopment of slums and other non-formal and precarious housing stock.  Paradoxically, however, more people than ever before live in precarious housing situations and the promise of subsidized housing on a mass scale remains unfulfilled while new commercial construction booms.  In the space of two decades, the city has morphed into a massive construction site.  Excavating these intertwined processes of regulation and building, the book explores the range of social and cultural propositions that are possible in this context.  

Speculative City extends dominant understandings of speculation from their long-standing association with financial sleights of hand to a range of other, everyday practices that work with instabilities of social, political, economic and ethical systems of value to make claims upon urban society.  In particular, the book follows building - both in its active form as a practice and in its object forms - to trace the emergent conditions of city making as they reflect a social experience of the economy.  The incessant talk about redevelopment, building, infrastructure, design and property that dominates the everyday lives of citizens is analyzed to understand the role of speculation as a vital practice in relation to the myriad local contingencies introduced by processes of globalization. Defining speculation broadly as anticipation and contemplation through action, my project is to simultaneously study both, the practices and the durable structures associated with market capitalism and its governing structures as well as counter-speculative practices of imagining and dwelling in the hope of transforming existing material constraints.  In doing so, I offer a new method for understanding contemporary cities, from the standpoint of the global south, in which mutating conditions themselves become enabling frameworks for making propositions in the absence of far reaching visions and redemptive teleologies.