Rahul Mehrotra | Clarkson Chair in Architecture

Principal and Founder, RMA Architects
Professor of Urban Design and Planning, Harvard Graduate School of Design

KMC Corporate Office in Hyderabad, India. RMA Architects.

KMC Corporate Office in Hyderabad, India. RMA Architects

We are pleased to welcome Rahul Mehrotra as the 2018 Clarkson Chair in Architecture.

Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018
6:15 pm - 7:45 pm
Hayes 403

Rahul Mehrotra.

Working in Mumbai: The Works of RMA Architects

Architects and designers working in India are now dealing with an entire gamut of social, cultural and economic phenomenon that are molding the built environment at phenomenally rapid rates. In the process, the role of the professional architect has been marginalized  - for within conventional praxis, the professional does not engage with this broader landscape but rather chooses to operate with the specificity of a site and in the process often becomes disconnected with the context of practice.

Thus our approach to Working in Mumbai has been to actually use the city and region of our operation as a generator of practice - as a way for us to evolve an approach and architectural vocabulary that draws its nourishment from a more elastic definition of the profession which sees multiple disciplines as being simultaneously valid in engaging with this kinetic landscape. How do we as architects work with the many worlds in the city - do we respond simultaneously to the time past, present and future? How do we do this when all these times exist simultaneously? Can we design with a divided mind?  In our projects, the approach has been to abstract and interpret spatial arrangements and building elements from tradition while using a contemporary sensibility as well as building vocabulary. The attempt is thus to combine materials, to juxtapose conventional craftsmanship with industrial materials and traditional spatial arrangements with contemporary space organization. And to explore how architecture can be used as an instrument to resist the polarized conditions in our cities. In short, to give expression to the pluralism and dualities that so vividly characterizes the Indian Landscape.

AIA Continuing Education Credits Available: 1 LU

The Will and Nan Clarkson Visiting Chair program invites distinguished scholars and professionals to campus for lectures and seminars that engage students, faculty and members of the public in knowledge-sharing and debate on critical issues in architecture, planning and design. The program was founded by Will and Nan Clarkson in 1991. 

Additional events during Clarkson Week

Thursday, Sept. 27, 1 pm in Hayes 403

Seminar: Ephemeral City

This seminar will critically reflect on the notions of stability and formality in the urban environment through several research projects in kinetic modes of citymaking.

Friday, Sept. 28, 1 pm in Hayes 327

Seminar: Conservation in India

What are the parameters that condition urban conservation today, and how can critical preservation be framed as a creative practice?

Friday, Sept. 28, 2 pm in Hayes 327

Rahul Mehrotra in Conversation with Ashima Krishna, UB assistant professor of historic preservation and urban and regional planning

This follow-up conversation will expand on the themes explored in the seminar regarding urban conservation and its implications for contemporary practice.

Examples of Work


Rahul Mehrotra studied at the School of Architecture, Ahmedabad graduated with a Master’s Degree in Urban Design with distinction from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard (1987). Apart from his engagement with the design of buildings, Mehrotra has been actively involved in civic and urban affairs in Mumbai, having served on commissions for historic preservation and environmental issues, with various neighborhood groups. He was the Executive Director (1994–2004) of the Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI), where he is now a Trustee and has taught at the University of Michigan (2003–2007) and at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at MIT (2007–2010).

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; Conserving an Image Center—The Fort Precinct in Bombay, which was a seminal study, and 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. 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 Indian architecture.