The plasmodium, or slime mould, is a primitive life form commonly found in forest ecosystems. When unfavourable conditions occur, the plasmodium changes from an animal-like multi-nucleate protoplasm to a single-nucleus fungus, thus adapting to its surroundings via migration and a renewable life cycle. The plasmodium reflects the content of our clammy urban living. People survive by utilising simple technology and the resources at hand, and by maintaining interdependent and intramural proto-organic relationships.
Architecture and city planning were once surgical exercises that were little suited to treating urban internal micro-scale problems, while building activities are assumed to be regulated and controlled by pragmatic operations. The formalistic urban structure of a sanitary building project excludes the latent tumorigenic factor from its formula. Meanwhile, the neoplasm-like illegal constructions and settlements are vital and spread quickly across cities, evidence of how the residue is transformed into inseparable parts of the larger city.
In many ways similar to plasmodia, people tend to migrate into new territories to begin a new life. When the given living conditions are bad, or when the conditions get worse, people manage to recycle their limited possessions and reinvent their cocoons. The convertibility and self-help nature of the ghetto community has become a forgotten factor inside a preconceived ready-made society; worse, it has been gradually discarded as the remnants of an anarchic criminality.
The study of slum areas in Mumbai shows that occupants manage their everyday life through a greater sense of sharing and collaboration. The unavoidable intimacy in a group may intrude upon individual privacy, but none-the-less is of necessity and comfort for sustaining more active momentums. The infrastructure of main water pipelines in the Dharavi area, allegedly the largest slum area in Asia, is above the ground and being incorporated into passageways, bridges, public baths, shelters, playgrounds, and work places. Multiple stacks of living quarters and connections inside and outside of the agglomeration mix with raised highways and major railroads to produce another landscape that offers wonder and excitement.
The notorious nomads of the city, the homeless, might not be without homes. Rather they are taking a pathway leading to the reconstitution of their lives, resembling a drifting spore of plasmodia waiting to reproduce itself. Wandering peddlers move around the streets with simple personal artifacts, committed to their carts and their routes. Beneath the facade of fragility and poverty, this can in fact be read as a form of eco-wise human behaviour, used to survive in a harsh environment, and possibly to transcend it spiritually, as practiced by followers of Buddhism.
Abandoned industrial sites, private and public vacant buildings and the urban peripheries are the empty areas of a city, places that provide refuges and alternatives for people who need room to breathe and roam. These areas of urban emptiness signify the darker side of master-planning and grand-scale development, yet somehow, even within these environments, there is room for beginning anew. Worse yet would be to fill these voids using single-minded planning methods that merely cage the potential urban vitality.