As studying incremental development nowadays mostly deals with high-density locations, it is important to consider incremental development in earlier days, when space was aplenty. Initial settlements in Dharavi can be found in Koliwada (400 years old) and near Sion (twentieth century). The detached houses had open ground around them. Over time extensions were made by adding rooms, building detached rooms, adding storeys, covering courts, changing use, covering roof terraces. Incentives for adding rooms are extension of the family or extension of business. Rooms are also rented out to third parties.
Photo 1. House near Sion Station Mumbai. The yellow house on the right, in the back, was gradually extended with many add-on rooms.
Studying the details of where buildings connect, reveals the historical order of this incremental development. Builders have to work around problems resulting from choices made in earlier days. Often compromises have to be made and these compromises are very informative. In the centre of the photo below, the small two storey extension partly covers the window of the bigger house. It tells us that the top of the bigger house, which is a vertical extension itself, is the older part.
In Koliwada, the original fishermen village with its incremental development is gradually encroached by informal settlements of squatters. In this typology, a division is made between these two. Roughly, this division coincides with the distinction between formal and informal housing. Similar to the practice of the formal-informal boundary being a grey area, the division between traditional incremental development and squatter encroachment cannot be made sharply. There is a lot in between, like property owners allowing squatters to build to the walls of their houses. Non-dwelling settlements (stalls) are often the small representatives of this semi-formal practice.
Photo 2. Darukhana, Mumbai. Ship repair area. Two-storey extension (front) of steel clad workshop (behind). The façade on the left shows how removal of parts of the façade is also a form of incremental development. Note the small candy stall on the far right, another ‘incremental development’.
In fact, these incremental developments are part of the natural growth of buildings throughout their lifetime. The term “generating process” is used here to indicate cases with a recognizable initial building of substantial sizes. The term is borrowed from Christopher Alexander.
In contrast with the wholeness of the described incremental development, today’s developments show a harsh division. It is referred to as ‘encroachment’. Squatters settle informally on land around formal settlements such as high-rise and apartment blocks.
Photo 3. Agripada, Mahalaxmi. Apartment blocks representing formality, engulfed by informal settlements.
The phenomenon of encroachment reveals weaknesses in the current formalized style of architecture and urban planning. The design, or should we say fabrication, of this type is unable to create sufficient life around these buildings. The space is dead in terms of urban dynamics and it might be considered natural that newcomers settle on these barren lands. Even the use of the word encroachment may be disputable in such cases.