One of Asia’s largest ‘slums’, Dharavi is an informal settlement located right in the centre of Mumbai, India. According to well-circulated statistics, 60% of Mumbaikars live in ‘slums’, which occupy 6% of the city’s land. What is less known is that many of these so-called ‘slums’ have little to do with the kind of apocalyptic imagery sold to the world in blockbuster movies, best-selling books and tabloids. A majority of homes in areas notified as “slums” by the government are built in bricks, steel and cement, by experienced teams of contractors, masons, plumbers, electricians and carpenters. One of the things that Dharavi lacks is a Museum that will showcase local talent.

Around 1 million people live in Dharavi, and despite the tough conditions they live in, they are capable of creating, designing, manufacturing and commercialising all kinds of goods. Their ability to reinvent themselves and their surroundings is exceptional. Inspiration and creativity can be found virtually everywhere, to the extent that sometimes it seems to arise in a purely accidental, almost effortless way. Families who have mastered the same craftsmanship for generations live right next to those who are using modern manufacturing technologies such as laser cutting or CNC. Yet we keep on having a biased perspective when addressing this kind of places. How can we overcome those preconceived ideas? We strongly believe that design is one of the most powerful tools to promote social change and innovation on a global scale. The main mission of Design Museum Dharavi is to challenge our perception of slums, favelas, barriadas, ghettos and other informal settlements around the world.

Challenging the preconceived curatorial notions of design institutions today, this museum will feature a much more flexible program, encouraging residents to interact with cultural events. The Design Museum Dharavi reflects on the nomadic nature from thousands of workers and craftsmen who will have the chance to display their skills and take their work to a next level. Experience, intuition and imagination will be cleverly recombined in order to merge both the tradition and creativity that glows in the streets of Dharavi.

Niccolo Gandolfi/URBZ