Mehrotra has written and lectured extensively on issues to do with architecture, conservation, and urban planning and design in Mumbai and India. His writings include co-authoring Bombay: The Cities Within, which covers the city’s urban history from the 1600s to the present; Banganga: Sacred Tank; Public Places Bombay; Anchoring a City Line, A history of the city’s commuter railway; and Bombay to Mumbai: Changing Perspectives. He has also co-authored Conserving an Image Center: The Fort Precinct in Bombay. Based on this study and its recommendations, the historic Fort District in Mumbai was declared a conservation precinct in 1995 – a first such designation in India.
In 2000, he edited a book for the Union of International Architects, which earmarks the end of the last century and is titled The Architecture of the 20th Century in the South Asian Region. In 2011, Mehrotra wrote Architecture in India – Since 1990, which is a reading of contemporary architecture in India. He extended this through an exhibition that he co-curated, titled The State of Architecture: Practices and Processes in India, at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Mumbai in Jan 2016.
Mehrotra is a member of the steering committee of the South Asia Institute at Harvard. In 2012-2015, he led a Harvard University-wide research project with Professor Diana Eck, called The Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Mega City. This work was published as a book in 2014, and the research was extended in 2017 in the form of a book titled Does Permanence Matter?
Rahul Mehrotra has long been actively involved in civic and urban affairs in Mumbai, having served on commissions with various neighbourhood groups for the conservation of historic buildings and environmental issues, and from 1994 to 2004, as Executive Director of the Urban Design Research Institute in Mumbai. He studied at the School of Architecture, Ahmedabad (CEPT), and graduated with a master’s degree with distinction in Urban Design from Harvard University. He has taught at the University of Michigan (2003–2007) and at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at MIT (2007–2010). From 2010 to 2015, he chaired the Department of Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.