UnBox Future Cities: First view

Ahmedabad UnBox 2014

CSF’s director Dilys Williams has now been in Ahmedabad as part of UnBox 2014 Future Cities for more than a week, experiencing the diverse and contrasting nature of one of India’s, and indeed the world’s, most populated cities. Dilys is there for two weeks with a group of creative practitioners and academic researchers from both the UK and India, who are collaborating to initiate projects that respond to the challenges of our urban futures, under the broad theme ‘FUTURE CITIES’. Following the exploration of Informal Cities by Rodrigo Bautista from Forum for the Future last week, Dilys now shares her first experiences of this old-meets-new hybrid city:

“A week can be an extraordinary time in the city of Ahmedabad. The metabolism of the city is visible in cross section as the activities on the streets draw in a variety of people, animals, food, materials and other resources, their interactions creating social energy, diverse artifacts and the best ice cream that I have ever tasted. As with any city though, the contrasts are stark. Alongside the generosity of spirit that gives the city its pulse, there is a mechanism that pollutes its inhabitants, displaces its residents and turns its messy vibrancy into (semi) ordered queues in the newly built shopping malls.

Ahmedabad is a means to see and experience what might be lost and found in future city living. Here as part of UnBox 2014 Future Cities, thanks to the award of an AHRC fellowship and support of the British Council, I have the opportunity to work with an incredible network including architects, interaction designers, dancers, writers, musicians and a range of uber techies. We are here to explore the vital components that could contribute to a thriving of this city, and others, and to work out how best to balance short term critical imperatives alongside longer term imaginative thinking that can grow its resilience and develop its conviviality.

I’m not sure where else in the world I’ve been able to witness glimpses back to the beginning of the 15th century, a current sharing of space between cows, people and mobile phones, and models for a pristine future riverfront project, currently under construction. There is a palpable sense of a simultaneously ancient and future world here. Collecting stories of life through conversations about rituals, routines, ways of dressing and engagement with social media, we are able to piece together how this city moves.

Conversations about attire open up insights of a cultural, craft–based, economic, political and personal nature, and mapping of locations and actions relating to these insights is far from easy as the streets have no names! Forget conversation if you are tweeting your location. Fab India is at Unit 1 & 2, Ground Floor Commerce House II Opp IOC Petrol Pump & Pusparaj aptt. Near Judges Bunglow Road Satellite, Satya Marg, Sumeru, Bodakdev, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. This feels like a vulnerable city and a robust one in unequal measure.”

For full details of the lab, please go to the UnBox Festival website

Follow the festival @unboxfestival