Miracle Mushrooms Power the Slums of Mumbai

If you want to see rough-and-ready exper­i­ments in res­i­den­tial archi­tec­ture and neigh­bor­hood con­struc­tion, look no fur­ther than the world’s largest slums. Every day, strait­ened con­di­tions and high den­si­ty force the mil­lions upon mil­lions who live in them to impro­vise cre­ative solu­tions to the chal­lenges of urban sur­vival using what­ev­er mate­ri­als and pow­er — both terms broad­ly defined — hap­pen to lay at hand. In his short New Mum­bai, film­mak­er Tobias Rev­ell turns his lens toward India, host to some of the most vast and com­plex slums around, and dis­cov­ers a high­ly uncon­ven­tion­al mate­r­i­al, a sort of organ­ic infra­struc­ture, in use in the knocked-togeth­er neigh­bor­hoods of Dhar­avi: giant mush­rooms.

Actu­al­ly, Rev­ell doesn’t dis­cov­er the mush­rooms; he invents them, telling a sci­ence-fic­tion sto­ry, if not a ter­ri­bly far-fetched one, in the plain­spo­ken, street-lev­el style of a devel­op­ing-world doc­u­men­tary. He even comes up with a semi-plau­si­ble expla­na­tion for how each of these mir­a­cle mush­rooms gen­er­ates enough pow­er to run an entire build­ing: bio­log­i­cal sam­ples leak from Ams­ter­dam into the Mum­bai gang­land, and a few shad­owy types strug­gle to engi­neer them into a new kind of nar­cot­ic. When that doesn’t work, Dharavi’s sci­ence-savvy res­i­dents — refugees from a reli­gious war — get to work on adapt­ing them to a vari­ety of life-improv­ing uses. Rev­ell, no stranger to spec­u­la­tive projects that tap into mod­ern cur­rents of thought, has tak­en the zeitgeist’s notions of a new part­ner­ship between the city and nature, but run them to an intrigu­ing extreme. And you can’t deny how cool those mush­rooms look sprout­ing from the rooftops.

via @cinnamon_carter

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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  • adee says:

    i’m sor­ry to note that the map of India shown was incor­rect. please do inform the mak­er of this video.
    as for the tech­nol­o­gy to har­vest bio­log­i­cal mate­ri­als into elec­tric­i­ty gen­er­at­ing machines, wish we could get these exper­i­ments run­ning on a com­mer­cial scale soon.

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