“The future doesn’t have to clash with the past”
How can we create a sustainable future without losing our past? This question drew architect Maitri Dore to doctoral studies in conservation. She is now studying how cultural heritage is being handled in major infrastructure projects in India and Sweden, with a focus on Västlänken and the construction of an underground metro in Mumbai.
Maitri Dore grew up in the Indian city of Mumbai, which is home to millions. She has a background as an architect and a fascination with history and old buildings. When the opportunity arose for a doctoral position at the Department of Conservation, she felt like all of her interests were converging – so she packed her bags and moved to Gothenburg.
She is now part of the EU-funded graduate school HERILAND, which aims to offer tools and information to tomorrow’s experts in cultural conservation and urban planning.
“We live in a world experiencing many rapid changes. When it’s time to meet new goals, such as for sustainable travel, there can be a clash between the past and the future. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We have to figure out how to manage our cultural heritage so that we don’t lose our sense of identity and belonging, without slowing down a necessary development.”
Studying Västlänken and the Mumbai underground
Maitri Dore has taken a deep dive into two major infrastructure projects in Sweden and India: Västlänken in Gothenburg and the construction of the underground metro network in Mumbai. The aim is to investigate how cultural heritage is handled and protected in these two projects. Studying a living environment that is located nearby and that affects so many people adds zest to the work.
“I love that my job is all around me when I take a walk in Gothenburg. And I’m moved and grateful at how generously the people I interview offer their time and share their experiences.”
Differing views of cultural heritage
She already recognises major differences between the two infrastructure projects. Maitri believes that matters of cultural heritage are handled more strategically and taken more seriously in Västlänken.
“There are laws and decisions here that result in contractors having to do everything they can to minimise damage to cultural heritage. There’s a holistic view of the entire project, of which cultural heritage is an important part. The approach is completely different in Mumbai, and there’s a clear conflict between new and old values.”
In Gothenburg, she also sees a desire to strengthen the cultural values that are affected by Västlänken.
“The idea is to use the opportunities provided by construction to tell stories about the old city, and the urban environment that is being affected. It’s an interesting approach, because it goes beyond the goal to just preserve.”
The University is a welcoming environment
Gothenburg is a small city compared with Mumbai, but Maitri Dore describes the size as “just big enough”. Many aspects of Swedish society are different compared to India, and sometimes she thinks it feels difficult to reach out and get to know people.
“And of course I despise the weather. It isn’t even properly hot in summer,” she says with a laugh.
She is happy with the environment at the University of Gothenburg, which she finds welcoming and lacking clear hierarchies. At the same time, it isn’t always easy to adapt to academia, and she would have liked to see more doctoral students in the department.
“I’m from a practically oriented background in architecture, and sometimes the world of academia feels a little foreign. There are a lot of discussions and theoretical arguments. But I’m happy to be part of a group of doctoral students who can exchange experiences, develop new knowledge and offer a small contribution to improving society. After my doctoral studies, I want to put my new expertise into practice in my career.”
Text: Ulrika Ernström
Is an: EU doctoral student at the Department of Conservation (Marie Curie scholarship) and part of the international graduate school HERILAND.
Grew up in: Mumbai
Fun fact: Maitri is also a freelance illustrator. She recently did the graphic illustrations for the book Raindrop in the drought: Godavari dange, which is part of a project highlighting domestic feminist activism in the global south.