Professor of Urban Design and Planning + Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design
Harvard Graduate School of Design
Rahul Mehrotra is Professor of Urban Design and Planning and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design. He is a practicing architect, urban designer, and educator. His firm, RMA Architects, was founded in 1990 in Mumbai and has designed and executed projects for clients that include government and non-governmental agencies, corporate as well as private individuals and institutions.
RMA Architects has also initiated several unsolicited projects driven by the firm’s commitment to advocacy in the city of Mumbai. The firm has designed a software campus for Hewlett Packard in Bangalore, a campus for Magic Bus (a NGO that works with poor children), the restoration of the Chowmahalla Palace in Hyderabad, and with the Taj Mahal Conservation Collaborative, a conservation master plan for the Taj Mahal. The firm is currently working on a social housing project for 100 elephants and their caretakers in Jaipur as well as a corporate office in Hyderabad and several single family houses in different parts of India.
Mehrotra has written and lectured extensively on issues to do with architecture, conservation, and urban planning in Mumbai and India. His writings include coauthoring Bombay—The Cities Within, which covers the city’s urban history from the 1600s to the present; Banganga—Sacred Tank; Public Places Bombay; Anchoring a City Line, a history of the city’s commuter railway; and Bombay to Mumbai—Changing Perspectives. He has also coauthored Conserving an Image Center—The Fort Precinct in Bombay. Based on this study and its recommendations, the historic Fort area in Mumbai was declared a conservation precinct in 1995—the first such designation in India.
His other publications include books on the Victoria Terminus Station, a world heritage site, in Mumbai; on the impact of conservation legislation there; and most recently, on that city’s Art Deco buildings. In 2000, he edited a book for the UIA that earmarks the end of the century and is titled The Architecture of the 20th Century in the South Asian Region. Mehrotra has also edited the first of the three books that document the 2004 Michigan Debates on Urbanism, and in 2011 wrote Architecture in India – Since 1990, which is a reading of contemporary Architecture in India.
He has long been actively involved in civic and urban affairs in Mumbai, having served on commissions for the conservation of historic buildings and environmental issues, with various neighborhood groups, and, from 1994 to 2004, as Executive Director of the Urban Design Research Institute. He studied at the School of Architecture, Ahmedabad (CEPT), and graduated with a master’s degree with distinction in Urban Design from the GSD. He has taught at the University of Michigan (2003–2007) and at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at MIT (2007–2010).
His current research involves looking at India’s medium size cities and the broader emergent patterns of urbanism in India. Mehrotra’s ongoing research is focused on evolving a theoretical framework for designing in conditions of informal growth – what he refers to as the ‘Kinetic City’. He has run several studios looking at various aspects of planning questions in the city of Mumbai, under the rubric of “Extreme Urbanism” (see video).
Mehrotra is a member of the steering committee of the South Asia Initiative at Harvard, and curates their series on Urbanization. He currently is leading a university wide research project with Professor Diana Eck, called The Kumbh Mela – Mapping the Ephemeral City.