City Observer- Volume 8 Issue 1- June 2022

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Volume 8 | Issue 1| June 2022







Volume 8 | Issue 1 | June 2022 Free Publication City Observer is a biannual journal which aims to create a conversation on cities and to collaboratively interrogate our urban world. City Observer is published by the Urban Design Collective. Urban Design Collective (UDC) is a collaborative platform for architects, urban designers and planners to create livable cities through participatory planning.

EDITORIAL TEAM Khushali Haji Neha Krishnan Shruti Shankar Sunjana Thirumala Sridhar Vidhya Mohankumar


LAYOUT DESIGN Vidhya Venkatesan Vidhya Mohankumar

Copyrights of images lie with the person/party mentioned in the image caption. The opinions expressed in this journal are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of UDC or its members. This magazine cannot be republished or reproduced without the permission of the publisher.



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TH t an M IR AR ot UV TE A E C d th N io A Co AN R RT ITY e R V I Dh OU IG n Ca m A GA A Cit A Sr m N W an S y TE ATI pt is un ya TH AL LLE AN h S NG ur AP L R ti ity M S P Y ar NE ed ra En ia UR OF : b W AM CI m ha On ga T S k Y Ar ha ar EL lo FO gem un ji Na c Te E La dh VA ati R en da ac ks at A o D th t h n L h OR Sw i H W in ur L i m HA g in at akh ? ar DA iJ T Ur aa an u M BI ba ya u A SP K n na CA D E AC S n es Su P E i So dh S UB gn ph W ak C L Vi I l O i ar C o y dh a RK si Is ya ng la Ve m S ce nk at ne es













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2022, Grateful. Rather, 2022 - times that try women’s souls. Perhaps we should feel grateful when we compare our lives to those of other women around the world. There are still countries that deny women basic civil rights. Worldwide, a deeply conservative estimate of 4.4 million women and girls are trapped in vicious sex trades. In places like Afghanistan and Sudan, girls receive little or no education, wives are treated as the property of their husbands, and women who are raped are routinely cast out of their homes for disgracing their families. Some rape victims are even sent to jail for committing a “moral crime.” We are centuries ahead of the unacceptable treatment of women in these countries. But knowing that things could be worse should not stop us from trying to make them better. When the suffragettes marched in the streets, they envisioned a world where men and women would be truly equal. A century later, we are still squinting, trying to bring that vision into focus. A blunt truth is that men still run the world, and still make numerous unilateral decisions affecting all genders. According to the United Nations’ UN Women division, of the 195 independent countries in the world, only 26 women are serving as Heads of State and/or Government in 24 countries as of September 01, 2021. Women hold close to only 22 percent of seats in parliaments globally.


The Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling on abortion rights moves us back 150 years in women’s rights. The overturning of Roe v. Wade would almost immediately lead to stricter limits on abortion access in large swaths of the South and Midwest, with about half of the states set to immediately impose broad abortion bans - though any state could still legally allow the procedure. A senior woman director at a leading US corporation astutely observed, that many of this “generation’s women are not thinking about ‘having it all,’ on the contrary, they’re worried about losing it all—their jobs, the risk of losing their loved ones to rising gun violence, their children’s health, their families’ financial stability, their sanity —often because of the regular conflicts that arise from unsafe public environments, neighbourhoods which adversely impact the physical and mental health of its residents, all of which is compounded by unmonitored usage of public spaces. While we each continue to toil in our individual and collective efforts for social justice, it is heartening to see advances of the built environment being made through initiatives such as the Healthy People 2030, and the many proposals and strategies included in this issue. Each of these aim to eliminate built environment disparities, particularly for disadvantaged or vulnerable communities. This issue is filled with articles depicting

community resilience, collective efforts toward democratic public spaces, transparent community engagement and successful public built environments - all of which are a critical foundation to safe cities and a better quality of living. And that makes me hopeful for change that may be slow, and frustrating at times - but is perpetual progress. 2022, 2023… Onwards and upwards. Sunjana Thirumala Sridhar On behalf of the editorial team,

All rights belong to Adam Zyglis






The Divided City: View of a slum in Hebbal area of Bangalore Image credit: Author

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“Since the pandemic, we have been so busy. During the pandemic, homeless people emerged from so many places and we were finally able to get data about them.” These are the words of Vijay, a program manager at a homeless shelter in Bangalore. His words point to the manner in which the urban poor are both seen and unseen within urban discourse (Bhan, 139-140). While their lived experience remains invisible, they are made visible through self-

reinforcing tropes as heroes or victims (Roy, 148). As Vijay’s words indicate, the pandemic in some sense provides a window of opportunity to tackle this longperpetuated misrecognition. The present research focuses on homeless persons in and around Majestic area of Bangalore, in an attempt to foreground their position as ‘sources of knowledge that need to be consulted on what they think and want’ and represent their ‘hopes and doubts, limitations and aspirations, beliefs and confusion’ (Banerjee and Duflo, viii).

How many homeless are there in the city? Image credit: Author


WHAT IS THE LIVED EXPERIENCE OF HOMELESSNESS? ‘It is remarkable that so little is known about the lived experience of homelessness’ -

Harsh Mander

There is limited understanding of how structural factors interact with individual capacities and values, to shape individual journeys into and out of poverty. Furthermore, there is little acknowledgement of the agency that exists even in the most extreme forms of destitution (Parulkar, 10-11). The poor negotiate their urban existence as ‘sophisticated economists’ (Banerjee and Duflo, ix) with multi-pronged and flexible strategies that reveal an experiential understanding of acceptable costs and potential benefits. Towards advancing a conceptualization that can reflect the temporality and heterogeneity of urban homelessness,

Speak (470-481) puts forward a typology of based on varying degrees of perception of choice and opportunity. The crisis homeless are those rendered homeless by crises such as eviction, disaster, or family breakdown and tend to rely on individualized strategies and anonymity. The supplementary homeless view their condition as a temporary choice and maintain strong connections with rural livelihoods. The survival homeless have been homeless for longer periods of time and attribute more importance towards building economic and social capital in the city. This research adapts Speak’s typology to conduct an ethnographic exploration of the lived experience of the urban homeless in Bangalore. It asks the question, ‘What are the strategies employed by the urban homeless in their basic, work, familial, and community realms?’ to identify their perceptions, desirable motivations, and capacities.

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Typologies of Homelessness. Image credit: Author


Tulsi road

Majestic Railway Station

On Tulsi Road live a squatter community of mora (grass sieve) traders. They are mostly migrants from villages at the Karnataka-Andhra border, whose habitation of this space extends back to at least three generations. The people met here included Vijayaraj and Gouthami, and their families. They spoke of the rural livelihood crisis that led them to the city and the gradual manner in which they had claimed their right to the city, describing Tulsi Road’s foot path as ‘the inheritance our fathers left us to continue this trade.’

The apparent publicness of the place as a node of many comings and goings belied the territorialities being staked within its extents. Bipin and his family came here from Shirdi and had chosen to spend that night at the railway station because, ‘Here, no one asks you anything.’ Abhaji from Bangalore is a regular at the railway station who described her story as ‘too emotional to be told on the streets’. Shiva and his family are migrant workers from a village in north Karnataka whose habitation at the railway station was part of a circular migration pattern that had been interrupted but not disrupted by the lockdown. CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

Facing page, Top: Majestic Railway Station: “Here noone asks you anything” Image credit: Author Facing page, Bottom: Tulsi Road: “This is our inheritance” Image credit: Author

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Types of homeless persons encountered during study. Image credit: Author

TYPOLOGIES OF HOMELESSNESS Bipin’s and Abhaji’s accounts indicated the occurrence of sudden debilitating crises that characterize crisis homelessness. While Shiva was encountered in the same state of housing deprivation as Bipin and Abhaji, the mobility of his urban existence characterizes him as supplementary homeless. The mora trader community’s account depicted characteristics of survival homelessness with an orientation towards pursuing urban futures. Crisis Homelessness Bipin and Abhaji recounted a range of crisis’—crop failure, family breakdown, health problems— that led them to their


present condition. Though they projected their habitation at the railway station as a temporary situation, this was either an assertion of dignity or a defensive stance to shield themselves from state authority. Rather than chalking out concrete plans, they sought to employ a threshold-based approach. For example, while Bipin’s family said that returning home was their aim, they saw begging as the only viable livelihood available to them and sought to place themselves in places where ‘people come and go’ so that they could pursue it to their advantage. They displayed an acquired reticence with respect to upward mobility. The repertoire of skills they had gained from previously pursued livelihoods— electronic appliance repair in Bipin’s case and beedi-making in Abhaji’s case

Abhaji. Image credit: Author

remained underutilized. In elucidating the reasons for its non-utilization, Bipin indicated the need for place-specific knowledge such as language, spatial familiarity and social relations. Abhaji, who had to some extent developed such place-specific knowledge, revealed its importance. From time to time, shopkeepers at the railway station would approach her with food and drinks indicating the role of social relations in providing for her sustenance.

Supplementary Homelessness Shiva’s family’s temporary state of homelessness is distinguished by the control and capacity they had to exit the situation. His migration follows a well-established strategy for upward mobility practiced in his village, with many in his village relying on the same maistry (labour contractor) to facilitate their livelihood in the city. The maistry provided him with jobs, food, housing and basic services, bonuses

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and advances, and allowed them to take on additional jobs. Maintaining this benevolent relationship is more important to Shiva than any economic inducement. There are two main priorities that drove his financial strategies: securing his son’s future and building a house. Seeing his future as set within his rural household, he did not look to build any material assets in the urban setting. He did however give considerable importance to maintaining and fostering his social relations in the urban setting. His urban community was in many ways a transmuted version of his rural community. These social

Bipin and Family Image credit: Author


relations helped him access employment opportunities in addition to providing a degree of stability in a migration pattern otherwise characterized by constant dynamism. SURVIVAL HOMELESSNESS The mora trader community’s urban habitation was a shared response to a shared rural livelihood crisis. New migrants from the community were able to automatically access spatial claims and economic networks accumulated over time. Their locale of habitation had been chosen based on access to

“They know that we are decent people. They allow us to use their tap. They don’t allow anyone else to use it.”

Shiva and Family Image credit: Author

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Gouthami Image credit: Author


transport networks and the support


for living and moving as a unit that it

The crisis homeless had come to inhabit

provided. As a community, they had been able to gain access to vital services such

their present habitational condition, due to overlapping structural injustices that

as a public tap and public toilet and build

made it a necessity. Caught between

credibility with the locals in the area.

perceptions of who they were, are,

These place-specific benefits resulted in

and want to be, their strategies were

a degree of place-attachment developing

organized as thresholds, subject to the

with the community describing the space

‘ifs’ that the circumstances presented.

as their ‘inheritance’. Although their

While this approach was useful for

unitary configuration of strategies had

navigating day-to-day exigencies, it

initially enabled their urban survival,

prevented them from systematically

it was now generated conformity that

investing in upward mobility. The

limited their upward mobility. Even well-

supplementary homeless were marked

educated second and third generation

by the choice and control they exerted

migrants continued in the mora trade

on their urban trajectory. There was a

which was in itself loosing market

clear directionality in their desirable

demand. The pandemic had made it

motivations with priority given to

clear that the supportive and sacrificial

the flow and accumulation of socio-

relationships amongst themselves were minimally effective against major shocks The community was unequivocal about the fact that they saw their future in the urban, even if the state only recognized them as rural citizens given their identical levels of socio-economic capital. They took efforts to maintain this ‘double identity’ because without it they would lose access to critical welfare schemes.

economic capital in the rural. The survival homelessness had over the years developed optimal configurations of urban habitation and livelihood but their focus on maintaining these optimal configurations was now stifling economic diversification and upskilling. Each of these accounts reveal that contrary to conceptions of passivity or homogeneity, the urban homeless employ a repertoire of flexible and complex strategies to realize their subjective conceptions of a good life. 20 21


Vijayraj and Family Image credit: Author



The authors thank Dr. Chandrashekhar Gowda and Ramachandrappa HT of India Community Development Social Service Society, Bangalore for supporting the fieldwork and sharing their expertise.

1. Bhan, Gautam. “This is no longer the city I once knew: Evictions, the urban poor and the right to the city in millennial Delhi.” Environment & Urbanization, Vol. 21, No. 1, 2009, pp 127-142.


2. Roy, Ananya. “Urban Informality: Toward an Epistemology of Planning.” Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 71, No. 2, 2005, pp 147-158. 3. Banerjee, Abhijit and Esther Duflo. Poor economics: A radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty. PublicAffairs, 2011. 4. Mander, Harsh. Living rough: Surviving city streets. Planning Commission of India, 2009. 5. Parulkar, Ashwin. Becoming Homeless, Surviving Homelessness. Centre for Policy Research, 2017. 6. Speak, Suzanne. “Degrees of Destitution: A Typology of Homelessness in Developing Countries.” Housing Studies, Vol. 19, No. 3, 2004, pp 465–482.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS Sneha Maria Varghese, is an architecture graduate from NIT, Thiruchirappalli with professional experience in the urban planning and urban research. She has worked as Urban Planning Associate at Jana Urban Space, Bangalore where she contributed to the preparation of AMRUT GIS based Masterplan for Thanjavur, Pudukkottai and Kumbakonam and as Urban Researcher at Integrated Design where she contributed to various projects focused on themes of ecological resilience and urban poverty. She is currently Research Associate at Habitat Forum (INHAF) where she is spearheading an action-research project titled ‘Mainstreaming Skilled Women Workers in Construction Industry’. Indupriya Mydur is an architecture graduate with keen interests in allied subjects as Urban and Regional Planning, Sustainable Living and Environment Sciences. She is an alumnus of the University of Mysore, Mysore. She worked at Hunnarshala Foundation, Bhuj where she worked with multiple stakeholders on participatory design processes for PMAY and RAY housing schemes. She also worked on the documentation of traditional rammed earth construction techniques in Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, a project partnered with INTACH. Most recently she practiced at Integrated Design, Bangalore, where her work primarily focuses on environmental planning, ecosystem services and landscape design.

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Representational map showing the various trees in Rani Baug. Image credit: Samira Rathod Design Atelier

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Image 1: the scene in a village in Uttar Pradesh in 1973, now in Uttarakhand, where the modern Chipko Movement took birth, Image credit: Shweta Sengar. “‘Chipko Andolan’ Was The Strongest Movement To Conserve Forests & India Needs It Again” India Times, 25 June 2018 Source: html.

In the month of March in 1974, a group of women wrapped their arms around tree barks to protect them from the logging contractors’ weapons. Over a four-day standoff, the group kept strict vigil over the forested area confronting guns, threats and abuses, until the contractors finally left. The ‘Chipko Andolan’, named after the daring treehug act, demonstrated the power of public vigilance and agitation against deforestation. Since this event took place in Reni Village, the movement has motivated nation-wide action to protect trees, reforest areas, and revive the local ecology. CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

And yet, nearly half a century later today, the public does not find tools to resist tree-cutting actions in cities across India. For city-residents immersed in a busy routine, our conscience is alerted to respond only when a large debacle grabs our attention. However, tree-cutting acts that are endorsed for urban and infrastructure construction projects causes felling of trees in a disaggregated manner, which doesn’t unravel the total damage done at a citywide scale.

BETTER HEALTH FOR TREES FROM WEALTH OF DATA To quantify the gains and losses, the tree-census survey is able to tally the authorised tree clearances over the years against the areas that have been afforested. The census carried out using GPS (Global Positioning System) tags can accurately determine the present-day tree count and distribution in the city. However, the lack of public participation in the tree survey mandates verifiability of the census methods, consistent release of ward-wise tree information, and coordinated collation of tree count. How can we chorus the common sense to sustain the trees that sustain us? If the

science of data informatics has brought anything to the forefront, it is the power to make evidence-based arguments based on quantitative and qualitative metrics, in order to highlight the redundancy of actions that may argue otherwise. Increased public participation on tree issues and generating open tree data can visualise and quantify the cost that would be incurred due to tree loss. This can help drive the Chipko Movement to take a parallel existence on virtual platforms. For this, a virtual Chipko has to be truly open-access to become a call for action among all age-groups and communities.

Image 2: Locatiton of animal enclosures in Rani Baug Zoo. Image credit: Illustration from ‘Museum of Trees at Rani Baug’ book ©Samira Rathod Design Atelier

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Image 3: “The Directory” consists of selected tree species in Rani Baug formed from a collection from different parts of the colonial world. Image credit: Illustration from ‘Museum of Trees at Rani Baug’ book ©Samira Rathod Design Atelier CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

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In dense Indian cities such as Mumbai that are deficient in open space areas and low on tree count, it makes sense to start by prioritising large tree clusters that also serve as critical public space. ‘Museum of Trees’ research [1] demonstrates this through a case study of the botanical gardens of Mumbai Veer Mata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan or Rani Baug. The experience of gardens, also a zoo, meant that the documentation of major tree and plant species (Cover Image) complemented the location of animal enclosures (Image 2). The study of physical characteristics of trees included tagging them by country of their origin (Image 3), in order to generate a ‘Directory.’ This taxonomic tree inventory could be a tool to engage readers, visitors and tree lovers into the history of the gardens. The Museum of Trees research [1] helps imagine the potential of how digital field collectors can map tree data onto virtual platforms for Indian cities. This can galvanise public engagement in generating tree inventory


maps by unpacking the science of trees, re-asserting the significance of trees as ecological heritage along important city landmarks. In that regard, the New York City Street Tree Map [3], Urban Forest Street Tree Map of Boston [4], Melbourne Urban Forest Visual [5] demonstrate the use of virtual tree-data platforms to encourage public participation with the tree realm. Beyond their scientific significance, trees at the botanical garden are of immense visual interest, physical experience as well as cultural significance. (Image 4) and (Image 5) echo these aspects through a detailed sketch of the foliage details of major tree species, while the latter gives insight into the scenes in Rani Baug as perceived by the author. Trees create spaces for rest in their shade, moments for rejuvenating the mind, or simply, an occasion to pause in silence, away from the hubbub of streets lining the Baug.

Image 4: Sketch of trees in Rani Baug showing detail of the foliage, drawn over the map of the garden tracts and pedestrian trails. Image credit: Illustration from ‘Museum of Trees at Rani Baug’ book ©Samira Rathod Design Atelier

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Image 5: A series of collages that illustrate the sights, moments and experiences of Rani Baug as perceived by the author. Image credit: Illustration from Museum of Trees at Rani Baug’ book ©Samira Rathod Design Atelier


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A DIGITAL PUBLIC FOR HEALTHY TREES IN A SMART CITY Any decision for a smart city can find a way through the smart phones and sharp minds of its citizens, using the tools of data science and informatics. Individuals and communities can mobilise change at a large scale to document, adopt and nurture trees in their neighbourhood. Similarly, we can be digitally wired to understand trees in our proximity using their digital tag mapped using its geographical coordinates. This tag could list out its ecological benefits, such as, the storm

water intercepted, energy conserved, air pollutants removed, and carbon dioxide reduced. The selection of tree-tags on the web portal could represent the total tree benefits conserved, versus the loss of value due to their deforestation. In this manner, the Chipko census could transform basic internet users into adept landscape planners – capable of designing tree planting strategies for their neighbourhood and track the yields. This idea for local food forests could proliferate local food justice programs and even address health and nutritional inequities among the populace.

Image 6: Aerial view of TI Ecovillage. Image credit: TI Ecovillage


Image 7: Before / After effect of afforestation exercises by TI Ecovillage since the community was set up in late-1990s. Image credit: TI Ecovillage

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Image 8: A suite of ecological initiatives observed within TI Ecovillage including permaculture, water harvesting, and planting native species. Image credit: Illustration of TI Ecovillage for My Liveable City issue Jul-Dec 2021 ‘Strategic Adaptations made by Chetan Kulkarni


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Image 9: Illustration showing UN SDGs used to classify tasks achieved by TI Ecovillage (ticked), and tasks included in planning their future goals. Image credit: Illustration by Chetan Kulkarni for TI Ecovillage CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

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TI Ecovillage [2] – a community located 25 kilometres from the Bengaluru City Railway Station (Image 6) – has exemplified afforestation through serious exercises to plant trees of native species, shortly after the community was set up in late-1990s (Image 7). The TI community found it prudent to promote self-sufficiency through a set of site development and planning strategies. With less than a third of its site as built area, the practice of permaculture in the community was manifested through a suite of ecological initiatives observed within the remaining two-thirds of the area including the lake (Image 8). A water conservation effort that was initiated two decades ago, has seen an increased number of recharge wells to harvest rainwater and recharge the groundwater table to benefit TI as well as the neighbouring villages. Besides coffee, banana and coconut plantations, there is a plant nursery for organic farming of seasonal vegetables. The saplings for vegetative trees and plants are grown here and then shared within the community to grow in individual kitchen gardens. The community is committed to practices of waste treatment such as wet waste in compost pits at individual


homes, harder bio-materials using an electric shredder and upcycling of plastic, paper and electronic waste through agencies specialised in their disposal. Through this comprehensive set of permaculture practices, the TI community has maintained a sustainable mode of coexistence with its natural context. A ‘VIRTUAL’ CHIPKO ANDOLAN WILL HUG TREES BEYOND AN ARM’S LENGTH Climate change affects everyone. So, a global climate-conscious agenda can connect local initiatives with similar treedata platforms across the world. To this line of thought, TI Ecovillage used the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the format for preparing a future vision plan for their community. (Image 9) shows the tasks they have achieved (ticked) and the tasks they plan to accomplish in the future. Turning up in large numbers to resist the unjustified cutting of trees creates for powerful public agitations. However, if an individual agitation in our everyday routine life were to rally support for tree care, it could set up a new polemic

around tree advocacy. Shiva [6] reemphasised in her essay about the Gandhian philosophy of Chipko leaders Sunderlal Bahuguna and Bhimla Bahuguna of “ecology as permanent economy” and “that simple living in service of others is central to making a shift from egocentric thinking and living to ecocentric thinking and living.” Almost half a century ago, the Chipko members stood their ground to keep a four-day vigil over trees from being axed. Today, a digitally-active India could fuel a ‘virtual’ Chipko Andolan that sustains an information-backed public vigilance over the tree realm in Indian cities in order to protect it from heinous actions. REFERENCES 1. Samira Rathod Design Atelier, under the aegis of SPADE India. Museum of Trees at Rani Baug. Mumbai IND, 2018. Book available for purchase, write to srda@srda. co. The author was part of the research

team for this book and has contributed to all illustrations featured in this essay. 2. TI Ecovillage. Personal Discussion and Interview. March 2021. 3. “NYC’s Street Trees” Street Tree Map, New York City [Accessed May 8, 2022] https:// 4. “Public Street Trees as of May 2021” Urban Forest Plan, City of Boston, Published last update on January 20, 2022. [Accessed May 8, 2022] https://boston.maps. html?id=c9de58cb20 7f448a8212163812d91626. 5. “Map Explore the tree data” Urban Forest Visual, City of Melbourne 2020, Published last update on September 30, 2021 [Accessed May 8, 2022] http:// bigmap.html. 6. Shiva, Dr. Vandana. “Vandana Shiva remembers Chipko Movement leader Sunderlal Bahuguna” “Remembering Sundarlalji” Right Livelihood, 21 May 2021, https:/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Chetan Kulkarni currently practices urban design at Sasaki Associates in Boston. He has practised urban and architecture design for projects located across south Asia, Middle East and the Americas. Kulkarni has engaged with both projects described in this essay – Museum of Trees at Rani Baug by SRDA through his research work, and TI Ecovillage consulting on future development plans. Kulkarni is the Chief Editor of Digital Platforms for MyLiveableCity, a global knowledge platform for the creation of inclusive and sustainable cities. He holds a Master of Architecture with specialisation in Urban Design from The University of Texas at Austin, and Bachelor of Architecture degree from Mumbai University.

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Citizen governance is seeing a new wave of emergence today ward committees across cities have surfaced as the backbone for the dissemination of public health strategies during the pandemic. Socio-technical innovations such as open data initiatives and digital platforms are yielding information transparency within city governance. In Bengaluru, citizen collectives have historically managed to shape entire neighbourhoods such as Whitefield. The city has transformed from an ancient temple town to a military cantonment to a thriving IT hub. As in this case, the effects of historical markers on the neighbourhood form are often noticeable, as they leave different parts of the city with the mere memory of what they were. But often less noticed and discussed, is how on an everyday time scale, individual agency and collective action also shape the form of our neighbourhoods. Using site mapping, vendor and resident interviews and archival data, this article gives insights into how citizen power shapes mobility in two elite Bengaluru neighbourhoods and the city at large.

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Sadashivnagar is what residents call a ‘prestigious’ neighbourhood. It was once part of Bengaluru’s famous Palace Gardens. Today, a prominent but fading green canopy frames the neighbourhood’s quiet streets, well maintained play parks and tall boundary walls that surround lavish bungalows. Right across the road, sitting in contrast, is Malleshwaram, Bengaluru’s first planned neighbourhood after the plague that sprawled through the city in the late 1800s. Thriving flower markets and food stalls extend outwards onto the streets and an increasingly diverse pool of residents express rich cultural identity in the neighbourhood. In Sadashivnagar, citizen power is used to shape traffic routes and walkability within the neighbourhood. Meanwhile in Malleshwaram, citizen movements are in tension with larger

Map of Bengaluru showing planned Malleshwaram, 1935 Image credit: Bengaluru archives CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

city planning agendas in order to protect the walkability of the neighbourhood as it transitions into a high traffic thoroughfare. We thus question how new forms of governance change mobility in neighbourhoods and in the city at large, looking at how morphing public spaces open up new uses of space in some cases, while in others, they make space more exclusive.



footpaths as garden spaces so it looks nice while sitting on the balcony at the top.”Residents exercise individual power by taking over the footpaths in front of their house and thus change the walkability in the neighbourhood. The neighbourhood does not have high traffic roads passing through, this makes walkability a neighbourhood trait other residents want to preserve. The expression of citizen power governs both the socio-cultural aspects of the neighbourhood, as well as everyday mobility.

Spatial adaptations are changes made to the physical characteristics of a space by its users. These changes are often intended to satisfy individual needs but can also be shaped by a network of citizens working towards a common interest. N.J. Habraken [1] explains that control defines the central operational relationship between humans and the physical structure of the built environment. The ability of humans to transform, and hence control the built environment around them does not imply ownership. However, in public spaces, such actions often do result in changing the way space is used permanently.

Walking through Sadashivnagar, one notices that many parts of the sidewalks are interrupted with the presence of private flower gardens. Residents re-purpose the area right in front of their properties for additional privacy and a means for cleanliness. “They build big houses and leave no space in the front yard. Hence they convert

“There must be at least a 100 plots that have taken over the footpath. It is by these 44 45


Footpaths transformed into private gardens. Image credit: Author

very rich, powerful people, they do what they want. We have to keep avoiding the traffic because we don’t have footpaths to walk on” - A Sadasvhivanagar Resident.


A NETWORKED EFFORT TO RE-ROUTE HIGH TRAFFIC ARTERIES One can find a lot of street vendors selling fruits, vegetables, chaats and coconut water on every other street of Malleshwaram. While the same goes for the periphery of Sadashivnagar, unlike Malleshwaram, very few are found within the streets in the neighbourhood. While speaking to residents who have lived in Sadashivnagar throughout their life, they reminisce of the times when grocery carts would enter the neighbourhood on Monday mornings.

Before and after map showing high-traffic arteries and position of vendors. Image credit: Author

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What changed in Sadashivnagar?

change in expression of mobility caused

Influential residents made a collective

by a particular group of users of the

complaint to the traffic department

neighbourhood onto the rest.

regarding increasing noise and dust pollution in their neighbourhood. The vehicular traffic passing through the neighbourhood hence was rerouted to peripheral roads by putting dividers and making the internal roads as oneways. This move slowly shifted the street vendors to the periphery of the neighbourhood as the footfall within the neighbourhood reduced and that on the edges increased.

WALKABLE MALLESHWARAM Along with changing street vending practices, another effect of re-routing traffic was the increase in traffic in the surrounding main roads. This caused frequent and long traffic congestion. With the construction of new industrial areas and commercial hubs in Rajajinagar vehicular traffic in this part of Bengaluru has been seeing a persistent increase. This makes Malleshwaram a more


popular option for people travelling to


south and east Bengaluru on road. “Over

Though parked street vendors reduced

the years, traffic and pollution have

inside Sadashivanagar, a new type of vending activity emerged in the neighbourhood. In recent years, an increase in apartment buildings in the area has increased the presence of security guards and domestic workers in

increased. Especially where I am living, 17th cross, it was a very quiet road, now it has been made into a thoroughfare joining two areas, Sadashivnagar and Rajajinagar, they built the bridge on 17th cross connecting the two.”

residences. This became a new market for mobile street vendors who would

Road widening efforts are spread

deliver tea, peanuts and snacks on their

across all parts of Malleshwaram and

cycles to these consumers and then

citizen collectives now take the onus

move onto other high foot traffic areas.

of protecting the neighbourhood’s

We look at this as a ‘spillover’ effect

footpaths. Malleshwaram Social, a local

onto other spatial adaptations due to the

community group and Sensing Local (an


Mobile vendor selling tea. Image credit: Author

urban planning think tank) set up the

this project, the residents of the

Walkable Malleshwaram project. Under

neighbourhood received implementation

this project, residents of Malleshwaram participated in a walkability audit to repurpose conservancy lanes (connecting backyards of houses, generally used

support from the government to reclaim the 15-minute walkability back in their neighbourhood.

for the purpose of services). Through 48 49


REFLECTIONS The dynamism of everyday urbanism often gets neglected while we formalize urban planning frameworks for Indian cities. In a collectivist society with jarring class disparities, relationships between stakeholders can open our eyes to everyday life in the city. To let citizens take charge and make changes to their neighbourhood, does enable

a democratic process but does not necessarily make the city more equitable. Studying the effects of people on space in this case however led to some critical insights into the mobility at the city level. We have a lot of macro data on city mobility, but what are the local innovations and movements that shape these larger trends? That is where a lot of answers and new questions about our cities reside.

Ideas for reclaiming conservancy lanes in Malleshwaram. Image credit: Sensing local


This study was a research project done at the Urban Fellows Programme at Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bengaluru. The study was conducted by a team of 6 people: Aanchal Agrawal, Hemant Landge, Manavi Datta, Satyam Malaviya, Vaidehi Shah and Vignesh Subhramaniam. REFERENCES • N. J Habraken. The Structure of the Ordinary. The MIT Press, 1998 • Janaki Nair. The Promise of the Metropolis: Bangalore 20th Century. Oxford University Press, 2005. • Jayaraj Sundaresan. “Urban Planning in vernacular governance: landuse planning and violations in Bangalore, India.” LSE Research online (2017).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Manavi Datta is a MFA Transdisciplinary Design Candidate at Parsons School of Design. Her work is at the intersection of service design and urbanism and takes a keen interest to integrate new forms of social innovations such as platform cooperatives into city ecosystems. She has previously been an Urban Fellow at IIHS, Bengaluru, a qualitative researcher working across India while at Quantum Consumer Solutions and a non-profit consultant at a Strategic Philanthropy firm, Dasra. Vaidehi Shah is an architect and an incoming urban planning student at Taubman College, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is interested in development of equitable public infrastructure and the use of information technology to drive people-centric planning. She has previously been an Urban Fellow at Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bengaluru and has worked on urban design projects across Gujarat as an architect at a design firm, BandukSmith Studio.

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A heritage photo walk in Purasawalkam. Image credit: Madras Inherited

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THE SUBURD OF MUMBRA Mumbra lies in the shadow of the Parsik hills, on the periphery of both Mumbai and Thane City. Initially comprising the three villages of Mumbra, Kausa and Amrutnagar Koliwada and housing the traditional Koli and the Agri communities, the economy of Mumbra was largely agricultural until the 1990s [1]. The 1992-1993 riots in the city of Mumbai however, led to a mass exodus where several Muslim families were pushed to peripheral suburbs [2]. Under the local gram panchayat, Mumbra provided

Pre-riots Migration Map. Image credit: Author


refuge to Muslims that fled from various regions, in the aftermath of the riots. Post this, Muslim families opted to settle in Mumbra, that provided them with a sense of social security [3]. As the Muslim population in the region started increasing, the place was scrutinized and given a negative image by the State and the Media [3]. This led to the genesis of what we today know as one of ‘India’s largest Muslim Ghettoes’ [1].

1992-1993 Riots Migration Map. Image credit: Author

Post-riots Migration Map. Image credit: Author

Mumbra, in the present times, is known as the ‘problem estate’, the ‘no-go area’ or the ‘wild district’ of the city, where only rejects of society can bear to dwell [4]. The people of Mumbra, however different

from each other, living in distinct neighbourhoods and working in different parts of the city, are tied together by this notion that the city has formed of it.

The place is a variegated mix of dispossessed households housing a dishonored minority with an uncertain identity [2].

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The Problem Estate. Image credit: Author

THE MUSLIM GHETTO The ‘Muslim Ghetto’ has become a common parlance in India in the recent times, involving the relegation of the community to an undesirable peripheral area detached from the city [5]. These ‘ghettos’ are assumed to be homogeneous territories that should be feared, fled from and shunned because such is their reputation arising from a well-fabricated reality. (Wacquant) Given CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

the fear of frequent riots, discrimination in the housing policy and economic instability, Muslims tend to remain in these ghettos, characterised by lack of development and entrenchment of fear [5]. Often synonymous with poverty, parochialism, crime and even terrorism, desensitized, the world beyond the ghetto has become oblivious to the life of people within it [2].

The Muslim Ghetto. Image credit: Author

WALKING THROUGH THE TRAUMASCAPE There is a need to break away from the exotic spell of the media discourse as well as the approximations of conventionality and understand Mumbra and several other ghettos for what they are today. One needs to cautiously understand Ghettos for their everyday life and their intersections with the City to develop a more complex and differentiated picture of the ‘Outcasts’. Ethnographic observation thus remains an indispensable tool to not only pierce the boundary of the Ghetto, but also to not limit the inquiry within the biased perimeter of pre-constructed notions [4]. The author thus assumes the role

of the ‘flaneur’ and uses the method of psychogeography to take aimless walks that help absorb the life in the ghetto. Walking is used as a vehicle to understand the myths and realities of the landscape that have been translated to mental maps, based on interviews and observations on site. These mental maps compel us to abandon our ordinary conceptions of the face value of the location, so that we may question its mercurial history and reality [6]. Psychogeography as a methodology thus becomes significant to understand a ‘traumascape’ like Mumbra, to absorb and elucidate their fate in the City context.

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Map of Walks. Image credit: Author


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Mental map of Ravi from the city. Image credit: Author CITY OBSERVER | June 2022


MIND MAP OF RAVI FROM THE CITY PASSING BY Ravi only passes by Mumbra through the bypass road, as he travels to Pune for work every Monday via the Mumbai-Pune highway. He views Mumbra from the highway at a glance that doesn’t allow him to notice the place. He can make out that there are dilapidated buildings and slums at large all across the terrain at an unimaginable density. There are nullas with flowing water with the Pahadi children playing all around. And somewhere, near the end of the road, he can observe high-rises springing up in the middle of these slums. Somebody the other day casually told him that the place has been home to a majority of Muslims and illegal activities.

Looking towards Mumbra from the highway. Image credit: Author

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Mental map of Meena from Reti Bunder. Image credit: Author CITY OBSERVER | June 2022


MIND MAP OF MEENA FROM THE NEIGHBOURING SUBURB OF RETI BUNDER Meena lives in Reti Bunder and travels to Mumbra regularly, to take a bus to travel to Thane from the bus terminal just at the edge of Mumbra. She and her husband Rajeev visit the Mumbra Devi temple once a month on Thursdays, as a ritual. However, they refrain from going further in because of the numerous things they’ve heard of the place.

Looking towards Mumbra from Reti Bunder. Image credit: Author

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Mental map of Samawiyah from Kausa Village. Image credit: Author CITY OBSERVER | June 2022


MIND MAP OF SAMAWIYAH FROM KAUSA VILLAGE Samawiyah works in Thane, in a call center. She got the job in spite of being educated in the neighbouring Madrasa, as she was quick to learn English. She prefers that she mentions her living address as Kausa Village, rather than Mumbra, since the latter has a negative connotation attached to it in the City. She visits the Qabrastan almost every weekend to offer flowers and sit by her late father who was killed in the riots.

Glimpse of Kausa Village. Image credit: Author

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Mental map of Zubaida from Rashid Compound. Image credit: Author CITY OBSERVER | June 2022


MIND MAP OF ZUBAIDA FROM RASHID COMPOUND Zubaida lives in the Pahadi area in Mumbra and works as a house help in Kismat Colony. She has been making garlands at home to sell at the Dargah for additional income, after her only son was arrested by the police for alleged involvement in the Nuzrat Jahan terrorism case.

Glimpse of Rashid Compound. Image credit: Author

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Mental map of Shankar from Sheel Phata. Image credit: Author CITY OBSERVER | June 2022


MIND MAP OF SHANKAR FROM SHEEL PHATA Shankar lives in Sheel Phata and usually takes the bypass road to travel to Thane. He consciously avoids taking the main road, always full of traffic, characterized by the sight of slums and dilapidated buildings with nullas overflowing all around.

View from Sheel Phata. Image credit: Author

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Mental map of Rafiq from the Pahadi area. Image credit: Author CITY OBSERVER | June 2022


MIND MAP OF RAFIQ FROM THE PAHADI AREA Rafiq lives in the Pahadi area in Mumbra and works as a house help in Kismat Colony. After the introduction of the urban renewal plan, Rafiq is afraid that his house will soon be demolished by the corporation. He and his fellow chawl neighbours do not have any other place to go to and will be rendered homeless if the plan comes through.

Glimpse of Pahadi area. Image credit: Author

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THE MENTAL BOUNDARY The exercise of walking provided a glimpse of the place through each neighbourhood, bringing out the monochrome, barren, brutish, everyday life of Mumbra. Even at a casual glance, the difference between Mumbra and its neighbouring areas is stark. One can easily notice the haphazard sprawl and the lack of civic amenities in the area. As one traverses through the place, one realises how the landscape embeds within itself narratives of stigmatisation and prejudice. The City has turned its back towards the people of Mumbra by looking at them through a conventional

‘media fabricated perception’ and by not providing them with equal opportunities, as well as the State through its lack of infrastructure. For the City, the ghetto has become the area where ‘they’ live and ‘we’ do not go. The people of Mumbra on the other hand do not feel secure in the city and believe that the world outside the ghetto is no longer theirs. They form a subculture of solidarity to shield themselves against the larger world. They now overtly project religious and communal identity, separating their space and practice in the city context [2].

Over a course of time, both the people of the City and the ghetto have little by little contributed to the building of a metaphysical, impermeable boundary around the ghetto, disassociating them from the city.


Life in Mumbra – monochrome, barren, brutish. Image credit: Author

Walking through the by-lanes of Mumbra thus makes one realise how the ‘ghetto’ is more of a mental disposition. It comes with a particular state of mind, where entering the isolated environment, leads to a shift in consciousness [4]. Over a course of time, both the people of the City and the ghetto have little by little contributed to the building of a metaphysical, impermeable boundary around the ghetto, disassociating them

from the city. Walking through the ghetto while making these mental maps, one recognises that the boundary is not just a line in space, but rather a zone which acts like a vacuum - this zone has been carved, created and consolidated for the ‘ghetto’ and the ‘city’ to operate in welldefined separation [2]. And it is this zone that is a lived and felt testimonial to the fractured geography of not only Mumbra, but many other neighbourhoods.

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The Mental Zone of the Boundary. Image credit: Author CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

REFERENCE 1. Smitha Nair. “25 Years of Bombay Riots: How Mumbra Became India’s Largest Muslim Ghetto.” Youtube, uploaded by, 22 Jan 2018. 2. Mustansir Dalvi. “Mumbai Two Decades After: Landscapes of Exclusion, Mindscapes of Denial,” Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 48, no. 7, 2013, pp. 24–26. 3. Ranu Jain. “Mumbra: a status report”. Tata Institute of Social Sciences, 2014. 4. Loic Wacquant. Urban Outcasts: A Comparative Sociology of Advanced Marginality. Polity, 2006. 5. Laurent Gayer and Christophe Jaffrelot. Muslims in Indian Cities: Trajectories of Marginalisation. Harper Collins, 2012. 6. Siobhan Lyons. “Psychogeography: a way to delve into the soul of a city,” The Conversation, 2017. psychogeography-a-way-to-delve-into-the-soul-of-a-city-78032

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Srusti Shah, an architect and recipient of the B.G. Bhatt Memorial Award, graduated from KRVIA, Mumbai. She is also an Urban Design candidate at the University of California, Berkeley. Her undergraduate thesis, ‘Ghetto and the City: a case of Mumbra’ was an inquiry into the spatial formation of a ghetto and its insular nature in the context of the city. In the past, she has interned with the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Mad(e) in Mumbai and SPARC under the BReUCom ERASMUS+ Programme, fuelling her interest in research, at the intersection of architecture and urbanism. Her recent essay was published in the book, ‘Within the Gardens We Walk’ by LEAF Foundation. Currently, she is designing the book ‘Sen Kapadia: In pursuance of meanings’ with eminent architect Sen Kapadia.

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Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia, the seat of the Caucasus. As a post-soviet city, its old town cobblestones might make it look antiquated but the very same archaic charm is what reflects its heritage. The country itself has a drawn-out and complicated history, with time lines showing the city being under Persian and Russian rule and finally gaining independence to be a free nation in 1991, finally forming a democracy quite recently in 1995. The city has established a distinguished urban culture through the ages with its ethnic and cultural influences along with its unique topography and exceptional people. Not much has changed after the country’s independence. It has had all kinds of public transport: metro, bus, trolleybus, train, mobile pavement, taxi, and cableways. A walk around the city makes you wonder whether you are in a European paradise or reliving the soviet era while being confused by Raj Kapoor movie songs blasting out of the taxi going downtown.

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The country is steeped in tradition and history and the city literally is steep with most streets you walk on having inclines going up and down. Walking around the streets can feel like a hike but the sights of the culture-enriched cafés, crumbling façades and shops make it worth the effort. It is important to note the capital of Georgia faces a new challenge every day. This is because the city grows every day with ambitious building projects and large foreign investments that constantly change the cityscape. Tbilisi is at the intersection of different cultures and is a landlocked capital. The topography of Georgia presents a challenge for transport and communication, which are critical development aspects in the context of its strategic location as a capital, protecting it from its neighbours. Facing page, Top: The city of Tbilisi. Bottom: View of the city from Mtatsminda at night. Images credit: Author


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The best part about travelling inside Tbilisi is the efficient public transportation. Interestingly it is not only the bus service and underground metro that stand out but also its cable car and the funicular that takes one to the highest point of the city. The city is linear in planning and hence the efficient transport systems have been

effectively planned though if you as the locals they will describe it as ‘chaos’. The transit system is rigged to make it seem like it does not in fact take 3,00,000 passengers daily, which is a great feat of great importance to urban mobility and transport in spite of the networks and number of stations being relatively limited.

Funicular taking people up to View of the city from Mtatsminda. Image credit: Author

The cable car connecting downtown to the fortress of Narikala. Image credit: Author CITY OBSERVER | June 2022



Promenading through Tbilisi’s bazaars is taking all your senses on a sensory experience. Words do no justice to the auditory, olfactory, visual, tactile, and gustatory experiences that the bazaars present. The markets are important owing to the historical trade-caravan

route and almost all the Caucasus have depended on Tbilisi’s economical potential. The city brought together not only Georgian but also north and south Caucasian local produce, wares, arts and crafts

Handmade dolls and puppets on display at Tbilisi’s Dezerter Market. Image credit: Author

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Dry Bridge market. Image credit: Emily Lush, Source:



While walking through the city one realises that the streets seem seamless moving on to different districts without any sense of feeling lost as they are fluid and uninterrupted. This in itself is surprising since the whole city of divided by the Kura River running through it from North to South and the topography, which makes you feel you are taking a hike one minute and taking a stroll the next second. Facing page: Streets of Old town. Images credit: Author


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Walking along downtown you will suddenly come across domes that peek from the ground. You will also smell a distinct eggy scent and that is the sign that you’re in the Abanotubani district of Tbilisi. This is where the sulphur baths of Tbilisi are open for business and it is such a cultural and economic part of the city. They are especially busy during the cold months of October to March. The city of Tbilisi is built on top of thermal springs and the water that comes from the ground to the baths contains sulphur and is around 40°-50°C. The district also has the iconic Orbeliani Baths (Chreli Abano), which has a facade made of blue mosaic tiles that imitates Persian style of architecture and has a feeling of being in a Moorish palace. This particular bath defines the skyline of the city behind which you can walk and see the main source of water running through the ragged landforms and forming a tall waterfall.


The blue-tiled facade of Orbeliani Baths. Image credit: Author

Tbilisi Sulphur Bathhouses. Image credit: Author

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Georgian culture revolves around their food and wine and it is said that the first wine was pressed in the region. Tbilisi is especially known for its quaint eateries. If you walk down the Main Street market and go down a few floors into the basement there is the most exquisite restaurant and winery serving delicious meats and wine. The Soviet influence on food can be seen across the city as well with pomegranate being a recurring motif like in the neighbouring post-soviet cities and can be seen around the city on its architecture. While walking around the city you will notice how every street has at least one unique food place be it street food or fine dining or casual alfresco dining.

Local Chacha which is vodka made from grapes. Image credit: Author




The architecture is a mixture of Eastern European architecture, ornate art nouveau buildings and Soviet Modernist structures, with a touch of Moorish architecture. Walking through the city feels like one minute you are in Europe and the next you are in the exotic city of Marrakech. Everywhere you walk you see the ornate façades of art nouveau architects and the famous balconies of Tbilisi.

The Eastern Orthodox churches of the city and the country themselves have the distinctive ascending portals style of roofing with stone walls. The recent modern buildings stand apart with their glass façades like the Moxy hotel, but the Georgian Bank HQ is modern yet derives from the brutalist style of architecture.

Projected Balconies of Tbilisi. Image credit: Author

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The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi. Image credit: Author


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“Everywhere you see, you see green.” This can be one way of describing the Georgian city. There are hidden secret gardens throughout the city and creepers grow not just on trellises but also on walls at their own whim. It seems like the plants have their own kind in Tbilisi. In a conscious effort to grow more plants and trees, the Tbilisi Local Economic Development Plan has made action plans to incorporate more green spaces, with its Green City Action Plan along with economic growth, job creation, public health and safety, and improved access to public amenities

Dancing statue on Nikoloz Baratashvili Street, a public square. Image credit: Author




Can a sense of spirit be measured? If it can be quantified Georgia would know exactly how to so that people could understand. Anywhere and everywhere you go, there is a reminder telling you about the country’s trouble and painful past with Russia. Though it has historic roots the city has consequently undergone ‘Georgianization’ — the acceleration of even a longer-term

trend of the replacement of its once multinational composition by ethnic Georgians, due to a disproportional outmigration of Russians and Armenians. This composition made the city’s life cosmopolitan and multicultural and the new and now Tbilisi developed a distinct urban culture that transcended ethnic origins. (Salukvadze, J., & Golubchikov, O. (2016)

Freedom Square at Tbilisi’s central square, depicting Russia as the Dragon under a victorious Georgia on the horse. Image credit: Author

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A Street performer on the Main Street. Image credit: Author




Anyone who visits Tbilisi would want to say “Madloba (Thank you) Tbilisi for your warmth”. Jan Gehl says ‘First life, then spaces, then buildings – the other way around never works’, and with Tbilisi you see that to be the truth in every sense. It’s the people that make the eateries a gastronomic experience, it’s the local sommelier who makes you enjoy your wine, the roadside peddler helping you enjoy the streetscapes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Esther is an Architect and Environmental Designer. She finished her Bachelor’s degree from Thiagrajar College of Engineering, Madurai and her Master’s from JBR Architecture College, Hyderabad. She is a published researcher and works as an independent researcher with a focus on urban design, sustainable practices for efficient daylighting, egg as a building material and architectural pedagogy. One of her papers titled ‘Egg as an Organic Building material: A comparative study and understanding in Indian context’, was presented at The 3rd International Conference on Civil and Building Materials in NUS, Singapore and published in Key Engineering Materials Vol. 803. She is also engaged as a part-time architectural, lifestyle and wildlife photographer. She volunteers with Zooniverse and TEDxHyderabad.

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Think of public space and the mind conjures up images of green parks and cool water bodies; much like Babur and his successors who dreamt of the Charbagh as a refuge from the dusty plains of Hindustan

The City of New York converted the abandoned industrial railway into ‘High Line’ - a raised pedestrian linkage and urban park. Image credit: Timothy Schenck, © 2000 - 2022 Friends of the High Line

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EVOLUTION OF THE PUBLIC SPACE Historically in the West, the concept of formal public space has been established with the Greek ‘agora’. Literally meaning assembly place, it was an open space defined by linear buildings called stoas. Here people gathered not only for everyday marketplace but also as a hub for exchange of social, political and artistic developments, a space that fostered the birth of democracy. The Romans too realizing the importance of such a space established their forums surrounded by buildings related to the empire. In keeping with this Classical tradition, the British laid out their colonial cities in a similar format. Important administrative buildings were fronted

by open wind swept maidans which would keep the ‘White town’ hygienic and also serve as a foreground from which the buildings could be viewed. Back home, the citizens of London demanded access to large swathes of open spaces known as commons, which initially acted as hunting grounds for the aristocracy. Facing the threat of increasing urbanization, some of these commons were dedicated to the people as a place of refuge for sports and recreation, a green oasis amidst the increasingly industrialized city. The London greens inspired Napoleon the Third`s plans for a new and clean Paris, realized by Baron Hausman. He identified the need for public space, to rid Paris

Aram Bagh in Agra was built by Babur to seek respite from the hot summers of India. Image credit: Shivani Gupta, India Heritage Walks. © 2018 CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

of its maladies. Sewers were shifted underground, beneath wide avenues connecting important buildings. Public squares in residential quarters were widened and many parks of various scales were laid out which were instantly approved and embraced by the Parisians. This became the source of various other movements like the Garden City or the City beautiful movement that have structured modern cities. In the US, The Central Park was demarcated in the layout of New York City to act as the green lung, filtering pollution, cooling the micro-climate, and providing a place to unwind. Daniel Burnham’s plan for the controlled growth of the American city of Chicago included ambitious proposals for

the lake front and river and declared that every citizen should be within walking distance of a park. Together, these laid down the foundations for a new and improved quality of life that has become a fundamental right in modern nations. But the idea of public spaces is not just restricted to parks and gardens. In the East, public spaces are a series of spaces ranging from an otla to a neighbourhood well, the courtyard of a mosque to local bazaars and chowks which work from micro to macro levels. Even amongst architects, the most favoured element of any design is often a courtyard or meeting space where all the social activity traditionally takes place in the Indian context.

In the East, public spaces are a series of spaces ranging from an otla to a neighbourhood well, the courtyard of a mosque to local bazaars and chowks which work from micro to macro levels.

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A NEED TO MEET Human beings by nature are social. The psychological impact of public places is crucial in deciding the behavioural patterns of citizens and their quality of life. Many a public plaza is known to be unsuccessful due to its large intimidating scales, or lack of good design such as when surrounded by monotonous glass façades that reflect heat and create uncomfortable spaces for people. A vibrant and successful public space is the one which draws the greatest amount of people to participate. Here are formed friendships and community bonds, a sense of civic and cultural identity, an experience of a city. The India Gate at New Delhi is a symbolic venue of patriotism and also political protest creating a space for a healthy conversation with the government. The Christmas markets set up along the Champs-Élysées draw Parisians and tourists alike to enjoy the boulevard which is otherwise known as an elitist shopping district. The Rockefeller centre,

New York is a high-profile business hub in the day but turns into a community attraction with its skating rink during winter evenings. Who can forget the famous ritual of the silver ball dropping at the New Year’s Eve countdown at Times Square, New York. With all its glitzy signage this plaza is the symbol of America, drawing tourists from around the world, it is truly a melting pot of cultures. SPACE TO BREATHE In the 21st century where more than half the earth’s population is urban, there is a need to redefine the notion of public space. As villages rapidly urbanize to towns and cities, there is an added pressure on city infrastructure which is unable to keep pace with the burgeoning population. As per a September 2012 story in the New York Times, Mumbai offered each resident 0.88 square meters of open space per person, compared to 6 and 2.5 square meters per person in Tokyo and New York

Previous page, Top: Daniel Burnham’s Plan for Chicago proposed a hundred mile green circuit integrating new parks with the old, suburban parks to forests preserves and boulevards that would serve as continuous playgrounds. Image credit: Plan of Chicago, plate XLIV. Chicago History Museum Previous page, Bottom: The Rockfeller Center plaza is a dynamic space that adapts its public function as per the seasonal requirements of the city. Image credit: Mariottini,Diego. Christmas Decorations New York,Rockefeller-Center. Digital Image. Web. Via Shutterstock 497896351 29 Dec. 2015

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respectively. Tier I cities should serve

protect, preserve, reclaim and celebrate

as example to the rapidly growing Tier II

community and its public space in all

cities and Tier III towns, to identify and

forms and aspects.

demarcate public spaces before they are consumed by urbanization. As per WHO ‘In our high stress jobs green spaces are important to mental health and improve well-being. Physical activity in a natural environment can help remedy mild depression and reduce physiological stress indicators. Recent estimates show that physical inactivity, linked to poor walkability and lack of access to recreational areas, accounts for 3.3% of global deaths’. As public spaces around us diminish, our sphere of personal space begins to shrink as well. Perhaps this is the reason we seek solace in our virtual worlds, with its infinite platforms of expression. The lockdowns induced by the COVID-19 pandemic has made us acutely aware of the need of spaces that make the citizens look up from their screens, go

BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE The revival of the Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul shows how city administration can tap the potential of urban blue green networks to unlock public space potential for the city. Once a neglected waterway carrying foul smelling discharge, the stream has been transformed into a haven of natural beauty amidst the bustle of city life. An aging vehicular overpass was demolished to revive the stream flowing underneath and bring it into the spotlight. Vehicular traffic was replanned on either side of the stream. Concrete pathways were demolished and more space made available for native vegetation, and this has helped reduce the urban heat island effect and infuse life into the neighbourhood.

offline and connect with the real world in this digital era. Spaces that invoke a

Closer to home, events like the Kala

sense of belonging, a neighbourhood,

Ghoda Art festival in Mumbai are a great

a feeling of warmth and security of a

example of citizen initiatives where

community that you can depend upon

space-starved urbanites created new

in dire times. This has set in motion

definitions of urban space. An entire

a global movement by citizens to

street in the city’s art district is shut for


The transformation of the Cheonggyecheon stream shows how the integratiom of blue green infrastructure into the urban fabric can help expand the scope of succesful public spaces. Image credit: efired, View of the Cheonggye Stream at downtown of Seoul. Digital Image. Web. Via istockphoto 1166328219 06 Aug. 2019

10 days and instead of honking cars, the


air is filled with music, laughter, wafting

In New York, the citizen group ‘Friends of

aromas of various food stalls and chatter of citizens shopping at the various stalls peddling artistic goods, all in all a spirit of celebration of victory in reclaiming a sliver of space for public use, even if for a brief moment in time. The success of this movement lies in knowing that art is an important medium through which people engage with communal spaces.

Highline’ rallied to save an abandoned elevated industrial railway. Scheduled for demolition, the railway bridge was overrun with wild vegetation that had become a host for the local biodiversity. Sensing an opportunity, the citizens appealed for the Highline’s zoning to be changed to that of a park. Finally, the city recognized its potential and commissioned its development as 100 101


Top: The opening of the ‘Highline’ in New York has inspired cities to creatively reuse their resources to generate successful public spaces. Image credit: Mike Tschappat, © 2000 - 2022 Friends of the High Line Bottom: ‘Life of Sassoon’, a mural created by Do & Khatra is an abstract representation of the objects and activities quintessential to the Sassoon docks, bringing new perspective to the viewing of this infrastructure. Image credit: Photo by Pranav Gohil, Do & Khatra, 25 Nov. 2017. Copyright XXL COLLECTIVE CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

an urban park which also acts as a pedestrian walkway. It sets a great example of how urban infrastructure can be reimagined to provide new opportunities for residents to reconnect to nature and add complex layers of interaction with the city`s history. The ST+Art festival held in 2018 at Sassoon docks, Mumbai is one of the various initiatives being undertaken to open up new facets for people to experience public space. Using contextbased art, new spaces for expression were carved out within the existing infrastructure of warehouses and communities associated with the docks. Art was brought out of the galleries and on to the streets open for all to enjoy, inviting a layperson to initiate a dialogue with his surroundings. The tactical urbanism approach taken up by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has led to explorations of various dimensions of urban space to help ease the claustrophobia engulfing the city. From Car Free Sundays to Streets for All, developing linear parks under flyovers to pocket parks at traffic junctions, building integrated footpaths and cycling lanes to building viewing decks, a variety of small but strategic

interventions are looked upon as the key to creating safe and comfortable, urban experience. The design of public spaces in the future will be dynamic; a pop-up public space with changing functions. The character of a place will not just be defined by the buildings it is bound by, but by its freedom to transform within the unbuilt. Public space is no longer just an area or a horizontal ground plane but a sensorial experience, sights and sounds of the city, the urban fabric around us dyed in different colours from time to time. REFERENCES • Whyte, William H. The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Washington, D.C: Conservation Foundation, 1980. Print. • Gehl, Jan, and Birgitte Svarre. How to Study Public Life. Island Press, 2013. • Roth, Leland M. Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History, and Meaning. Boulder, Colo: Westview Press, 2007. Print. • WHO. Urban green spaces and health – A review of evidence. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe, 2016. Print. • Burden, Amanda. “How public spaces make cities work” TED, March. 2014. https:// public_spaces_make_cities_work. Video

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Under the MCGM`s Tactical Urbanism initiative, viewing decks have been constructed over various storm water outfalls adding new pockets of convivality to the city. Image credit: Shahdab Khan for Mid CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jinisha Lodaya is an architect by profession with a Master’s Degree in Urban Design from Mumbai University. She is currently an Assistant Professor at VES College of Architecture, Mumbai with a special interest in Humanities and the History of architecture. She has conducted heritage walks of various neighbourhoods of Mumbai and enjoys unravelling the layers of the city and exploring new places. She holds a keen interest towards the issue of environment and water and has served as a co-curator for Confluence, a virtual exhibition held by the Living Waters Museum, Ahmedabad.

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Transit as I knew it was quite simple. I got out of the house, started my scooter, and rode to my destination. After 15000 kilometres of riding around the city this way, I moved to an unknown city in a new country. From sharing laughs with strangers, noticing new aspects of Madras from my seat while revelling in the sunlight that shined right onto the forehead as music played in my ears, to people watching with the same nostalgic songs fading into my ears, I continue to slowly know this city a little better each day. Here in Germany, I found familiarity in old friends, public transport.

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The beginnings of longer journeys


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A moment in waiting

Stepping off the train

As the doors open


Tram crossing by

At the bus stop

Inside the bus

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Escalators to Erdgeschoss


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The day ends, as the next day begins.


ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER Currently based out of Germany, Srishti Prabakar Nadathur is an artist and architect who loves to question and curate her own set of visual responses to everything she sees around in the urban environment. Instagram: @strokesandsoliloquies

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A 75,000 sq. ft. public art project which changed the notion of art to the city and its people.


Palayam bus stop with an Arteria Wall as backdrop; Image credit: Author

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The city of Thiruvananthapuram is a

completion of three phases, the project

significant administrative and historic

currently covers a whopping total area of

node in the country. A townscape of

75,000 sq. ft. with hand painted artwork

historic architecture lingering from the

(Department of Tourism, 2021).

Travancore kingdom and the colonial period, wide avenues enriched and lined with rain trees summarizes the city. A public art project – Project Arteria – was created in 2015 to add art to urban walls in the celebrated townscape in 2015, forming a quilt of artworks laced in and around the city at a time when the city offered close to nothing as public art for its people.

The year 2014 saw the inception of the project idea through the District Collector of Thiruvananthapuram of the time, Biju Prabhakar. Choosing the compound walls as the canvas brought public art closer to people. Rather than restricting the art exhibition to the galleries, mostly unexplored by the common man, these walls would familiarize people to contemporary art in their daily travels.

Introducing art into the public realm was the idea behind the Project Arteria, launched by the state tourism department in association with the District Tourism Promotion Council

The chosen artists were asked to paint just as they would create artworks in their studio space, oblivious to the surroundings, preserving the very essence of contemporary art.

(DTPC). Painting compound walls in the institutional heart of the city was

The first phase of the project involved

intended as an ode to the contemporary

21 renounced artists (TNIE, 2021) from

artists of the state. Neglected and

all over the State, targeting public art

uncared-for compound walls became

for a surface area of 30,000 sq. ft. The

the canvases as well as the mounting

artworks were so well received that the

surfaces for the massive project -

initiative grew to another 15,000 sq. ft.

transforming the city as a large-scale

in the next phase, roping in 22 artists

open art gallery with hand painted walls.

in 2016 (TNM, 2020). At the end of the

This led the project to be defined as a

third phase in 2021, with 19 artists

curated art gallery for the city, open 24x7

(TNIE, 2021), Arteria now stands at

for the city’s own common man. On the

75,000 sq. ft. around the city.


A live Table Tennis match in the underpass; Image credit: Author

Slowly, Arteria walls became a major part of the townscape in and around Palayam, a historic institutional precinct in the city. Within its existing looped road layout and the incident architectural marvels along it, the walls whimsically play along, adding to the overall character. They add to the idea of Serial Vision put

forward by British planner Gordon Cullen, creating substantial points of focus and generating a visually pleasing walkable environment. As for a pedestrian, these walls accompany them alongside the footpaths creating interest areas with their distinct styles, moods, and scales.

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Turn only if you want to spot an abode in the pink grasslands. Image credit: Author


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Birds off the trees shaded by trees off the wall. Image credit: Author


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Around Palayam, one may find a flock of

then to the hills and highlands stretching

birds transforming into a horizon similar

to the tigers of the Western Ghats. Walls

to MC Escher’s Sky and Water. Another

leading to the Napier museum and

scene shows the usual intricate and

the adjacent zoo portray an enlarged

complex Theyyam reduced in a crisp

animal kingdom, duly crowned by the

cubist style. Or else, one turns with the

lush canopied trees of the other side.

wall to spot a humble hut tucked away

The aristocratic history runs along

in the lavish grasslands in shades of

the walls of the mighty Kanakkakunu

flamingo pink and fuchsia, otherwise unnoticed.

palace, which hosted galas of the past Travancore Kingdom. Elsewhere, the walls catch you right in the middle of

For those familiar with the work of

a live table tennis match on the two

town planner Patrick Geddes, the next

opposite walls of an underpass. The rest

series of paintings resemble a regionally

of the Arteria walls are spread across the

appropriated variation. The sequel starts

city, casually becoming a three-storied

from the coastline of the state, with the

backdrop to a bus stop, or three-storied

fishermen communities to mangrove

vantage point along the new bypass

areas, moving swiftly to the urban areas,

highway of the city.

Fishermen starting Kerala’s own Geddes section. Image credit: Author CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

Nature reaching out to the painted wildlife. Image credit: Author

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Even though the Arteria walls were initiated to introduce art to the people, they also evolved to be a new cultural layer for Thiruvananthapuram city. Life-sized artworks not only reinvented the image of the city but also inspired people to reimagine the existing places. By utilizing public spaces for creativity and experimentation, the project redefines the existing connection between the people and these places an ideal example of placemaking. Support from the public is the momentum which has fueled the continuation of the project in three phases, spanning over eight years. People have merrily adopted the project as it sets their city apart from others, says Dr. Ajit Kumar G, curator of Project Arteria. He also fondly adds how new canvases are always received with utmost love and curiosity by the public. The numerous selfies, documentaries and the like created at each wall explains how much the city accepted Project Arteria. Arteria walls even star behind “save-the-date” wedding photoshoots.


Dr. Kumar adds that the project has changed the way art is perceived by both the artist and the spectator. Artists accept the mortality of their works where these artworks would be repainted, retouched or even demolished over time. The concept of art being preserved away has been diluted and the project introduces an interactive platform for art with universal accessibility. The scale of the artworks also becomes instrumental in the way it is perceived and accepted. As the walls become a closer edge to the passers, they become the custodians in maintaining the art reverently, unintentionally resulting in the overall cleanliness of the city. As human beings, we relate to places through our memories and experiences. The Arteria walls of Thiruvananthapuram presents the layman a kinesthetic experience where art unfolds as they go about their day. Such experiences etch the art and the place together into their mental map for the city, helping them further embody a sense of belonging and becoming a fine example for creating people-oriented places.

REFERENCES 1. TNIE. (2021, August 11). Thiruvananthapuram walls to turn canvas for artists. The New Indian Express. https:// thiruvananthapuram/2021 /aug/11/thiruvananthapuram-wallsto-turn-canvas-for-artists-2342905. html#:~:text=THIRUVANANTHAPURAM %3A%20City%20walls%20will%20yet,the% 20public%20on%20contemporary%20art. 2. TNIE. (2021, September 04). Art comes to town: Thiruvananthapuram’s Arteria project helps beautify the city. The New Indian Express. https://www.newindianexpress. com/cities/thiruvananthapuram/2021/ sep/04/ art-comes-to-townthiruvananthapuramsarteriaproject-helps-beautify-thecity-2353992.html trivandrum-mayor-and-volunteers -clean-walls-reveal-arteria-paintingscity-walls-117490#:~:text= After%20several%20people% 20complaining%20about,the%20Arteria %20paintings% 20visible%20again. Department of Tourism. (2021). Arteria 2021 Edition; A Public Art project of Dept of Tourism, Govt of Kerala. Thiruvananthapuram: Government of Kerala. 4. TNM. (2020, April 04). Trivandrum mayor and volunteers clean walls to reveal ‘Arteria’ paintings on city walls. The NEWS Minute. From article/trivandrummayor-and-volunteers-clean-wallsreveal-arteria-paintings-city-walls117490#:~:text=After%20several% 20people%20complaining%20about, the%20Arteria%20paintings%20visible %20again.

3. TNM. (2020, April 04). Trivandrum mayor and volunteers clean walls to reveal ‘Arteria’ paintings on city walls. The NEWS Minute.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dhanya Mariam Shaji is an Architect Planner based in Kerala, where she currently works as an Assistant Professor. Her interest areas include inclusive cities, urban livability conditions, and heritage urbanism. When she is at peace, she bakes and loves documenting the flora in the urban scape on her Instagram handle, @pumchikka.

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ELEVADOR DA BICA Street and square requalification of Bairro da Bica in Lisbon



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Lisbon is one of oldest cities in the world and the oldest in Western Europe. The charming streets are usually paved with cobblestone. Although a pedestrian-friendly city, the steep slopes of some neighbourhoods mean that people have to rely on cable cars and elevators to reach their destination. The historical part of the city is characterized by its maze of straight and narrow streets. The streets are so steep that they terminate abruptly, giving way to stairs, cable cars, funiculars, and, in one case, an elevator - Santa Justa Lift; this 19th century industrial age marvel is an iron structure that moves between the city’s upper and lower levels.

Archival image of Elevador da Bica. Image credit: Lisbon Municipal Archive. Facing page - Archival image of Calçada da Bica Pequena. Image credit: Lisbon Municipal Archive. CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

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Plan of intervention.


Ascensor da Bica, also known as the Elevador da Bica, is a funicular railway line that runs along two arteries - Rua da Bica Duarte Belo and Calçada da Bica Pequena, in Bica, Lisbon, Portugal. Along both sides of these arteries are traditional Portuguese homes, mostly rental properties built in the 18th century. The funicular connects the Rua de São Paulo in Cais do Sodré with Calçada do Combro in Bairro Alto, upper town. Both neighbourhoods are filled with many shops, bars, and dining destinations among the centuries-old houses. They are known for their street art, historical sights, culinary treats, and vibrant night life. Bica is the name of the entire site dug between the slopes of Santa Catarina and Chagas. This is the result of a landslide restricted to the site, which occurred in 1597 and which was repeated again 25 years later. Located in Lisbon’s Pombaline district adjacent to the Tagus River, the funicular system is characterized by a slope that dominates its axis. Lisbon has three working street funiculars: Lavra, Glória and Bica, which allow its citizens and visitors to move to and from its hilly districts more easily. As with other urban transportation systems in Lisbon, such as the tram, the municipal transportation company Carris operates the funiculars. In spite of their resemblance to trams, they are called ascensors (elevators). The Ascensor da Bica is a project by the acclaimed Portuguese engineer Raoul Mesnier de Ponsard, created to help all Lisbon residents move to steeper parts of the city. In addition, he is the engineer behind many of Lisbon’s other funiculars and elevators, several of which have been declared national monuments.

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Inaugurated in 1892, the Bica Ascensor has been in operation for a century now. The funicular/lift consists of two cars that travel in opposing directions simultaneously over the distance. The lift ascends an incline of 11.8% to the Rua da Bica de Duarte Belo, a distance of 245 meters, from the Rua de São Paulo. In 2002, Ascensor da Bica and the surrounding area were classified as a National Monument. Subsequently, the area around Bica underwent an urban requalification designed by architect Teresa Nunes da Ponte in 2006. Its route is shared by car traffic, which is not the case in any of the other Portuguese funiculars. This is because the hillside serves as the backbone of Bairro da Bica, and it is possible to drive along this part of the street to access certain arteries in the neighbourhood. Even so, traffic only moves uphill. Bairro da Bica being a historic district, the car traffic is reserved only for residents of the neighbourhood. Requalification

made Bica very pedestrian friendly. The sidewalk is reimagined as a series of wide stairs on either side of the elevator throughout its journey to Rua de São Paulo. Four streets intercept Rua da Bica de Duarte Belo – Travessa do Cabral, Travessa da Portuguesa, Travessa da Laranjeira, Travessa do Sequeiro. The Portuguese word Travessa means the lane, and Rua means the road. The pedestrian paths on either side of the streets are clearly defined. Parallel parking is provided alongside pedestrian pathways as the homes lack their own garages. Each street has been redefined to reduce the traffic flow into the neighbourhood and restrict the movement of cars only to the residents of these streets. This has been done by cutting off the vehicular entry into the streets by adding a staircase as wide as the street itself to enable pedestrian movement.

Top left on facing page - Calçada da Bica Pequena with the stepped side walks and shared street of the funicular line. Top right on facing page - Rua da Bica Duarte Belo Bottom left on facing page - The retractable bollard in place on Travessa do Sequeiro to control vehicle access. Bottom right on facing page - Travessa da Laranjeira with street wide stairs on both the ends of the street. CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

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The path that leads to stairs on Travessa da Laranjeira from Rua Chages is nestled with urban furniture and trees.

Steep flight of stairs - Calçada da Bica Pequena and Calçada da Bica Grande.


A flight of stairs at one end of Travessa do Cabral.

Ascensor da Bica.

Travessa do Cabral with small resident cafés opening into the streets, in place of parklets.

Streets with parallel car parks and dumpsters. At the edge of this street is the stairs that lead to Miradouro de Santa Catarina.

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PROJECT SPECIFICATIONS Location: Year of realization:

Bairro da Bica, Lisbon, Portugal 2006

Client: Project team:

Lisbon City Council Teresa Nunes da Ponte Arquitectura João Caetano . Anta Miranda. Bruno Canelas. Sonia Antunes. Marina Araujo. Magda Marques. Victor Correia. Karolinne Alves Topiaris Landscape Architecture


Consultants: Programme: Site intervention area:

Restoration, Rehabilitation and Improvement 5700 m2

The path that leads to stairs on Travessa da Laranjeira from Rua Chages is nestled with urban furniture and trees. The deep tread of stairs lined with trees encourage people to use it as seating – creating qualitative urban spaces for the neighbourhood and its people. Only Travessa do Sequeiro from Rua Chagas and Travessa do Cabral from Rua do Almada allow cars to enter this neighbourhood. A retractable bollard is CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

also in place on Travessa do Sequeiro to control vehicle access. Bica is also accessed from Rua de São Paulo by a street with a steep flight of stairs Calçada da Bica Grande that reaches Travessa do Cabral. The neighbourhood is very popular amongst the tourists and it is very common to find tourists on these streets of Bica at any time of the day. The streets are lined with cafes and bars that spill

Elevador da Bica as seen from Travessa do Sequeiro. Image credit: Jaime Silva; CC BY-SA 3.0

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Cross section across the streets. Four streets intercept Rua da Bica de Duarte Belo.


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over into the streets, and parklets converted into outdoor seating. During the day, this neighbourhood is completely silent, but at night, it explodes with life, with all the bustling bars. By taking the flight of stairs on Travessa da Portuguesa from Rua do Almada, one reaches the Miradouro de Santa Catarina, with views over the city from this famous viewpoint. In conclusion, while the streets requalified under this project retain the rustic nature of the 16th century neighbourhood, the narrow streets make it difficult to incorporate more of the green network in the fabric. Currently, the funicular systems seem to be in use primarily by tourists. The fact that local residents prefer to traverse the terrain on foot is a positive sign of the success of the stepped sidewalk design. The Lisbon City Council could therefore be more radical and discourage the usage of cars by strengthening the systems of soft mobility and public infrastructure based on the assessment of the existing patterns of movement.

Top image on facing page - Bica Lift as seen in 1933. Image credit: Arquivo do Jornal O Seculo. Bottom image on facing page - The two cars of the funicular as seen today. Image credit: Gerard Koenig. All images courtesy of the author unless otherwise mentioned.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Lakshiminaraayanan Sudhakar is an Architect from Chennai, India. He had previously worked with architectureRED. Currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Urbanism, Landscape and Planning from KU Leuven, Belgium. He is passionate about traveling, exploring, and capturing his observations through photographs. He uses these as tools to observe and understand architecture, life, and people. You can find some of his photographs on his Instagram handle @ ln_sriram.

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Designed by Le Corbusier, Chandigarh is famous for its planning on the principle and dimensions of the Modular Man who stands six feet tall - drawing inspiration from the heroes of detective novels that the architect so admired. But what about the un-modular body? What about those who do not fit this perfect ideal of gender, age and ability?

Sabka Jaipur’ public exhibition at Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur. Image credit: Social Design Collaborative

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From the Vastu Purush Mandal to the Vitruvian man, city planning across the world has centred on the male body, and favoured the experiences of able-bodied, cis-heterosexual men. Not surprising, given how cities have mostly been known to be designed by them. Where women have been involved, they have mostly been hidden figures - from Urmila Eulie Chowdhury in Chandigarh to Minette de Silva in Sri Lanka - not always recognised as their male counterparts have been. Those outside the gender binary, i.e., transgender and non-binary people, have been left out of city planning processes altogether. As a result, who gets to occupy public space? From tea stalls to parks, buses to toilets - look around and you’ll find that public spaces across Indian cities, like in the rest of the world, are mostly occupied by fully grown, able-bodied men who feel powerful and comfortable in them.


How can we make our cities inclusive for all genders and sexualities? Regardless of age, abilities, class, caste, religion or economic background, this is what an international public art project called ‘City for All?’ sought to ask as part of the Indo-French festival Bonjour India. The project travelled across 6 Indian cities from March to May 2022 asking the question - who builds our cities and for whom? Designed by Social Design Collaborative from Delhi and Genre et Ville from Paris, City for All? questioned the role of gender in shaping our urban experiences. Organised by the French Institute in India and the Alliance Francaise network, the project travelled across Jaipur, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Pune, Bengaluru and Delhi engaging online and on-ground with diverse communities.

Top: Le Corbusier’s modulor man and associated dimensions. Image credit: ‘Another Modulor Man sketch by Le Corbusier’, via; https://www.iconeye. com/opinion/icon-of-the-month/modulor-man-by-le-corbusier Bottom: Un-modular people - an artistic provocation by Social Design Collaborative. Image credit: Social Design Collaborative

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6 Cities x 6 Neighbourhoods: a graphic depicting the journey of the travelling project. Image credit: Social Design Collaborative

Project identity logo - the 6 faces of a cube. Image credit: Social Design Collaborative


The group brainstorm board on which students penned down their thoughts while stepping out at night. Responses in red are by French students and those in blue are by Indian students. The students have also mentioned their gender next to their response ie M for male, F for female, T for transgender and NB for non-binary Image credit: Social Design Collaborative

CROSS-CULTURAL ONLINE ENGAGEMENT The project started with online crosscultural exchange between Indian and French students of design and architecture. Led by French anthropologist Chris Blache and Indian architect Swati Janu, online mapping workshops paired up students from 7 French universities with students from 10 Indian universities to map how they navigate their way around the city. Reminiscent of how some of us might have written letters to our pen pals across the globe in school, the sessions paired up students online. ‘What do

you think about when you step out at night for a party?’ was a simple question posed but the complexity of gendered experiences and multiplicities of identities filled up the group brainstorm board within a few minutes. While the differences in the students’ personal experiences based on gender were evident, the similarities between the French and Indian students were remarkable to see. Seemingly simple questions such as - Is my phone charged? Can I go out alone? Should I tell my family I am 148 149


Top: ‘Sabka Jaipur’ neighbourhood activity at Bagru. Image credit: Social Design Collaborative Bottom: ‘Ellaru Bengaluru’ neighbourhood activity at Shivajinagar. Image credit: Social Design Collaborative CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

going out? What can I wear? - take on a completely different dimension if you are queer or a cis-het woman or a transman. Intersectionality became an important point of discussion, noting the differences in access and vulnerabilities between a white woman and a black man, or a gay man from an upper caste and a hijra in the Indian context. Following the workshop, the student pairs shared their collaborative reflections on their relationship with their city that were eventually displayed as part of the public exhibitions in the six festival cities. From here began the on-ground engagement which the participating Indian students also joined in the coming months. NEIGHBOURHOOD ON-STREET INTERACTIONS The next phase of the project involved onstreet engagement with the public across neighbourhoods in the 6 cities to reach out to people from diverse backgrounds. Over the week in each city, the Social Design Collaborative team along with local partners and students, visited 6 identified neighbourhoods carrying a map of the city and asked them a very simple question - ‘Where do you like

to go in your city?’. Different coloured bindis for different genders were used for voting since they are readily accessible and affordable. From school walls to parks to temples or mosques, the maps were pinned up at public spaces within each neighbourhood. Over a few hours, passers-by would mark their favourite public spaces where they feel comfortable and like to go again and again, either with their friends and family or by themselves. Every city map also included a ballot chart to ask people to vote for what is important to them in a public space - greenery, safety, seating, street food, shopping, sense of freedom, scenic beauty, entertainment, toilets, accessibility etc. Through these neighbourhood level discussions, what started emerging were city level patterns of how people from diverse backgrounds navigate in their city and what are the most inclusive spaces that work for all. People began sharing their gendered experiences and barriers in mobility physical, social and economic. In Jaipur, most women shared that, religious spaces were their favoured public space since that’s one place they feel they are

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Top:‘Sabka Jaipur’ neighbourhood activity at Kathputli Colony. Image credit: Social Design Collaborative Bottom: ‘Ellaru Bengaluru’ focus group discussion with the transgender community at Alliance Française. Image credit: Social Design Collaborative CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

“allowed” to go to rather than, say, a mall. While residents of Bangalore felt that their city was safer than most Indian cities, it’s still prone to late night crime due to absence of “eyes on street” in its design. Ahmedabad, on the other hand, had a vibrant night life due to its rich culture of street food and vendors who are true place makers of each city. In these public interactions, the participation was mostly within gender binaries i.e., male and female only. Therefore, it became important to organise focused group discussions with transgender and non-binary people with the support of local LGBTQIA+ organisation in each city, to ensure that their perspectives are also included. This also helped create a more intimate and safe space for discussion where they felt comfortable sharing their experiences. Transgender persons spoke of the acute need for public infrastructure like toilets for them and the need for representation of their identity through simple gestures such as reserved space on public transport and by rethinking public signage which is always only in binary. They shared experiences of being excluded from public spaces such as malls or denied entry to beauty

parlours due their gender. Many spoke about how despite the higher costs, they prefer taking cabs or auto rickshaws instead of travelling by public transport which exposes them to either daily harassment by men or stigmatisation by women. Binary lines for frisking in Delhi metro stations or binary seating in buses in Bangalore also leads to their discrimination when they try to fit into one space or the other. PLACEMAKING THROUGH PUBLIC PARTICIPATION AND ART The maps and week-long discussions were shared at a public exhibition on the weekends at a central and opento-all public venue in each city. By placemaking, everyday public spaces such as an underpass (in Chandigarh), a pavement (in Pune), a chowk (in Ahmedabad), the space under a metro line (in Bangalore) and courtyards of cultural spaces (Delhi, Jaipur) were transformed intro vibrant public festival places where people from all walks of life came together to participate in the discourse generated by the project as well as cultural performances and artwork put up by local artists. There were several interactive public activities

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Top, Bottom: An underpass as a public exhibition space - at Sector 17 Underpass, Chandigarh. Image credit: Lucie Barraud, Social Design Collaborative. CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

A courtyard as a place for people to come together and celebrate the local folk performers, at Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur. Image credit: Social Design Collaborative.

designed to include people’s voices and experiences. Visitors were asked what they would do to make their respective cities more gender-inclusive, if they were made the mayor of their city for a day, filling up the festival space with powerful as well as playful ideas. Another activity crowd-sourced different genders’ mobility across the city by asking them to what kind of public space they frequent the most, when and through which mode of transport. By tying their responses through different coloured threads, the visitors created a city-level pattern of their relationship with the city.

An integral approach of the project was not just on-street neighbourhood discussions and public interactions but also connecting to policy and governance to mainstream the discourse on gender and sexuality. Public officials were invited to each exhibition’s opening event from the Chief Secretary of Rajasthan who spoke about the the need for functional toilets for women to the local corporator of Pune who spoke on the need for facilities for transgender people.

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A discussion on the need for integrating information on transgender persons in the school syllabus was discussed with the Education Minister of Gujarat, helping pave the way for long-term change. Over 3 months, the travelling project engaged on-ground with over 5000 people from diverse backgrounds, with over 100 local and university partners across the 6 cities. The online engagement through social media platforms helped reach out to thousands across India and France. Next, the Indo-French collaboration travels to the French city of Lyon over June-July 2022 to build further on the public dialogue, so that Indian and French cities may learn from each other and come up with collective solutions. Previous page, Top: Art Corner at ‘Sabki Dilli’ public exhibition at Bikaner House, Delhi. Image credit: Social Design Collaborative Bottom: Activating a pavement: outdoor exhibition at ITI Road, Aundh, Pune. Image credit: Samrat Strode, Social Design Collaborative

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Swati Janu is an architect and artist based in Delhi whose work engages with social justice and participatory planning. Recently awarded the Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture 2022, she is the founder of the interdisciplinary practice Social Design Collaborative which combines grassroots activism with policy advocacy. Swati regularly writes on urban issues ranging from housing rights to public spaces for City Lab, Scroll and Indian Express. Arundhati is a budding urbanist, currently enrolled in her fifth year of a Bachelors program in Urban Design at CEPT University. She takes keen interest in community-driven practices, and is deeply passionate about gender mainstreaming, access and urban mobility. She is currently working as an Urban Design Intern at Social Design Collaborative, New Delhi.

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Bhadra Plaza – Section representing distribution of activities. Image credit: Archita Chinchani, Keerthana Jayaseelan, Khevna Vaishnav, Mitali Parmar, Neha Patane

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Public places provide several opportunities for social interaction by people. They play an important role in creating more liveable communities. With the rapid pace of urbanisation, there is a demand for more public places in our cities. However, in order to create new public places, there is a need to decipher the evolution and functioning of such existing successful places. The premise of the course is that there are several parameters that make public places work. The course aims to equip students with tools to analyse existing public places, with a focus on understanding their form, space, function, nature, to be able to decipher what makes them successful. This research and analysis have the potential to generate quick methods of understanding places and further to inform new design ideas. The course titled ‘What makes public places work?’ was offered as an elective course for the postgraduate students at the Faculty of Planning, CEPT University during Spring Semester 2022. It is a 12-week course where the students carry out analysis of existing public places through visual observations and mapping to be able to identify the role of various parameters in the functioning of successful public places.


CONCEPT OF A PLACE Space is a three-dimensional entity, a location. Design of spaces focuses on geometric space, paying less attention to activities and experiences. Urban design focuses on the transformation of spaces into meaningful places, where people would like to live, work and play. In that context, it is fair to say that Urban Design uses space as a key resource to transform the vision of creating liveable places into reality. Transforming spaces into places requires an integration of various intangible elements in a location, like meaning, purpose, engagement, adaptability, culture, and a sense of belonging. A place consists of built and natural elements that enable a set of activities to occur, which in turn develops a set of personal and shared meanings. A place is therefore a location with meaning. People can identify with a place and orient themselves to its scale, form, function, and character. Places create a sense of community and provide opportunities to generate social capital. With the rapid globalisation and urbanisation, the perception of places can change in response to the needs of the people. Therefore, the evolution of places becomes a key aspect to

be studied in order to understand the changing needs of the people, to be able to create places that are valuable in the current context. METHODOLOGY The course is based on an inquiry-based learning method, where the students analyse selected public places with a focus to get an in-depth understanding of the role of different parameters in making public places work. Students worked in a group of five, to study one selected public place. The criteria for selection were based on the following: 1. It should be a prominent city-level public place 2. It should preferably have overlapping activities throughout the day 3. Sufficient data should be available to study its history and evolution The students selected four public places in Ahmedabad for the study – Bhadra Plaza, Kankaria Lakefront, Manek Chowk, and Happy Street. The course is structured in two modules, each running for 6 weeks. 160 161


MODULE 1 - DATA COLLECTION The study initiated with a web-based data collection using Google Earth, news articles, photographs. This helped orient the students to the selected public place, in order to understand its location, history, current usage The documentation and mapping on site were done through observational research methods to understand the people’s behaviour in the selected public places. The methods used were focused to understand why people stay in a place, where they usually stand or sit, their movement pattern viz-a-viz the surrounding built environment, and the age-gender ratio. Observational research methods allow the possibility of observing people in a natural setting and the identification of factors that influence behaviour. They allow the researcher to see what their subjects really do when in different situations, and to be able to identify the factors that influence this behaviour.

Facing page, Top: Manek Chowk – User activity map during morning. Image credit: Aditi Joshi, Aiswarya Raj, Elaine Agith, Shravya Narakula, Vidhi Shah Bottom: Manek Chowk – User activity map during evening. Image credit: Aditi Joshi, Aiswarya Raj, Elaine Agith, Shravya Narakula, Vidhi Shah


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Top: Karanj Bagh at Bhadra Plaza - Movement mapping during evening. Image credit: Archita Chinchani, Keerthana Jayaseelan, Khevna Vaishnav, Mitali Parmar, Neha Patane Bottom: Karanj Bagh at Bhadra Plaza – Noise mapping during evening. Image credit: Archita Chinchani, Keerthana Jayaseelan, Khevna Vaishnav, Mitali Parmar, Neha Patane CITY OBSERVER | June 2022

MODULE 2 - ANALYSIS AND COMPILATION Through this module, the students analysed and compiled the collected data to generate meaningful inferences to define what makes public places work. The analysis was based on the parameters referred to in two tool kits – the Global Public Spaces Tool kit by UN Habitat and the What makes a place a successful tool kit by Project for Public Spaces. The students identified the parameters relevant to their selected public place to be able to quantify the impact of intangible factors like adaptability, comfort, sense of belonging etc. The analysis concluded in a presentation where the students shared the process of their study and their understanding of what makes a public place work.

Manek Chowk - Identifying parameters that influence its character. Image credit: Aditi Joshi, Aiswarya Raj, Elaine Agith, Shravya Narakula, Vidhi Shah

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Manek Chowk - Identifying parameters that influence its character. Image credit: Aditi Joshi, Aiswarya Raj, Elaine Agith, Shravya Narakula, Vidhi Shah

CONCLUSION Creation and maintenance of public places are symbiotic processes that make places enjoyable for people, and therefore, successful. This process needs to be responsive to the changing needs and demands of people and future users, to be able to continue making successful places in our cities. At the same time, ease of maintenance becomes an important factor in selecting materials and detail design of elements in public places.


Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value. More than just promoting better urban design, placemaking facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution. Through this course, the students are able to define the factors that give a location the potential of becoming a ‘place’.

When a public place is being used by people, it becomes possible to conduct user analysis to understand its physical, cultural and social identities. The study of public life in our cities is essential as it helps in developing an understanding of the needs and demands of the community in this context. It is an effective means for improving design and management practices. This course is an attempt to study the public life in Indian cities to contribute towards the design and creation of more such successful places suitable to context.

REFERENCES: • Gehl, Jan. Cities for People. 2010. • Trancik, Roger. Finding Lost Space. n.d. • Al-Kodmany, Kheir. Understanding Tall Buildings. n.d. • Svarre, Jan Gehl & Birgitte. How to study Public Life. n.d. • Gehl, Jan. Life between Buildings. n.d. • Place, Architecture: Meaning &. Christian Norberg-Schulz. n.d. • Habitat, UN. “Public space site-specific assessment.” n.d. • “Global Public Space Toolkit.” n.d. • Institute, Gehl. “Using Public Life Tools: The complete guide.” n.d. • “Twelve Quality Criteria.” n.d. • Spaces, Project for public. What makes a successful place? n.d.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Sophiya Islam is an Urban Designer – Architect with seven years of professional and teaching experience. She holds an undergraduate degree in Architecture from Aligarh Muslim University and a Master of Planning (Urban Design) degree from CEPT University. Since 2020, she has been engaged in teaching studios for the Master of Urban Design programme at CEPT University. Prior to this, she has three years of experience working as an architect on campus design projects with ARCOP Associates in Delhi. She believes that people make places, and hopes to contribute towards making more liveable and inclusive places for all. Her recent research has been focused on understanding and improving the quality of life in informal settlements in Indian cities. The work for the course titled ‘What makes public places work?’ has been produced by students at the Faculty of Planning, CEPT University during Spring Semester 2022. Students registered in the course: Mitali Parmar, Joshi Aditi Ajay, Aiswarya P Raj, Elaine Agith, Keerthana Jayaseelan, Patane Neha Shrinath Sangita, Shah Vidhi Bhavesh Bhamini, Chinchani Archita Ramesh, Farha Anees Siddiqui, Kritika Kukreti, Borkar Purva Yatindra Sukhada, Rafa Musadhik, Rituja Lambe, Velani Srishti Deepak Darshana, Vedanth Dhal, Patel Maitry Hareshkumar, Ayushi Jain, Khevna Vishesh Vaishnav, Kanimozhi D, Shravya N

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Image credit: Vidhya Venkatesan

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