Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Adam Ferguson took this photograph of one fragment of Mumbai Airport seen from a distance across the surrounding slum-dwellings. Stephen Cairns in his chapter on FLOWS in the Sage Handbook of Architectural Theory reproduces this picture as he describes setting out on a journey from Edinburgh to Mumbai in order to investigate airport architecture as a system of "flows" rather than a system of stable structures. However, even before his journey starts, Cairns is obliged to point out that the globalized, non-material world of "flows" excludes most people in the world, because most people in the world don't have enough money to enter it. I am skeptical that the faddish idea of "flows" actually adds anything useful to human thinking, but not at all skeptical about Cairns's all-too-obvious point about the meaning of this picture – that the Mumbai slum-dwellers, despite their immediate geographical proximity to the Mumbai Airport, live just as far away from it as they do from any other airport on any other continent.