City Observer- Volume 3 Issue 1- June 2017

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CITY OBSERVER Volume 03 | Issue 01 | June 2017 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 non-profit organization that works as a collaborative platform towards the creation of livable & sustainable cities through community engagement. EDITORIAL TEAM Devangi Ramakrishnan Shruti Shankar Sunjana Thirumala Sridhar Vidhya Mohankumar EDITORIAL SUPPORT Nischal Buddhavarapu COVER ILLUSTRATION Anita C. Jakkappanavar LAYOUT DESIGN Shruti Shankar Vidhya Mohankumar Copyrights of images lie with the person/ party mentioned in the image caption. This magazine cannot be republished or reproduced without the permission of the publisher.

To Cities and People

Contents EDITORIAL Devangi Ramakrishnan


FEATURE ARTICLE Future Proofing India’s Medium-sized Cities Nicholas Falk


COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT The Better Your Neighbourhood Project Mishkat Ahmed, Akhila Suri & Gauri Gore


ART AND THE CITY The Artist in an Entropic City Srajana Kaikini FEATURE ARTICLE Barcelona Sneha Parthasarathy


FEATURE ARTICLE Embattled Cities Yashdeep Srivastava



Getting People to Cycle Anuj Malhotra

Bringing bicyclists back to the heart of the city Fiona Guerra, Idriss Madir & Fleur Soumer





MOTION CAPTURED New Orleans Wagdy Moussa


ON LOCATION Return to the Forest City, a Helsinki Suburb- Five Decades Later Arvind Ramachandran

SPECIAL FEATURE Hyde Park Library, London Archasm


10 Urban Design Lessons from Hong Kong Vani Herlekar & Chirayu Bhatt

TEACHING URBAN DESIGN Rise and Fall of Bangalore’s Public Sector Units Himadri Das, Anup Naik & Prasanna Rao








Malmรถ Amsterdam London


Netherlands Porto Barcelona

New York City St.Louis New Orleans



Helsinki Germany Dessau Istanbul Selรงuk

Chandigarh Delhi Mathura




Thimpu Hyderabad Chennai



Hong Kong Singapore

Hampi Bangalore Kochi Trivandrum



Cities profiled thus far... Current Issue Past Issues


I have been devouring, with an equal mix of amusement, incredulity and unease, the ongoing drama of U.S. politics and closer to home, the central government dictating our choice of food and drink among other issues... along with the resultant balking from parts of both countries. These diktats, meddlesome and onerous, belie the reality of our cities and how we as citizens live in and engage with them. Much like the uncomfortably tight sweater or that one shoe always pinching the toe that we cannot wait to tear off, can I tear the nation off the back of my city? After all, humanity’s first and most fixed settlements were cities- thriving global networks of trade, diplomacy, and cultural exchange. Today, over half the world’s population is urban, generating fourfifths of the global economic output. McKinsey Global Institute’s 2011 report ‘Urban world: Mapping the economic power of cities’ noted that six hundred cities – City 600, are projected to generate over 60 percent of global growth by 2025, and that their population will grow an estimated 1.6 times faster than the population of the world as a whole. Could our future once again be a world of cities rather than nations? Am I ranting? Let us move on… Late May this year, the president of the United States announced that his country would withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The last time we wrote about this in City Observer, the historic COP21 agreement was signed by 196 nations with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 degree Celsius after acknowledging that climate change is indeed a real and irreversible threat. Amid the erupting global shock and condemnation of this decision, something incredible unfolded. A coalition of US economic, education, and local government leaders announced they would continue to abide by the Paris agreement regardless of America’s withdrawal, forming the ‘We Are Still In’ movement. At least 292 US mayors have since adopted the Paris agreement goals for their cities, joining dozens of international mayors who have made their own commitments to the climate agreement. Martin Wolf, in his June 2017 Financial Times piece states ‘Cities must be open to the world when nations are not’. His statement reiterates the inherent dynamism and diversity of cities and their constant



stride towards the future, sometimes against the political and ideological tide of the often-powerful nations and states within which they are embedded. The underlying motif in the discourse of the power of cities is that of powerful mayors. In the context of India, this is the glaring anomaly. The apparent dysfunction of our cities is most often attributed to a disjointed urban governance system and the absence of mayoral leadership directly accountable to citizens. The central government as part of on going urban governance reform proposes to allow Indian cities to directly elect their mayors with greater financial and functional powers. While we are still a far cry away from my earlier rant for a world of cities, if realised with appropriate structural reform, this proposal could be a huge leap forward towards greater independence and empowerment for our cities, and their accountability to their citizens. On that note, as always, this issue of City Observer traverses the world of cities, from Barcelona and Helsinki, to Mumbai, Hong Kong, and elsewhere. From charting the role of politics in the shaping of the city, to its roles both as embattled space and laboratory for design innovation and collective action, the city is seen through the eyes of the traveller, the immigrant, the artist, and the resident, each attempting to make sense of their cities through their own distinctive lenses. Happy reading! Devangi Ramakrishnan On behalf of the Editorial Team

‘Make our planet green again’ by Lectrr (Belgique / Belgium), De Standaard. Image source URL:





A think piece about ‘action planning’ garden cities in India. by Nicholas Falk



A village filled with rubbish. Image credit: Author




This think piece sets out findings from recent research and visits to Southern India by the Urbanism Environment Design (URBED) Trust to suggest how medium-sized Indian cities –those with populations currently of around half a million people – might cope with the pressures of future growth. It proposes simple steps drawn from experience in promoting ‘new garden cities’ in the United Kingdom. It then describes how an experimental project to build some demonstration ‘eco-villages’ can offer solutions that could be scaled up. The conclusions identify practical ways in which collaboration between experts in the UK and those in India could be supported.

CHALLENGES FOR SUSTAINABLE GROWTH With a population of over 1.2 billion and one of the highest growth rates in the world (the GNP per head is currently increasing at 7% per annum) Indian cities are undergoing a phase of resurgence. The largest cities, like Chennai, capital of the Southern state of Tamil Nadu, are growing fastest. Only 30% of the population is urbanised, and there is a natural tendency of those leaving their villages to seek opportunities in the biggest cities. This raises at least four challenges if cities are not to erupt in conflict: Transportation As cities expand and sprawl, congestion and pollution become intolerable. Half of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India, led by New Delhi. The so-called ‘garden city’ of Bangalore is losing its appeal as a base for IT companies, and a powerful account of how people’s lives are changing in Tamil Nadu highlights the impact of the process of transition.1 As Kapur (2012) points out, on the edge of Chennai ‘the farmland has become a fertile terrain for steelframed and glass office buildings urban sprawl of gated communities and plotted-out fields.’ Buses are over-loaded and have a poor image among the residents of the city. Railways outside the mega cities concentrate on long-distance travellers, with long 20 coach trains trundling across the country from city to city. Auto rickshaws do their best, but most people manage by piling onto motor bikes or scooters. Though electric rickshaws are being trialled, dirty fuels and noisy vehicles predominate. Cycling is in danger of being squeezed out, and pavements that are rare and poorly lit at night put pedestrians at risk. As those who can buy cars and move further out increase in number, the situation only seems to get worse. Housing Stopping urban sprawl is difficult where planning powers are weak and when there is so much money that can be made from development. High rise towers may suit people in mega cities, but a different model is needed for mediumsized cities. Unfortunately, as housing becomes ever more unaffordable, as in UK cities, over-crowding worsens, and slums or ‘informal settlements’ take over land that is not being used, and that lacks services. Where plans for 1 Akash Kapur, India Becoming: a journey through a changing landscape, Penguin Books, 2012



Laurie Baker Centre, Trivandrum. Image credit: Author

sustainable urban extensions have been drawn up, as in the historic French town of Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry), there are problems with implementation. In cities that have a significant urban core from which the larger settlement grew, conflicts over inheritance has led to old buildings being sacrificed. For this and many other reasons such as lack of funding for conservation, India’s heritage is disappearing before one’s eyes. Though there are some ‘model’ alternatives, like the visionary settlement of Auroville, designed to attract people from all over the world, or the inspired low cost buildings of Laurie Baker in neighbouring state, Kerala, they have not scaled up. Furthermore, flats built with garages and air-conditioning cost far more than most can ever contemplate. Alternatives, like the ‘custom built’ housing so popular in the Netherlands and others parts of Northern Europe, are not to be found because serviced plots are rarely available. The ‘Sites and Services’ schemes which were rolled out in the 1970s have largely been abandoned without much reason except that the governments have not tried hard enough to provide housing solutions for all. If

housing is ever to be built on the scale required, as the UN Habitat conference in Quito called for, then more affordable and sustainable models are required.2 This forms the basis for the URBED/SCAD (acronym for Social Change and Development)3 Eco House project. Details of the Eco House project follow in a later section of this piece. Public health Despite advances in life expectancy, infant mortality levels are still quite unacceptable. Many children are still under-nourished at a formative age. Space to prepare nutritious food is vital, along with being able to socialise with neighbours. A small plot for growing vegetables or poultry could result in huge nutritional benefits for families. Walkable streets with rows of houses along them can make people feel better and safer, especially if they are lined with trees to keep the sun away. Trees would attract birds, too. Children need places to play, while older people like

2 Laura Petrella et al, Planned City Extensions: analysis for historical examples, UN Habitat, 2015 3




places where they can sit together and talk. Failing monsoons have created widespread water shortages. Large ‘tanks’ are dry and bore wells bring up saline water. While the long-term answers may lie in ‘blue green infrastructure’, as a report on applying ‘Smart City’ principles to two Southern cities points out, there is an urgent need for new approaches on the part of funders, along with some short-term projects that can demonstrate early results.4 To a visitor, the obvious places to start are dealing with rubbish and old buildings. Piles of uncollected plastic bottles look unsightly. Though monuments and temples are generally well-cared for, the public realm is mostly neglected. There are huge opportunities for a general ‘wash and brush up’, using greenery and colour to show that places have a future and not just a past. Community engagement With very limited municipal resources and national programmes failing to get through to where they are needed, what can make most difference? It is possible that some of the approaches that have worked well in the UK (and European cities) might also apply to some parts of India. First on the list is involving residents/ property owners in the improvement of their streets or blocks. Prime minister Modi’s programme for 100 Smart Cities has apparently got lots of people talking about cities and what they want to see in them. The problem of course lies in implementation. Not-forprofit organisations such as the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) have produced visible results in the French Quarter of Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry), while Tirunelveli-based SCAD has worked with some 600 villages and 2500 women’s groups to tackle common problems. Primary schools, too, may be viewed as excellent channels for action. Students at SCAD who competed for one of the URBED Awards certainly seemed very proud of their city, its history and current attractions. It would seem an easy step to go from research into publicity, making the most of digital technology. But this requires educational bodies to introduce practical projects as part of the curriculum, and for communities to recognise effort and achievement. The SURGe 4 Atkins with UCL, Future Proofing Indian Cities: key findings from applying a future proofing approach to Bangalore and Madurai, March 2015



website5 can potentially help in sharing such existing efforts and best practices.

FROM VISION TO REALITY Describing what is wrong or where one would like to be is usually far easier than finding a route for getting there. But our experience over the last 40 years is that progress needs to be made through balanced incremental development with flexible plans but clear measures of success that win general support. The current idea is to promote and test out a ‘route to smarter urbanisation’- one where more people have an improved quality of life. This requires development and infrastructure to be in balance. Drawing on the experience from the English university city of Cambridge6 and surrounding County, the argument put forward is that there are five critical steps: 1. Collaboration Successful growth and ‘smart cities’ depend on generating innovation and good jobs. The best examples of transformation in Europe have all involved municipal authorities playing proactive roles, and creating the right climate for long-term investment.7 But what can be done where local authorities are apathetic or under-resourced? Here examples such as Leipzig in the former Soviet part of Germany or Eindhoven in the Netherlands, which lost its major employer and had to reinvent itself, offer models. The answer lies in showing the outside world that the key players- universities, major employers, the people and the local authorities- all have a ‘shared vision’ for where they want the city to go. The best models involve ‘polycentric cities’ that make the most of their existing assets, and that use development to overcome barriers to growth. 2. Connectivity Across the world, the motor car, which was a major driver of urban growth after the Second World War, is now gradually being attributed with unsustainable patterns of development. Cities that once demolished 5 6 cambridgeshire_quality_charter_2010.pdf 7 Peter Hall with Nicholas Falk, Good Cities Better Lives: how Europe discovered the lost art of urbanism, Routledge 2013


Stopping urban sprawl is difficult where planning powers are weak and when there is so much money that can be made from development.


Urban sprawl. Image credit: Author

Apartments encroaching on farmland. Image credit: Author




buildings to create urban freeways, are now taking steps to ‘tame the car’, and give priority to pedestrians and cyclists. Indian cities such as Madurai and Pondicherry have also shown the value of prioritizing pedestrians for creating better urban spaces. While only some, like Chennai and Kochi, may be able to justify new overhead or underground Metros, many more can benefit from integrated public transit and managed parking. The railway lines that branch out from junctions such as Tirunelveli offer huge untapped potential for creating a 21st century networked city with denser development around stations. So too is the scope for tapping solar power for recharging electric bikes. 3. Community Though there can be deep-rooted differences between caste and class, as well as religion, there is also great value as SCAD is showing through its schools and colleges, in bridging the gulfs. Indeed some of the best places to live are where there is a diversity of people, especially in terms of age and wealth. Writers like Akash Kapur and Amartya Sen highlight how the old distinctions are breaking down in modern India, thanks to universal education and enlightened laws. However the relatively slow rate of growth of Auroville also brings out the problems that can arise when the differences are too great. Hence, new settlements need to appeal to groups that have something in common and that share similar values if they are to flourish. 4. Climate-proofing The challenges of tackling water shortages and periodic flooding, along with energy failures and the need to reduce carbon emissions, tend to lead to plans for mega projects that can take decades to implement. But there are also a range of small-scale projects that can make a visible difference. Thus, students in Tuticorin called for schools to promote the value of saving water, and for water companies to distinguish between different qualities of water. Innovative green technologies such as composting toilets, the use of 12 volt local energy grids, and harvesting industrial hemp (which uses a sixth of the water of cotton, enriches the soil, and reduces carbon dioxide levels from the air) can be combined to produce a better quality of life for those living in rural areas.



5. Character New developments are often criticised for all looking the same, and much of the identity of traditional communities is being lost as cities grow and redevelop old areas and buildings. In the western world, this trend has led to initiatives to promote conservation and adaptive reuse. In the USA, the idea of ‘smart growth’ is supporting cities that develop around ‘Transit Oriented Development’, with a mix of uses to cut travel times. In turn, this can result in much more attractive looking places. However possibly the most important measure of all lies in using ‘blue and green infrastructure’ to enhance fine buildings and places, and bring the best of the country into the town.

ECO-VILLAGE PROJECTS AS A WAY FORWARD? The SCAD ‘eco-villages’ project forms a building block in an ambitious proposal to test out the application of ‘garden city’ principles to the City of Tirunelveli and nearby cities such as Tuticorin, and to develop the skills and job opportunities for staff and students at SCAD. The local authority is competing to become designated in the government’s Smart City programme, and hopes to build an exemplary new settlement on the edge as well as to take traffic out of the historic centre. If the city were to double in size by 2050, assuming a growth rate of 2% a year, there is a danger of land being taken away from productive agriculture, and congestion on the roads could become socially and environmentally intolerable. It is therefore vital to have a strategic growth plan that incorporates the surrounding suburbs and villages, and avoids an over-dependency on car use. The proposals for this project are based on applying best practices from Europe by making better use of land that would not otherwise be developed. With the help of ConnectedCities, a social enterprise based in London, URBEd has identified potential land owned by Indian State Railways close to stations that could be suitable. This is being explored in theTirunelveli case study.8 It is also important to find ways of reducing carbon emissions and pollution, by minimising the use



4 Km

8 Km

Areas of research for sites for sustainable development in and around Tirunelveli. Image credit: Brian Love; Source:

Diagram of typical pedshed. Image credit: Brian Love; Source:






Uxcester - Snowflake Diagram. Image credit: David Rudlin Facing page- Uxcester - Aerial Perspective. Image credit: David Rudlin

of concrete and using natural materials instead. The new homes need to be affordable to people who rely on agriculture for their primary income and to offer better options than what is currently available. Above all, with erratic monsoon patterns, water must be used more carefully to avoid shortage in times of drought. The principles applied in the original garden cities and new towns in the UK, and promoted by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), could offer a

proven way forward for some mid-sized Indian cities, provided there is a suitable delivery and financing mechanism. The proposals for Uxcester Garden City the winning entry of the 2014 Wolfson Economic Prize about garden cities- submitted by URBED could also provide some answers.9 Going back to first principles it is also useful to remember what the TCPA has set out as garden city principles. 9 Nicholas Falk and David Rudlin, Uxcester Garden City, URBED 2014;




GARDEN CITY PRINCIPLES (TCPA 2012) A Garden City is a holistically planned new settlement which enhances the natural environment and offers high-quality affordable housing and locally accessible work in beautiful, healthy and sociable communities. The Garden City principles are an indivisible and interlocking framework for their delivery, and include: 1. Strong vision, leadership and community engagement. 2. Land value capture for the benefit of the community. 3. Community ownership of land and long-term stewardship of assets. 4. Mixed-tenure homes that are affordable for ordinary people. 5. A strong local jobs offer in the garden city itself & within easy commuting distance. 6. Imaginatively designed homes with gardens in healthy, vibrant communities. 7. Generous green space linked to the wider natural environment, including allotments. 8. Strong local cultural, recreational and shopping facilities in walkable neighbourhoods; 9. Integrated and accessible low-carbon transport systems. Source:

INNOVATIVE DESIGN FEATURES SCAD Eco -villages should aim to innovate in seven main ways as shown in the illustrative drawings that accompany this think-piece: 1. Maximum use of public transport, walking and cycling to help improve air quality and public health by siting the projects on transit corridors or near stations. 2. Sanitation measures to minimise unnecessary water consumption while improving health, for example through drawing water from restored local ‘tanks’ , and processing waste products. 3. Plots that enable subsequent extensions and improvements, including space for ‘kitchen gardens’ for healthier living, and lots of trees for natural cooling to avoid the need for air conditioning. 4. Designs that respond to the local vernacular,



such as terraced streets that support active communities, but that also provide space for contemporary needs such as storage, toilets and waste disposal or recycling. 5. Construction out of reused and recycled materials. Also, exploring the potential of using natural materials, such as ‘rammed earth’ or Hempcrete that combines local lime with the stems of industrial hemp that is grown for clothing and motor industries. This would also reduce high carbon emissions from the use of concrete and provide farmers with a cash crop. 6. Use of 12/24 volt electricity from solar panels with mini grids, and natural ventilation and insulation to reduce carbon emissions and dependence on an unreliable electricity grid. 7. ICT links, for example connections with internet or phone lines, to make communication easier and also to facilitate distance learning.

The SCAD Eco-houses illustration Image credit: Jas Bhalla




An ideal house interpreted by the students at SCAD. Image credit: Author

Water solutions proposed by the students at SCAD. Image credit: Author



In short, the new eco-villages aim to minimise the consumption of scarce resources and would enable mid-sized cities such as Tirunelveli to grow without ‘costing the earth’. They will appeal to people moving out of villages into homes of their own, as well as to municipalities wanting a more sustainable alternative to urban sprawl. They can be built by small and self-builders, offering a much better alternative to crowded slums, while also creating local employment. Ecovillages will combine the capacity for traditional forms of housing to co-exist happily with the planet, while achieving the levels of aspiration associated with urban life styles and new technologies. A linked project will draw lessons and apply them in training students, for example through awards for group work in producing think-pieces on affordable homes, natural resources or hospitality.

CLOSING NOTE In summary, the greatest value of the eco-village project will also come from its potential to be extended and to act as a model for other areas in line with garden city principles. The basic challenge in building sustainable homes anywhere is providing advanced infrastructure, such as transportation networks and amenities, which is where the growth of certain European cities offer many lessons. As infrastructure can cost as much as building new housing, it is important to make the most of what already exists. This includes not just transportation but also energy and soft infrastructure such as hospitals and colleges. It is also important to minimise water consumption and waste, and to tap solar power to make new homes independent of unreliable state power sources, and make the most of natural resources. At the very least, the ecovillage project is an experiment in learning more about how to take these ideas forward.

About the Author Dr Nicholas Falk founded URBED in 1976 and is an economist, urbanist and strategic planner with degrees from University College Oxford, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the London School of Economics. He specialises in helping towns and cities plan and deliver urban regeneration and sustainable growth. He is co-author of URBED‘s submission on Uxcester Garden City that won the 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize. He has been advising Grosvenor Developments and Oxford City Council on the urban extension to Oxford at Barton Park, and previously devised the Cambridgeshire Quality Charter for Growth. His many publications on new settlements include Sustainable Urban Neighbourhoods: building the 21st century home with David Rudlin (Architectural Press 2009), Regeneration in European Cities: Making Connections (JRF 2008), and contributions to Sir Peter Hall’s last book Good Cities Better Lives: How Europe discovered the lost art of urbanism. (Routledge 2014). As director of the URBED Trust he is working with Oxford Futures and sharing lessons from European good practice with growing cities, including those in Southern India. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, an Academician at the Academy of Urbanism, a Visiting Professor at the University of the West of England, and had a Harkness Fellowship to the USA.





by Mishkat Ahmed, Akhila Suri and Gauri Gore



INTRODUCTION Every neighbourhood in a city has layers of history, culture and architecture that define its unique character, and at the same time, also has area-specific issues that plague its residents year after year. City development plans, in their quest to address macro issues, are often unable to accurately identify and resolve these localized problems. In Mumbai, for example, the latest draft Development Plan (DP) has attracted much controversy due to several fallacies in its mapping and concepts. Given this state of affairs, when, where and how do the demands of the citizen for everyday essentials such as good roads, access to open spaces, pollution free environment etc. get addressed? The ‘Better Your Neighbourhood’ (BYN) project is envisioned as a tool for neighbourhoods to take charge of their own development through a bottomup, collaborative approach. Using a ‘Think Big, Start Small’ methodology, it feeds data from the masses to the topmost authorities, presented in an easily comprehensible narrative, identifying issues, challenges and providing pragmatic solutions. The project is also designed to act as a prototype for neighbourhoods of a similar scale and nature across Mumbai city. This is recognised by the 74th Amendment of the Indian Constitution which is based on the premise that the functions such as urban planning, regulation of land use, construction of buildings, provision of urban amenities and facilities such as parks, street lights, public conveniences, etc. should be decentralised to Facing Page - The BYN@88 logo. the smallest urban local body - thus validating the creation of more community Image credit: Kairavi Ahmed units across the country.




Bottom up approach. Image credit: Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd.

BETTER YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD! Poor footpaths, lack of street lights, open and unhygienic drains, unsafe streets and access to parks - these were just some of the issues plaguing residents in the eastern suburb of Deonar in Mumbai. Many of them had been residing in the area for over twenty years. They were extremely proud of the quality of life in their neighbourhood and wanted to protect it. Frustrated with the lacunae and red tape in the local government, they vowed to support us in the journey to ‘better their neighbourhood’. Located in the M-East Ward in Mumbai, Deonar has often been seen as a far-flung distant cousin of the city – famous only for its large slums, rehabilitation colonies, an abattoir and the now infamous city dumping ground. An area measuring approximately one square kilometre was delineated along the main Deonar



Village Road as most feasible for this study. The study area consists of a mix of residential, industrial and commercial plots, as well as an urban village or gaothan. Then began an extensive mapping of the area. Development Plan maps were compared with the existing site conditions. The urban realm was documented through photographs, technical drawings etc. to create a consolidated base map. With the help of the local residents, permissions were sought from the local Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for this surveying and mapping process. A door-todoor survey was carried out across the residential, retail and commercial developments covering basic demographic and public realm user experiences. The findings from this exercise were converted into simple illustrations and then compiled into a report to better explain the vision, methodology, process and issues.

The ‘Better Your Neighbourhood’ (BYN) project is envisioned as a tool for neighbourhoods to take charge of their own development through a bottom-up, collaborative approach. Using a ‘Think Big, Start Small’ methodology, it feeds data from the masses to the topmost authorities, presented in an easily comprehensible narrative, identifying issues, challenges and providing pragmatic solutions.

Site location map. Image credit: Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd; Google Earth Imagery




Existing road network, land use and open space. Image credit: Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd

Site surveys and visual documentation. Image credit: Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd.



The following points became clear from this study: •

An overall lack of sense of place and imageability was evident, mainly due to the presence of large vacant lands, industrial galas, and poorly maintained public spaces.

Sense of ownership and interest in the neighbourhood could be assumed to be high since 80% residents own their homes and many had lived in the locality for more than ten years.

Most of the people interviewed in the neighbourhood were in the 25 to 45 years age group, which suggests a young residential and office-going population. However, most survey takers travelled at least 1.5km for entertainment and recreation. A large Municipal Garden, one of the major public spaces in the neighbourhood, had never been visited by 64% of the survey takers, and many were also not even aware of its existence.

We then set forth ambitious internal goals for the neighbourhood that are relevant to urban professionals aimed at creating a ‘Community Participation Toolkit’ – contextualised to Indian conditions and governance. 1. Involving and identifying the right community members to launch joint objectives and strive for positive outcomes 2. Urban branding through social media, print media etc. towards a place making effort that can give character to the neighbourhood 3. Streetscape improvements that are both functional and aesthetic 4. Provision of basic infrastructure systems 5. Operation and Maintenance strategies for recreational and public open spaces 6. Neighbourhood Urban Design and Development Guidelines

The use of hard facts and figures to support the above inferences helped us to objectively state the ground realities on site.




Poster in Marathi for community meetings. Image credit: Leewardists



Community newsletter. Image credit: Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd.




MOVING FROM PLAN TO ACTION We opened the report to the public in April 2016 to showcase our research over the past one year and to get feedback from more members of the neighbourhood. Through posters in English and Marathi that were put up in local shops and societies and also through word-of-mouth publicity, we gathered a large audience from people across varied age groups and backgrounds. Representatives from the gaothan were also present. It was during these initial community meetings that the name ‘Better or Behtar your Neighbourhood’- was coined. A suffix of ‘@88’ was added which is the local area pin-code. It is called ‘BYN@88’ for short! After much debate it was decided to form a new Advanced Locality Management (ALM) under this name rather than function through the original ‘Clean Deonar Forum’ for better clarity and structure. A Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer were mutually appointed for the first year. The BYN@88 ALM began participating in the local area



ward meetings. We now officially had an audience with the ward officer (twice a week at his office) to communicate our issues! Regular community meetings were conducted to discuss issues and a bi-annual citizen newsletter was initiated by the senior members of the community. Technology became an asset to quickly share data and to convey important updates – Whatsapp group, Facebook page, and a common email ID were created with the help of the younger members in the group. At this point, we hit a major stumbling block generating public awareness and opinion while trying to get the authorities to listen to us had moved us away from the original intent of the project. These aspects were integral to the process, but they seemed to be prolonged discussions without any positive outcomes. An old well which was being used to dump garbage was decided to be rejuvenated. The ward

Initial community meetings. Image credit: Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd.

officer declared it was on a private property and they could only serve them a notice about maintaining better hygiene. A few residents had issues with the dumping of garbage on the road. Others were denied entry into a public area for a morning walk. In parallel to all this, the BYN@88 design team wanted to organise a few fun activities and events for the neighbourhood to improve it with installations, art, colour or just more people – but fund-raising for these became a challenge. We hoped other organisations would be benevolent, but even arranging an art competition for children required a huge investment. Corporate sponsors and developers in the area also had limited event typologies that they were interested in funding and we did not have the numbers yet to lure them. How could we create impact without any funding support?

CREATING A ZERO-WASTE NEIGHBOURHOOD In 2016, frequent fires at Deonar Dumping Ground, a city landfill located barely three kilometres away from our study area led to the spread of toxic gases to surrounding neighbourhoods. For days, the air was filled with foul-smelling smoke and many people even fell ill. Frustrated with this, the BYN community decided to outline the creation of a ‘zero-waste neighbourhood’ as one of their immediate goals. Building societies on the road were in different stages of waste segregation and hence were looking for a holistic solution that could address the issue at a neighbourhood level. The identification of a common goal brought the community together like nothing else had done so far! Through the Corporate Social Responsibility




Shed for composters in garden Image credit: Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd.



Waste awareness and sensitization in progress. Image credit: Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd.

Waste audit in progress. Image credit: Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd.

Waste audit in progress. Image credit: Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd.






Neighbourhood impact map. Image credit: Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd.




The identification of a common goal brought the community together like nothing else had done so far!

(CSR) arm of a leading private developer that shared our goals, funds to cover the capital costs of waste segregation for around 400 families were made available to us. A transparent bidding process to appoint a waste management consultant was initiated and a Request For Proposal (RFP) document was released. Responses to the RFP were jointly evaluated by the community, funding agency and ECPL. A decentralized solution was deemed most acceptable by all as participating buildings were already in different stages of waste segregation. Once the waste management consultant was chosen, a waste audit was conducted to estimate the amount of waste and segregation required. This formed the basis of the CSR funds that were released for this project. An agreement was signed between the main stakeholders – the community, the waste management consultants and the funding agency, which formally kicked off the project. This agreement is for a five year period.

The BYN Team. Image credit: Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd.



Currently, the first stage of the waste management project is underway. Awareness and sensitization drives are being conducted in all buildings, as well as in the gaothan. Locations for installing sheds to hold the bio-composters, a manually operated revolving drum that speeds up the composting process, have been identified. As is always the case, land has proven to be a contentious issue. In private buildings, residents are reluctant to give up an empty parking space to house this shed. Since the gaothan does not have any space within it for their shed, a special request was made to the ward officer to allow for its construction in the adjacent public garden. Permission was given to construct a ‘temporary’ shed only. Problems were faced during its installation as several users of the garden protested to it, not knowing the benefit it would bring to the entire community! Eventually, the shed was constructed and we took note of the need to increase awareness of this project and waste segregation in general.

OTHER EVENTS Thanks to a few persistent BYN@88 members, the local MLA allotted some of his funds to the cleaning up of the aforementioned well. Over the past few months, it has transformed from a garbage menace to a clean well – the area around it has been beautified and it is no longer a health hazard to the residents. In an attempt to towards creating a ‘sense of place’ in the neighbourhood, a workshop with a local architecture college has been initiated. Three locations along Deonar Village Road are identified and within a few months, temporary art installations would be introduced. It is hoped that such efforts will help bring more visibility to the BYN@88 initiative, thus paving the way for more permanent solutions.

IN CONCLUSION Participatory neighbourhood planning is a complex process that comprises largely of three components – technical study and planning, community mobilization, and approvals and execution. It requires constant engagement by citizens with multiple entities such as government bodies, urban experts and funding agencies, to effect significant change on ground. Through BYN@88, we hope that community participation is recognized as a viable model for development in the city, and that it is used as a prototype for other neighbourhoods in the city, and even the country!

About the Authors Mishkat Ahmed is the Urban Design Team Lead at Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd. where she handles a variety of projects ranging from IT campuses and residential developments, to industrial parks, covering both corporate and government sector clients. Her core interests lie in sustainability and context-sensitive design. Akhila Suri is an urban designer at Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd. where she works on projects ranging from Transit-Oriented Developments and social housing townships to neighbourhood schemes. She is particularly interested in public participatory design, street design and the formulation of urban design policies. Gauri Gore is a Senior Designer at Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd. where she has worked on architectural projects of varying scales from plotted developments to IT SEZs in various parts of the country. With a parallel interest in urban design and master planning she has undertaken work on industrial parks and research projects at Edifice.







WE WILL NOT DIE: ARCHITECTURE OF ENDURANCE Arakawa and Gins, artists-architects-poets declared in their manifestos, “We Have Decided Not To Die”. Through their theory of ‘reversible destiny’1 , the belief that architecture can undo mortality, their work aims to remould the relationships between architectural environments, the body, and its immanent telos. In theoretical works like The Mechanism of Meaning and Architectural Body, Arakawa and Gins embrace process oriented architecture and the metaphor of the organism as basic constituents of any environment. Their philosophy on the architectural body reinforces a sentient force in all bodies as they conceptualise architecture as a shape-shifting transformative force.2 They ask, what is the body and should architecture be at the service of the body? Using these they move swiftly in their concept, from organism to the sentient organism to the ‘organism that persons’ towards landing sites for these bodies, and finally to the notion of the ‘architectural surround’ that defines these bodies. In their anti-mortal philosophical stance, they thus project a material force in their dialogue with the all-pervading process of entropy that threatens any system, network or structure that is subject to internal causality and change. A building lives, grows, decays, and dies. That it is disallowed to die and kept persistent is a secondary matter. However, ruins are inevitable, just like the passage of time is. After the human body, architecture perhaps, captures the incommensurable idea of entropy in its most material sense.

Artist Rashmi Kaleka captures the voices of pheriwalas in Delhi. Image courtesy: Rashmi Kaleka

Evidently, the city as an extension of architectural ambition also behaves like an organism. From the window seat of a high-flying plane, how often have we gazed down at those filamentous blobs of yellow light at night, wondering how uncannily they resemble biological cells or nerve ganglions? Metaphorically speaking, they are indeed nerve centres, and they behave as sensitively as our nervous systems. Cities persist in time and thereby their inhabitants endure and persist through them. Ours is a time of desperate measures, especially when it comes to cohabiting an urban environment that is constantly pushing and tearing at its seams. 1 2 Arakawa, Shusaku, and Madeline Gins. Architectural Body. Tuscaloosa, London: The University of Alabama Press, 2002.






URBAN ENTROPY Entropy is a concept that emerged in the 18th century in the discipline of thermodynamics that studied heat and energy, beginning with Carnot’s observations of energy transformation in matter, later referred to as Carnot’s cycle. Entropy as an idea evokes in most minds an aura of mystery, drama, and a certain sense of movement. As we talk about transmissions and transformations from one physical state to another, energy, the ‘prime mover’ of sorts that causes changes in these physical states, turns into a commensurate entity that is then to be observed, gained, or lost. Ideas of movement towards some state of ultimate chaos or limitlessness are embedded within our imaginations of entropy.

Facing page topThe design of the BiosCleave House, designed by Arakawa and Gins strived to fight mortality by imbibing elements in its architecture that build the immune system of its people and work with their organic philosophy of the architectural body. Image courtesy: Madeline Gins and Arakawa; Source URL: https://www.6sqft. com/bioscleave-house-usesarchitecture-to-extend-lifespansand-stregnthen-immune-systems/ Facing page bottomThe floor plan of the BiosCleave House by Arakawa and Gins. Image courtesy: Madeline Gins and Arakawa; Source URL: https://www.6sqft. com/bioscleave-house-usesarchitecture-to-extend-lifespansand-stregnthen-immune-systems/

When considered through the lens of urbanism, we see the new urban as heading full speed ahead towards smartness or some idea of a new, and better improved state of infrastructural utopia. The irony is that utopia lies always in the future and utopia once achieved is no longer utopia. Moreover, dystopia once achieved becomes a new condition for utopia. The various stages of growth of the city as is laid down in textbooks for urban studies, beginning from the metropolis and ending with the necropolis beyond which is the death of the city, have been disproved time and again by the resilience of our contemporary cities. Cities refuse to die and vibrantly so. How is this entropic state of the city kept in equilibrium, in a state of incompleteness, so that there is always more to complete it with? The answer resides not in the infrastructure or the built master plan. The answer lies more promisingly in the creative life of the city’s inhabitants, be they transient or rooted, and their agility in making the everyday creative and new. The ‘measure’ of loss that occurs in any energy dissipation is essentially relative to the measuring device say political philosophers who argue against science as an absolute domain. These observations are not made in absolute conditions, they say.3 Similarly, the measure of a city, be it creative, industrial or intellectual, is not in its walls and nostalgic ruins but in the people who lean against these walls, stick posters on them, vandalise them, sleep by them, etch and paint on them. Art therefore occurs not as a mute public artifice but as an intimate private affair or conspiracy in the city. Even the most public art, is but an earnest private endeavour to strike a conversation with its place. The notion of public must therefore be confronted and questioned before another mural is hung on the city’s walls.

3 Stengers, Isabelle, translated by Robert Bononno. Cosmopolitics I. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.




The newspaper boy, the laundryman, the tailor, the beauty parlour aunty, the vegetable amma, the corporate banker, and the proliferous shops with their hundreds of billboards on bus-stands, near the garbage dumps, at the fish market with its gleaming fish, are all art makers, creative and alternative in their own ways. They are improvising to make the city work for them and for others, and partaking in creating its collective experience. Thus, a city’s engagement with art demands an organic unfolding and disentanglement, where spontaneous moments of art are as incisive in their everyday workings as are the premeditated larger creative events such as biennales and formal exhibitions.

CITY AS A PERSON Artist Rashmi Kaleka’s decade long and still on-going project ‘hawk-a-day’, attempting to capture, store, and replay the sounds of the pheriwalas or the hawkers’ selling cries in the city of Delhi, a soundscape that is slowly and inconspicuously dwindling from our urban experience, brings to the fore this urge for the artist to stand witness to her environment. We hardly notice sometimes how sound is so materially constitutive of our experience of place, that its sudden absence shines forth starkly. Entire genres of sounds may go missing and be surreptitiously replaced, if not for the artist who pauses, looks, sits down, captures these traces, and chooses to reflect, in turn making felt the unfelt. The Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016 themed the ‘People’s Biennale’, hosted the ‘Artorickshaw’ project by Latvian artist Voldemars Johansons. His ingression was unassuming yet pervasive – 150 auto-rickshaws across the city had their horns replaced by white ones that played over a hundred different custom electronic sounds. Unless identified as art, the work prevailed as embedded sound in the city’s landscape. ‘51 Personae’, a parallel project curated by Chen Yun with the Raqs Media Collective at the Shanghai Biennale 2016 strove to unfold this creative life of the city by scouring it for local everyday inhabitants who in their own engagements of the city work creatively as artists. 51 people from different walks of life were identified, profiled and engaged in conversation, thereby foregrounding the people as the city and the city as a person.



Artist Rashmi Kaleka captures the voices of pheriwalas in Delhi. Image courtesy: Rashmi Kaleka


The newspaper boy, the laundryman, the tailor, the beauty parlour aunty, the vegetable amma, the corporate banker, and the proliferous shops with their hundreds of billboards on busstands, near the garbage dumps, at the fish market with its gleaming fish, are all art makers, creative and alternative in their own ways.







The Artorickshaw by Voldemars Johansons for Kochi Muziris Biennale 2016. Image credit: Tapaswi H.M.




MOVING FROM THE INEVITABLE TO THE IMMANENT What if, as the philosopher Whitehead suggests, our world were composed of ‘eternal objects’ that occur or ‘appear’ to us in repetition? Here they are, there they are again, and oh yes here again too, patterns and relations that infiltrate our continuum of life. Perhaps such a view enables us a leap of agency over the entropic city. Whitehead posits the phrase ‘perpetual perishing’4 as a terminology that encapsulates any creative process, the moment of creation concurrent with a moment of perishing with respect to all its possible spatial and temporal modes. The immanent is that which works within the given, the present, and with material which has its own inherent characteristics and thereby its own plans. In other words, what is immanent is loaded with possibilities, what is inevitable is weighed down by impossibilities. The city is a place of immanence for the artist. If it turns inevitable, the city will eventually be deserted. Thus, the only way art can live in the city is through marks, traces, and embedded histories. It is also the process of transforming the inevitable into an immanent force, from crises to choices. The artists of the city choose to be ephemeral, know well the transience of their work, and thereby acquire a different momentum of encounter with their world. Their work may live through a scribble on a piece of paper, in the memory of an accidental witness to a performance, in the traces of a mural that has been painted over, in the stark absence created after the work was done and gone, or in plain images as something that once was or can be. 4 Halewood, Michael. Death, Entropy, Creativity and Perpetual Perishing: Some Thoughts from Whitehead and Stengers. Social Sciences 2015, University of Essex, UK, pp. 655-667.



Artist Gagandeep Singh’s doodles as ingressions in the city. Image courtesy: Gagandeep Singh

New Delhi based artist Gagandeep Singh’s approach to his world takes a similar path, that of an ingression maker. He does not wait for cohesive criticality of expression, but communicates the manifold fragments of his world. The city, its places and spaces, be they exterior or interior become bursts of insights onto surfaces, wall, paper, or tissue. This is the artist of the city whose silence is so stark that the city falls silent so it may hear the artist. This dispersal of the creative self is yet another language in which to hold a conversation with the city. Speculation plays an important part of this move towards immanence as a force that is inherent in the material mundane being of the self. If the artist is capable of imagining multi-cosmologies, it means that the apparent freedom promised by the idea of entropy is in fact delimited only to the artist’s imaginative capacities. This further makes every creative act an inevitably political act. Knowing these boundaries of power over the not so profound mystery of entropy in the city, speculation can be finally embraced by the artists of the urbanscape in a bid to make limitless imagination accessible to the perceptible, sensorial, and breathing city.

About the Author Srajana Kaikini is a Research Scholar at the Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities. Her areas of interest are philosophy of language, process philosophy, architecture, cinema, and aesthetics.




BARCELONA by Sneha Parthasarathy



Topographic plan of Barcelona. Ildefons Cerda, 1855. Image credit: Ildefons CerdĂ i Sunyer; Historic Archive of the City; Public domain via Wikimedia Commons




Barcelona, La Ciudad de los Prodigios, the City of Marvels, as Spanish author Eduardo Mendoza (1986) famously called it, continues to captivate the human imagination as being a city that is nostalgic at heart while boldly and often belligerently paving a unique path as it marches towards the future. With its history of social and urban evolution marked by protests and citizen movements, this city is an important part of Catalonia, a hotbed of anarchists and separatist activity. In the recent past and beginning in the 1980s, the city has rightly assumed the role of a model for having at its core, human experience, equity and democracy as paramount to all forms of urban and economic development. In 1992, Robert Hughes in his book on Barcelona’s art history wrote: “Barcelona has always been more a city of capital and labour than of nobility and commoners; its democratic roots are old and run very deep. Its medieval charter of citizens’ rights, the Usatges, grew from a nucleus, which antedated the Magna Carta by more than a hundred years. Its government, the Consell de Cent (Council of One Hundred), had been the oldest protodemocratic political body in Spain.” Cerda’s exemplary 1897 urban plan that led to the inception of the word ‘urbanism’, Joan Miro’s cubist paintings and the ‘modernisme’ movement promulgated famously through the architectural works of Antonio Gaudi put this Catalan city at the forefront of the European Avant Garde movement in the 20th century. This inherent penchant for radical and modern thinking was rudely disrupted by civil war and Franco’s dictatorial regime of forty years, during which Barcelona went through a period of neglect and decay. Arbitrary ‘development policies’, ‘informal growth’, ‘peripheral development’ and the absence of strict urban development policies characterized this period of ‘Grey Barcelona’. The mid 1970s saw a series of economic, political and urban crises that preceded Barcelona’s reconstruction efforts. The first was the death of Francisco Franco in 1975 and the democratization of the municipal government with the left party as a winning majority in the consecutive elections of 1979, 1983, 1987 and 1991. The second was an economic crisis that coincided with the death of Franco leading to the deterioration of the industrial foundation of Barcelona and the third was the derelict condition of the city plagued

Chronological study of change in density of the Cerda block. Image Source URL:



Expansion plan for Barcelona. Ildefons Cerda, 1859. Image credit: Ildefons Cerdà i Sunyer; Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Source: Museu d’Historia de la Ciutat, Barcelona;

General Plan for Barcelona Metropolitan Area. 1976. Image credit: Area metropolitana de Barcelona [CC BY 2.5 (http://], via Wikimedia Commons




?? Image credit: Author

Aerial view of the tree lined ‘Las Ramblas’ running through the heart of the old town. Image credit: xlibber (Barcelona NorthEast) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons






by unplanned and rampant growth in preceding years. The coming together of these factors led to the approval of the 1974-1976 PGM (Pla General Metropolita- General Metropolitan Plan) and the subsequent adoption of new and inclusive urban planning strategies. (John Gold and Margaret Gold, 2011)

neighbourhood associations and private landowners, the former demanding more public spaces and latter concerned about devaluation of their property. The role of the neighbourhood associations, ‘Asociaciones de Vecinos’, was crucial in the protection of the plan that aimed to give back to the city its public spaces. This plan inspired by the ‘Piano Intercomunale Milanese’ aspired to achieve the following:

The geographical characteristics of the city while limiting urban growth also played an important role in determining strategies for the future of the city. Bounded by the Mediterranean sea on the east, the Collserola mountain range to the west, the Besos and Llobregat rivers to the north and south respectively, the city can be perceived as a rectangle lying in the space between these natural limits. Containing an area of 100 square kilometres, the city today has a population of close to two million people.

1. Reduction of allowable densities from a potential of nine million people to four and one half and

THE BARCELONA MODEL In the 1980s the zealous spirit of the newly democratic city and the need to rise from its dictatorial past, its natural geographical limits and the time constraints to prepare the city for the Olympics saw Barcelona rise like a phoenix from the ashes. Though the preparatory period for the Olympics (1982-1992) saw the implementation of major urban projects, the principles and theoretical basis for urban change and redevelopment had taken form during preceding decades. Firstly, in 1960s a new generation of planners and architects were exposed to the discussions in the rest of Europe and the world. The fallacies of the modern movement were becoming apparent and architects in Barcelona set out on a search for regional and cultural identity. This cultural awakening was also made possible because of the weakening of Franco’s regime. The 1960s ‘Piano Intercomunale Milanese’, the plan for the Milan Metropolitan Area deeply influenced Barcelona in its focus on ‘politics of land’ as against architecture. Following this approach, the new PGM (Pla General Metropolita- General Metropolitan Plan) unveiled in 1974 and approved in 1976, became the basis for heated and often belligerent dialogue between



2. Reclaiming land for public use such as parks, plazas, schools and other public utilities. These strategies were primarily intended to maximize and homogenize urban change, consistently throughout the city and within limited time and resources. ‘Homogenization’ was not intended to be applied to the physical characteristics of the city but to the qualitative upliftment of all its neighbourhoods. This social intent for the larger welfare of the city and all its inhabitants, rather than one that benefited a few private parties became the grounding principle for reconstruction. During this period, given the tendency of other cities towards neo-liberal economic policies, Barcelona’s social policy was far more progressive in the political context of the world. The social intent that governed the theory of urban projects and plans was executed because of the strong political will of elected mayors and proactive neighbourhood associations. Under the able leadership of its mayor Pasquall Maragall (19821997) and the first planning directors of the newly democratic city, Joan Antoni Solans (1977-1980) and Oriole Bohigas(1980-1984), acquisition and planning of land for public facilities was successfully executed. Oriole Bohigas went on to compile the book ‘Reconstruction of Barcelona’ in which the principles of a new architectural and contextualized form of urban planning are put forward. In 1986, it’s selection to host the 1992 Olympics provided the city with the additional resources and impetus to execute the urban strategies. The Barcelona model, that took form while the city was preparing for the Olympics, is hence symbolic of the equation and transfer of power between the various actors in the city. It is widely cited as an efficient and

Before and after intervention. Aerial Views of the Passeig de Colom and Moll de La Fusta. Intervention by Manuel Sola de Morales completed in 1982. Top - Image credit : Antoni Esplugas (1852-1929) (Europeana) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; Bottom - Image credit: stavros1 (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons




inclusive way to guide not only urban planning but also urban governance. The Barcelona model can be summarized as being characteristic of three important strategies: 1. Small-scale urban projects vs the urban plan. To ensure qualitative change of neighbourhoods the planning directors of the city and particularly Oriole Bohigas were more inclined towards looking at the city as an agglomeration of diverse and specific parts instead of an abstract whole. This was in line with Colin Rowe’s conception of the city as a ‘Collage’ and thus in the 1980s the focus



shifted back onto architecture as crucial to city building. This resulted in the implementation of many intermediate scale projects to ensure the quality of architecture and the public space. The term ‘urban acupuncture’ was coined by Manuel Sola de Morales for this method of revitalizing urban areas by small-scale interventions. 2. Public space as new linking device By the 1970s Barcelona was an overcrowded industrial city with its peripheral areas and waterfront flooding with immigrant settlements

and industries. One of the primary tasks for reconstructing the city was to scoop out built form to create public squares in its historic core and think of new forms of public space and utilities along its derelict periphery and waterfront. The city was thus imagined as a network of public spaces that would actively regenerate the city while improving living conditions of the people. Relocating infrastructure, informal settlements and industries along its waterfront and opening up the city to the Mediterranean Sea became paramount to achieving this intent.

3. Agreement between the public administration and private sector In the social democratic tradition, a model for financing the urban projects that involved both public financing as well as investment from private parties was made possible under the strong leadership of its mayor Pasquall Maragall (1982-1997). This balanced model engaged private players in the city while also ensuring a sustained and inclusive development.

Aerial view showing the topographical characteristics of the city. Image source:




The strategies adopted by the city were recognized internationally for the drastic and bold changes that were brought about to qualitatively uplift the city. The Barcelona model became a standard example for good design practice on the urban scale. In 1991 Barcelona city won the Prince of Wales Award for Urban design. For the first time Harvard University presented this award to a city and not to an individual in recognition of the combined effort of all the actors of the city who made its urban story a success.

RE-APPROPRIATION OF URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE CITY Whereas creation of public space was central to the redevelopment agenda of Barcelona’s 20th century planners what was even more paramount was to also use these spaces to negotiate urban issues related to the city. Other than traditional forms of public space like the street and the square, what has continuously occupied Barcelona’s urban thinkers is the conception of new forms of public space that attempt to appropriate urban infrastructure; making the city more permeable and accessible by all its people.

PEDESTRIAN PROMENADES OF THE CITY The historic evolution of a sewage-filled medieval stream into a pedestrian promenade called ‘Las Ramblas’ might have been the earliest inspiration for a penchant to rethink urban infrastructure. ‘Las Ramblas’, running through the middle of the historic core, separates the Gothic quarter from El Raval; the latter a historically evolved neighbourhood of immigrants. About 30m wide it is structured as a tree lined, wide pedestrian promenade and has become a vibrant urban place with a diverse mix of residential, commercial and recreational activity. The success of this form of public space inspired the creation of more such promenades in other neighbourhoods in the city like La Rambla de Prim and La Rambla de Brazil . The characteristic feature



of these promenades is the placement of a wide pedestrian, tree lined passage at the centre with narrower vehicular roads and sidewalks on either sides. In particular, La Rambla Brasil is worth studying for the successful appropriation of the Ronda del Mig – the inner ring road – that now runs beneath it.

WATERFRONT DEVELOPMENT By the end of the 19th century, the then industrial city of Barcelona had lost contact with its waterfront. With shanty settlements of immigrants flooding to the city for employment, railway and heavy industries proliferated along its coastline increasingly distancing the city and its people from the sea. In the early 1980s the city of Barcelona saw the opportunity to host the 1992 Olympics and subsequently Forum 2004 as a way to improve the liveability of the city and its neighbourhoods and to develop its waterfront as a continuous public space making it more accessible to its people. One of the main things to be re-solved on the waterfront was the existing rail and road infrastructure. The way forward adopted was to appropriate urban infrastructure and make them into public spaces that worked well on all scales instead of ending up as non-places. Starting in the 1980s, a series of projects and interventions along the coast were implemented that fit into the larger vision for the city. Moll de la fusta by Manuel sola de morales, as the earliest, was the most important in terms of setting precedents for the ones to follow. The Moll de la Fusta (dock of wood) in Barcelona’s Port Vell is symbolic of small-scale urban interventions that aim to impact and generate change beyond their immediate scope. The project essentially segregates pedestrian movement from vehicular movement. It included the creation of a large open public space towards the waterfront and parking space.

Before and after intervention. Aerial views of La Rambla de Brasil completed in 1997 Image source: http://www.

Before and after intervention. Views of La Via Julia completed in 1992 Image source: en/works/z019-urbanitzacio-de-la-via-julia




Barcelona has always been more a city of capital and labour than of nobility and commoners; its democratic roots are old and run very deep. Its medieval charter of citizens’ rights, the Usatges, grew from a nucleus, which antedated the Magna Carta by more than a hundred years.



View of raised gardens above railway lines. Project by Sergi Godia and Ana Molino architects. Completed in 2016. Image courtesy: Sergi Godia + Ana Molino architects; Photography : AdriĂ Goula ; Source:




Section of Passeig de Colom and Moll de La Fusta. Intervention by Manuel Sola de Morales completed in 1982 Image source:

Connections and public green above the sunken ring road. Aerial Views of the Ronda de Dalt Image source: http://www.

Master plan to integrate the Ronda de dalt with its surrounding neighbourhoods Image source: http://



BARCELONA’S RING ROADS As a strategy to instigate modernization and development of the peripheries, facilities for the 1992 Olympics were concentrated and planned in the four corners of the city. To be able to connect these ‘new centralities’, to decongest the city and to connect Barcelona better with its larger metropolitan area, a 1960s proposal for an outer ring road was revived. This outer ring road constituting the Ronda del Dalt (Upper Ring Road) and the Ronda del Litoral (Seaside Ring Road), is exemplary in its usage of the section as an important tool for creating complex and varying experiences generated by pedestrian or vehicular movement. Beyond just mere planning for mobility it has been worked out in conjunction with land use, urban form and topography thus becoming less obtrusive in the larger fabric of the city.

IN CONCLUSION Mirroring its 20th century struggle for democracy, Barcelona’s vibrant urbanism as we know it today, is a result of keeping the citizen experience at the very core of the city’s economic and urban development. Other than making mobility across the city efficient, the city planners have strived to make the pedestrian central to a sustainable road network. Hence in the reconstruction of the city starting in the 1980s urban infrastructure and road projects in post-industrial Barcelona have been conceived as public spaces that work well on all scales instead of ending up as non-places. Reflecting on Barcelona’s redevelopment efforts Manuel Sola de Morales in his 1992 paper on public spaces /collectives- paces wrote about how in most European countries, the distinction between public and private since the end of the 19th century has led to ‘rigid fossilization of the concept of public space’. He delves into how decisions for locating public spaces, in cities like Barcelona, have been mostly based on availability of public land without due consideration to its relationship with the private sector; what he advocates, and what Barcelona demonstrates, is ‘urbanizing the private’ and ‘absorbing it into the public sphere’.

About the Author Sneha Parthasarathy is Principal Architect and Co-Founder at deccan amalgam, a research oriented urbanism and architecture studio based in Hyderabad. After graduating in 2008 with a bachelors degree in Architecture she worked for 6 years with renowned studios at the forefront of critical design thinking and practise. She has extensively travelled and worked in various parts of the country and more recently spent a year in Barcelona while pursuing a Masters degree in Architecture from ETSAB (Escola Tecnica Superior D’Architecture de Barcelona).




EMBATTLED CITIES A Better Life, A Better future; Make some room

by Yashdeep Srivastava



Fremantle Heritage - Gentrification. Image credit: Author




Cities are a contested ground. The lights of the city and the promise of a better economic future draws people from vast hinterlands of limited opportunity. Once in the city, large numbers of migrants are thrown together tightly into shared spaces that are merely a fraction of the area that held a similar population in their villages or in the smaller country towns from where they arrived. The fate of the city, as the battleground for ideas, for the struggle for social justice, knowledge and access to resources, was sealed almost from the time of its formation. Our cities are shaped by and reflect these struggles. In the past, this phenomenon may have occurred relatively independently, but in a highly interconnected world, events in one part of the world impact life in others (a butterfly effect, if you will). So, for the first time, I see this phenomenon occurring both vertically in time (historically) as well as horizontally in space (geographically). From afar and on the surface, the city may appear to be a deceptively calm egalitarian pond in comparison with the turbulent white water that is the feudal village or caste-ridden town from where the potential migrant casts his or her gaze towards the metropolis. It offers, seemingly to some, equal opportunities for all. Nearly a century back, impoverished European immigrants to America must have felt a sense of relief as they boarded ships to take them across the Atlantic or to the antipodes leaving behind war ravaged cities or oppressive societies. They were holding on to a precious sliver of hope of a new life free

Domestic life in Guangzhou. Image credit: Author



from the bondage of rigid European class barriers and economic stagnation and social mobility, a better future and unfettered opportunities that they could not dream of in their homelands. Whether it is transnational or internal migration, the promised land of opportunity very quickly becomes the land of competition between entrenched privilege of the city’s own power structures against the new arrivals who want to partake in the economic feeding frenzy of the city too. Today, this battle for a piece of the pie continues in the form of border policing against illegal immigration and refugee influx. On a smaller scale, the city becomes the space where social tectonic plates collide untethered from older power structures, seeking to redress the imbalance of power, social justice and access to economic resources and equal opportunities. It was perhaps just this phenomenon that prompted the Indian architect, Charles Correa to describe Mumbai as ‘Great city, terrible place’. However, I believe this is not an entirely accurate description of Mumbai or other cities in the developing

or developed world. If you ask a homeless person in Melbourne if he would describe Melbourne as a ‘great city, terrible place’ it is very likely that s/he may describe it as a ‘terrible city terrible place’. Embedded in Correa’s pithy descriptor is the assumption that cities that offer improved economic and livelihood opportunities that make them great for all. What is not made explicit in this statement is that those opportunities often cannot be leveraged by all, even if popular discourse suggests they can. In the end, only a few escape the pond they were born into, and the rest battle for a piece of the promised urban sunshine of a better life with others who have already found their place under that sun. Those that don’t make it to the higher reaches of the city’s solar canopy of success or legitimacy, continue to inhabit the undergrowth of marginal urban space hoping to wage a battle again for that ‘legitimate’ claim to the ‘egalitarian’ city. Those who do succeed, try to maintain their foothold of advantage, often to the detriment and exclusion of the brethren they left behind.

Street scene in Guangzhou. Image credit: Author




...this battle is waged every day and how new battle fields are conjured and old battle grounds re-territorialised in this ongoing struggle for the control of space...

Through this essay, I hope to show by way of examples, how this battle is waged every day and how new battle fields are conjured and old battle grounds re-territorialised in this ongoing struggle for the control of space between multiple groups of urban stakeholders with varying levels of power and resources. I hope to show that the fate of the city has always been the disputed space of ideas and aspirations across time - aspirations and ideas that are ever changing and ever fragmenting in a world that gets smaller through its cybernetic networks. As the geographer Edward Soja has said, the globalisation of capital and labour, the post-fordist economy of flexible capital accumulation, and the information and communications technology revolution are all transforming the shape of our cities and how we occupy them. The power to change begins to reside in preferred nodes dispersed across space rather than in dematerialised poles, transcending ideological positions and national boundaries and creating a seemingly more even urban play field across the planet. Some places benefit from the flows of global capital and some languish, forgotten by the politics and nature of this capital. This phenomenon plays itself out differently in different parts of the world (within the same city too) and is shaped by the context within which it occurs. In my mind, there are some common threads that tie the world together, more now than ever before, that aid and abet this contest. Through this lens, I hope readers will find other examples around themselves that are a spatial or symbolic representation of this struggle - one that reflects how the privileged classes wish to occupy the city (individuals on park benches staring into space) and others that shows how the underprivileged adapt to occupy and claim the city (groups of people on red plastic chairs playing chess or cards in a public park). One seeks control and order the other overthrows that imposition super-scribing it



with the messiness of the community life that spills out on to the street and into the public domains of the city. Still others wander around with a house on wheels - at home anywhere - having missed out on the benefits of globalisation, existing amongst others who carry bags full of consumer goods from international chain stores. There are still others who illegally occupy under utilised urban land that has not been developed because it is cost prohibitive to do so or is surplus to the owners needs developing informal economies and settlements. The favelas clinging to the steep slopes of Rio and cultivated strip vegetable gardens along Mumbai’s railway corridors are examples of this attempt by the underclass to find a precarious physical and an economic toehold in the city, by catering to demands of the rich and powerful who legally and formally occupy the remainder of the city. Every so often the legitimacy for the underclass to exist, to create their informal physical environments, is challenged by the elites, claiming that these informal settlements pose a threat to their lifestyles. They claim that these communities are a hotbed of crime that is devouring the city’s youth. They assert through local government agencies that the very existence of slums is a blight that denudes their rightful claim to the image of a global city and impedes that elusive mercury-like flow of global capital through their cities and neighbourhoods. The process of gentrification of Harlem and Dharavi are attempts by the elite to reclaim that lost ground. Or as Amrita Shah in her book on Ahmedabad has observed, land grab in cities can be disguised in many forms including containment of communal strife through gentrification, conservation, beautification and even national development as the poor Oriya farmers who tilled a possible missile testing range in Orissa discovered one morning. It is attitudes like this that

resulted in the controversial ‘anti-homeless spikes’ to be installed in a London housing project to physically deter the homeless from occupying under utilised and nondescript sheltered spots on the development. On a recent trip to the Chinese city of Guangzhou, I was struck by its fish-bowl characteristics. The city appeared to be unhinged from its rural surroundings. As the plane took off and I peered through the

plane window, I struggled to reconcile the stark line separating the rolling Chinese countryside and its rural hamlets from the seemingly self- contained ‘21st century city’ fast receding in my window frame. It showed none of the signs of urban evolution that we witness in Indian cities, from village to hamlet to the encroachment of the city at the fringes, the semiformed expression of a will to become the city. But on reflection, even in the cold, efficient and orderly

Dining on the street in KL Image credit: Author

Sidewalk cafe in Melbourne Image credit: Author

Public activity in Guangzhou Image credit: Author

Formal public space in Guangzhou Image credit: Author




city that I was leaving behind, I saw glimpses of that Chinese country life not in concrete forms, but in the appropriation and adaptation of that life left behind and its practices to fill the physically indeterminate crevices of the city overlooked by the city’s administrators. Hawkers occupied the streets, and small eateries spilt onto the footpath near the railway station selling comfort food to workers waiting to board trains back to their villages. You simultaneously see the conflated forces of capital and the heavy hand of the state’s efforts to force the ‘wild’ and rural migrant workers back into the orderly conformity of the city, to present a ‘modern’ and ordered face to the discerning investor from Europe or America, seeking to channel foreign investment to one competing city rather than the other. This happens in China but it also happens in several other cities around the world. It is not limited to developing world. I present in the following section a few examples and vignettes of this phenomena in all its diversity. Yet, deeper down, there is a more fundamental and universal struggle that links all these examples to contemporary urbanity.

URBAN VIGNETTES In Mumbai, a man brings his cow around to your door and for a few rupees you can feed a handful of fresh grass and receive its divine blessing in return. In Chandigarh, a barber sets up a shop against a perfectly straight and pristine Corbusian white wall with no more than a mirror and a discarded battery. In Melbourne’s laneways, graffiti artists reclaim the very walls that were cleaned only the day before and a skateboarder invents a new trick that uses the rails that were installed to deter him in Federation Square. In Singapore, Philippine housemaids gather in their favourite quiet corners of public parks for a smoke and a chat. At the same time, in London, steel spikes are inserted into the ground under a porte cochere to prevent the homeless from sleeping there at night. In Guangzhou and Mumbai, the gates clang shut at night insulating their picture-perfect Truman Show-esque utopian communities from the wild dystopia that they imagine lies beyond their electrified fence. In Kolkata, the



police and Municipal Corporation are dismantling the makeshift haat and the vegetable seller returns dejectedly to his village. In Mumbai, a design competition is organised with the aim of formalising Dharavi into a well-meaning utopian oasis of mixed development, making it more visually palatable for our middle classes. In Melbourne, graffiti artists are being invited to decorate its laneways and lights are being installed to light them up at night. In Singapore’s Tiong Bahru, old Chinese shop houses are being converted into trendy cafés and older residents are moving away. In Ahmedabad, poor Muslim families from older informal settlements are being displaced to far-flung edges of the city. In Fremantle a new skate park as part of a youth centre is opened with the blessings of the local government. It provides a place for young skaters to go to so others can have a quiet Shiraz on the mall. In Dubai, south Asian construction workers are picked up in buses and herded off to settlements deep in the desert after a hard day of work, away from the disparaging eyes of the expats from Jumeirah. The World Slum Federation convenes a meeting in Dharavi, participants from South America, Africa and SE Asia discuss the resistance that they face and ways to fight for amenities that other citizens take for granted. And so, the contest continues, the city becomes the setting as well as the resource within which and for which these pitched battles are fought, to shape it into a palatable environment that benefits all, socially, economically and for overall well-being.

CONCLUSION I have presented in the previous section snapshots and images that show the world’s cities to be seemingly diverse and different. The diversity conceals the forces of globalisation that make that diversity only symptomatic of a deeper universal force that place and culture can no longer resist. The common thread that links events and life in cities around the world is the contest between those with power and those without, to claim and occupy the city both physically and symbolically, to bring about lasting change in the way we dwell in them.

The fundamental idea presented in this essay through the above illustrations is neither new nor original. The idea of cities as the ground for ideological contest has been written about by many scholars but mainly by urbanists from the left spectrum of politics. These critiques place neo-liberal urban administrative policies in their crosshairs that seem to privilege elites over the less advantaged. These policies, whilst ostensibly pandering to elite notions of what makes a good city, are often justified by city administrators as a necessity for improving everybody’s lives. In many people’s experience, the needs and living practices of the disadvantaged are subordinated to those of the elites. Saskia Sassen has suggested in her writings that globalisation has led to a readjustment of traditional power structures that transcend national boundaries. It has raised the power stakes for global cities at the cost of the nation state whilst simultaneously changing the way we work and who does what. Global cities, for her, become the sites that attract low paid immigrant workers from impoverished parts of the world to do jobs that the original residents no longer wish to do. They find informal means both to live and eke a living within the interstices of the formal economy and the city that embodies and represents the orderliness of a post-manufacturing economy. As I have tried to illustrate through the examples above, disadvantaged sections of society, such as

immigrant workers and low-paid women, utilise tactics to occupy planned and designed space thus resisting the elitist neo-liberal impulse to order and exclude. The examples I have presented above, are resistance movements and small acts of defiance staking a claim to a city that seeks to scarcely acknowledge their presence and necessity to support contemporary urban lifestyles. This has a direct impact on the form of our cities and architects and designers would do well to embrace this social tension to make our cities more vibrant and inclusive. The neo-liberal impulse to conserve, gentrify and beautify makes these activities ring hollow. On the one hand, they aim to condense a sense of place by celebrating the structures that were made possible by an older socio economic order whilst simultaneously jettisoning the people who have made/continue to make it possible. In conclusion, I write about a much bigger phenomenon than cities in themselves and the examples I provide are at once local and global. I critique globalisation and ubiquitous neo-liberal economic policy and how citizens find themselves on one side or the other - riding the wave or being crushed by it. I talk of people who do not passively accept their fate and I appeal to city administrators and urban professionals to celebrate and plan for the wide array of people and their lifestyles who make up the city.

About the Author Yashdeep Srivastava is an architect. He currently works with an NGO in Alice Springs Australia designing and delivering infrastructure projects for remote Aboriginal communities. He has practiced architecture in India and Australia and maintains a keen interest in the social, political and environmental aspects of cities and their impact on the built environment of both the developing and the developed world.





Sustainable transportation objectives shall be truly met when seamless end-to-end connectivity is achieved on public transport modes.

by Anuj Malhotra



For every person who commutes daily to and from their home to work, college or school, the need for public transport starts from the point of origin of each journey. Since it is not feasible to take the bus to every point of origin, the de facto option to reach the nearest transit stop is either by cycle or by foot. A preliminary survey conducted by Centre for Green Mobility (CGM), an Ahmedabad based non-profit organization, shows that people spend equal or more money to get to the nearest bus stop in comparison to the bus ride to their destination; even if the bus rides are longer in distance than the ride to the bus stop itself. This invariably makes the overall expenditure per trip considerably high and eventually dissuades people from using public transport. More importantly, it seriously affects the economically weaker segments that rely almost entirely on public transport for their daily commutes. The survey conducted in Ahmedabad reveals that 62% people reach the bus station by walk and 32% people take an auto-rickshaw to do so. On an average, a bus user spends about Rs.800 per month on transit and this goes up to Rs.1500 if using the BRTS. Whereas a person on a motorbike would incur an expense of Rs.900 every month to cover the same distance! Basically, the motorbike becomes a very convenient end-to-end transport option and those who do not yet own a motorbike feel the need to do so as soon as they are able to afford one. Therefore, to increase public transport ridership, it is not only essential to provide safe, comfortable and reliable transit options, but also to sort out last mile connectivity issues.

CYCLES CAN PROVE VERY USEFUL AS A SOLUTION Many cities across the world have accepted cycling as a viable, clean, lowcost and environment friendly option for providing last mile connectivity to public transit. With Indian cities being predominantly mixed-use in layout, the possibilities of short trips become manifold. In Ahmedabad, for example, about 70% of all trips are in the range of 1 to 3 kilometres - a distance that can be very easily covered on cycle by an average person. Apart from this, cycling has health benefits attached with it too. Cycling increases the body metabolism and reduces the risk of heart disease. It is also helpful to build body muscle and get rid of undesirable body flab.

Facing page- Cyclists in India negotiate with polluting traffic all the time. Image credit: Author




Individual emissions in developed countries versus under developed countries. Image Source: World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change; Published by World Bank; November 2009

During traffic rush hour, cycling can sometimes be the fastest mode of transit. Typically, rush hour traffic speeds in most cities is around 15kmph. In contrast, it is possible to clock speeds up to 25kmph on a cycle. In many cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, cycling has emerged to be the largest mode share with nearly 50% people commuting by cycle daily to work and back. Even in rough weather, such as snow, cycles still prove to be the fastest mode over other modes. Preliminary results of the survey in Ahmedabad too revealed that most people love to cycle and less than 3% people felt that cycling was unbecoming to their social status. Most respondents also said that lack of infrastructure is a key deterrent to getting on a cycle. Nearly 70% of the survey respondents do not cycle for lack of shade on the streets and lack of quality cycling infrastructure such as dedicated cycle tracks and cycle parking facilities.



Lately, due to an enormous increase in the volume of motorized vehicles (more than 200% in last two decades), dedicated infrastructure for cycles is crucial to promote safe cycling and attract more and more people to get on a cycle. Safety is fundamental to all transportation planning and protected cycle tracks ensure safety of cyclists. In 2009, Ahmedabad city constructed cycle tracks along the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) corridor but has had very limited success in attracting cyclists owing to the lack of a ‘network approach’. A single, lone cycle track is as good as having one road in the entire city for commute. Just as a single road will fail to provide for the city’s transportation needs, similarly a single cycle track is bound to fail for lack of proper connectivity with more such corridors. Currently, the cycle track along the BRTS corridor is being used for hawking, occasional parking and sometimes as a walkway.

Lack of any infrastructure for cyclists on Indian roads. Image credit: Author

Ahmedabad has cycle tracks along the BRT corridor that lack attention to design detail leading to its disuse. Image credit: Author




are total number of people living in most European cities and yet, cycling is not given its due diligence as an important component of public transport.

Learning from the Ahmedabad case would mean that every road in the city should have either a dedicated cycle track or should be designed for speeds less than 25kmph. Just as cars require a good road everywhere, a cyclist requires a safe cycling environment everywhere in the city.

While Indian cities continue to spend on creating more road space through road widening and elevated roadway projects, cycling is yet to gain priority in mobility plans. In Ahmedabad, most slums are located on the eastern side of the Sabarmati river in proximity to industries where most of the slum dwellers are employed. About 85% of slum households own cycles and an equal number of them use them for daily commute to work. It is mere good sense to address the transit requirements of lower income groups by providing safe cycling infrastructure. Effectively, the average cost of a road widening or elevated roadway project is sufficient to build 100 kilometres of cycle tracks in Ahmedabad and therefore provide a safe mobility option for close to 12-15% of the city’s total population.

Ahmedabad’s cycling population has seen a steady decline in the last three decades. The mode share of cycles has decreased from 24% to almost 16% and is further declining. Despite what the numbers say, 16% mode share accounts for about 950,000 people using cycles daily and the city of Ahmedabad has a meagre 12 kilometres of cycle tracks to cater to them. In comparison, the city of Copenhagen has more than 400 kilometres of dedicated cycle tracks for the entire city’s population of 550,000. Moreover, Ahmedabad registers 250 deaths every year of which about 40% fatalities are cyclists. There are more number of people cycling in Ahmedabad even today than there

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Simon Parker’s London Cycling Map illustrated by cartographer Martin Lubikowski. Source: London Cycle Map Campaign; URL; Accessed on 26 June 2017



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Just as a single road will fail to provide for the city’s transportation needs, similarly a single cycle track is bound to fail for lack of proper connectivity with more such corridors.

Boom in Cycling in US and Canadian Cities. Image source: Pucher, J and Buehler, R; City Cycling; MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. 2012.



MOBILITY AND THE CITY 10 POINTS TO IMPROVE CYCLING IN CITIES While cities across the world are increasingly being redesigned to accommodate walking and cycling along with quality public spaces, Indian cities are losing most of their public realms to the automobile. And cycling needs a lot more attention than it currently gets. Listed here is a 10-point agenda to address this lacuna-

1. Dedicate street space for cyclists’ movement. 2. Provide cycle parking on the street and in off street parking lots. Make special cycle parking lots near transit stops. 3. Protect cycle lanes from motorized traffic by levying strict fines. 4. Provide a network of cycle tracks and cycle friendly streets. 5. Notify narrow roads as cycle-only and pedestrian-only paths. 6. Set up public outreach programs with schools, colleges, resident welfare associations, cycling groups, media and citizen groups for cycling awareness and safety for cyclists. Improve status of cycling in public perception by inducting brand ambassadors and involve elected representatives to make them see the benefits. 7. Make cycle sharing available at all transit points and popular destinations. Cover all important destinations and origin points through innovative partnerships to increase coverage. 8. Invest in creating a database and disseminate information on cycling volumes in the city. Start a website where people can write, blog or report grievances. Popularize the website through traditional and social media platforms. 9. Make short connections possible by transforming unused spaces into cycle friendly streets, upgrade natural drains to have cycling trails. 10. Design intersections to give cycling a priority.

Many interventions can be taken up at various scales with the support of interested stakeholders. Local government interest can encourage a lot of independent voluntary groups to take up cycling outreach activities without government having to spend additionally on it. One such initiative at CGM involved supporting the local government to improve cycling in Diu with impressive results. Cycle trips have tripled in the last 2 years and the town is proud to showcase its investment in cycling infrastructure for both locals and tourists alike. As someone rightly said – ‘If you build it, they will come’.



Cycling infrastructure in Diu along the coastline. Image credit: Author

About the Author Anuj Malhotra has over 15 years of technical experience in sustainable design ranging from alternative construction techniques, landscape and sustainable transportation. He currently leads Centre for Green Mobility, a non-profit organization that advocates safe walking and cycling in various cities including New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Jaipur, Bhopal & Union Territory of Daman & Diu. In addition, he is a Board Member of CDD Society in Bangalore, a member of the expert group at the Indian Road Congress for the Urban Road Code, an expert contributor to the Global Street Design Guidelines initiated by US-based NACTO and advisor to the Traffic Cell of Ahmedabad Traffic Police.







CHANCE MEETINGS AND SEIZED OPPORTUNITIES There are opportunities that deserve to be seized while others present themselves without having asked for them, and yet forever change the course of your life. This just about sums up the whole Pondy Cycle Tour adventure - a story of propitious encounters between humans from diverse backgrounds in a fascinating city, and the multitude of possibilities that this presents. In 2011, two young French people explore India from north to south and fall in love with the country. They love its madness and unrestrained dynamism, its inhabitants, colours, sounds, cuisine, and above all its creativity. It turns out that these two, strangers to each other, meet by chance in May of that same year in Kerala, and are since inseparable. They share the same desires: to travel, discover, and create together. After a few months back in France, India beckons again with an opportunity to move to Pondicherry, that wonderful city on the Coromandel Coast. As soon as they arrive, the city wins them over with its whirlwind of colours and postcard-ready images: small historical streets protected by the benevolent shade of bougainvillea, men in their cotton lungis and women in their colourful saris cycling along on sturdy Indian bicycles with authentic machinery. Pondicherry’s humanly proportioned urban layout makes it easily navigable by bicycle. Indeed, just a decade ago, Pondicherry saw few motorcycles or cars circulating its streets. Today though, the cliché of bicycles leaning against typical orange-yellow walls prevails, as it becomes increasingly difficult to ride them safely through rapidly densifying motorized urban traffic, just as in the rest of India’s cities. It is with this last image etched on their minds that the ‘My Vintage Bicyclette’ project is born - partnering with local mechanics and artisans to revive old Indian bicycles that have fallen into disrepair and disuse and put them to use, aiming to reclaim space for the bicyclist back at the heart of daily life in the city. A range of personalized bicycles and accessories is created in a variety of colours, with vintage saddles and handles in leather or rickshaw-style rexine, and hand-painted bells featuring Indian Pop Art design motifs. The duo, well aware of the challenges of sustainable tourism in the territory of Pondicherry, questions how to leverage environment and culture, and provide stronger inclusion of local actors in this domain. At this time, another important meeting takes place, with Fleur Soumer, manager of the Franco-Indian SITA Cultural Centre. Open in Pondicherry since 2011, SITA aims at promoting South Indian culture to visitors through numerous courses and workshops and establish itself as a cultural and recreational centre for the residents of Pondicherry. It welcomes as many tourists as locals making it a unique city space. Everyday, travellers from all over the world learn the secrets Facing page- The ubiquitous Indian bicycle transformed into a of biriyani or the conception of idlis, while young Pondicherrians join their afterfunctional design object. school ballet course.




Quite obviously, the ‘My Vintage Bicyclette’ team turns towards SITA. This group of friends already knit together by a common passion for their city of adoption, conceive ‘Pondy Cycle Tour’ as a collaborative activity that could go beyond the walls of the SITA centre and evolve ‘My Vintage Bicyclette’ towards a project that is more anchored to the city. A fleet of eight second-hand bicycles is brought back to life, transformed into design objects impossible to miss on the streets of Pondicherry, along with ‘Wake Up Pondy’, a 2-hour tour that highlights what makes this city so unique. After another decisive encounter, Manisha Ray joins the team as an extraordinary guide. Manisha who has lived in Pondicherry since she was twelve, and speaks fluently in six languages, successfully transcribes our state of mind while infusing the tour with personal anecdotes about her city and its history. Together with Gopinath Ram, a talented local photographer, we create a specialized workshop tour on street photography techniques.

WAKE UP PONDY The Wake Up Pondy Tour is a 2-hour bicycle ride that begins at 7am, allowing a discovery of the city through an early morning perspective. In the fresh morning air, we cycle noiselessly through deserted streets, enjoying the opportunity to reclaim public space. We meet residents emerging from their homes to start a new day, and talk about the cultural richness that strengthens the city. Participants from all corners of the world and India meet each other and exchange questions and ideas with Manisha. The itinerary makes it possible to embrace many subjects – history, religion, culture, and environment. The seamless cohabitation of a multi-religious, multicultural population is illustrated by among others, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the second largest basilica in South India after Santa Cruz in Kochi, pilgrim stops on the way to Velankanni, and the Manakkula Vinayagar Temple, another significant place of pilgrimage. The presence of Sri Aurobindo and the Aurobindo Ashram, creating a city within the city, and Auroville, a township founded in 1968

Art in the City tour for Jane Jacobs Walks 2014. Facing page- A fleet of refurbished bicycles by My Vintage Bicyclette.






on the outskirts of Pondicherry, are two spiritual and ideological curiosities of this part of India, bringing together over 43 nationalities and representatives of many Indian states. Their presence makes it possible to query a certain philosophy of community living. Inevitably, one discusses the historical colonization of Pondicherry by the Dutch, the Portuguese, and more strongly the French, and how this cultural and architectural heritage marks the city’s development in the present. Finally, we discover the neighbourhood of Kuruchikuppam on the outskirts of Pondicherry’s Boulevard Town. Kuruchikuppam, with its largely fishing-dependent population raises issues of sustainable waterfront development vis-à-vis the socio-economic and environmental needs of this

region whose coastline is particularly vulnerable to climate change. All of these many subjects help to apprehend Pondicherry in all its richness and complexity. Cycling is fast enough to cover a wider area of the city than walking; the early hour allowing a safer, and unimpeded course before exponential traffic increase. The Wake Up Pondy Tour tries to partake in the daily life of the city by waking up with it, interacting with local residents, and trying to share with participants, moments of life on this small piece of land bordering the Indian Ocean. We question the place of the tourist within the city: just a simple spectator or a contributor to the positive development of the city? Art in the City tour for Jane Jacobs Walk 2014.



Right- Early morning walk through Pondicherry’s Grand Bazaar. Below- Bicycles become design objects.




The bicycle - a vehicle of choice for local women.

Exploring local street art.



SUSTAINED ENGAGEMENT Pondy Cycle Tour and SITA Cultural Centre actively collaborate with local and international actors in culture and environment. In 2014, for the annual Jane’s Walk held in collaboration with Urban Design Collective and INTACH Pondicherry, we developed the ‘Art in the City’ tour to highlight the lively creativity expressed by local and foreign artists alike on the walls of the city. Discussing street art, stencil techniques, and the vintage art of hand-painted publicity, still present and visible across Pondicherry, opened a conversation with participants about their own vision of the place and value of art in urban environments. For Pondy Photo 2016, the ‘Pondy Water Insights’ tour focussed on the ’water-city’ relationship, and shared insights into Pondicherry’s water related stories and issues – threats to the city’s temple tanks, urban flooding issues, state of the local fishing economy and coastal environment. Alongside these, we continue to develop new projects that allow us to share Pondicherry with a global audience in a way that is sustainable, alternative, friendly, and generous. There are so many ways to apprehend a place, whether it is your hometown or just a travel halt, and we are aiming to explore as many ways as possible. All images courtesy Pondy Cycle Tour.

About the Authors Fiona Guerra and Idriss Madir lived in India for more than 3 years. From cultural and graphic design backgrounds, they combined their competencies and passion for art and travel to create My Vintage Bicyclette and Pondy Cycle Tour in Pondicherry. After experiences in Cambodia and Morocco, they became tourism and marketing experts and are planning their return to India soon! Fleur Soumer is manager of SITA Cultural Centre and co-founder of Pondy Cycle Tour. Settled in Pondicherry for over 8 years, she works everyday to make SITA a dynamic, creative, and welcoming place for locals and tourists alike. Together with Manisha, Lakshmi, Shivakumar, Mani, and Gopinath, they are the team of Pondy Cycle Tour, all year long, promoting our beloved Pondicherry City. To book a tour with them, mail at sitapondicherry@




NEW ORLEANS by Wagdy Moussa



Piazza d’Italia by Charles Moore






Moment/ Man on a Bicycle.




Rhythm/ Red house.



Morning light/ lantern shadow.






New Orleans cityscape.




Reflections and Wisdom.



French Quarter- Horse with a carriage.

About the Photographer At a very young age, Wagdy Moussa discovered a passion for architecture. While Wagdy documented the architecture he encountered during his extensive travels around the world, he also developed an interest in photography as a new medium of communication. It became Wagdy’s mission to spread awareness about the value of great architecture in various cities with friends and family through his photography. During this process of documenting travel, Wagdy found ways to translate some of the visual language that is so evident in architectural masterpieces to other disciplines, like his photography. Wagdy Moussa was born in Cairo, Egypt, and is currently a practicing urban designer with Goody Clancy—a Boston-based firm with a national practice in the disciplines of architecture, planning, and preservation. Some of his work and collaborations have been exhibited at the MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the New Museum in New York City. Wagdy has been a visiting critic at New York Institute of Technology, Columbia University, and the Harvard Graduate School of Design.





100 CITY OBSERVER | June 2017

The Pihlajamäki silhouette that is unique among Helsinki suburbs. Image courtesy: Ella Alin, former resident.

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ON LOCATION Pihlajamäki in suburban Helsinki is a landmark in 20th century post-war Finnish urban planning and design. The first modern suburb in the capital city area to receive protection with a town plan (Markkanen and Tirri 2011), ‘Pihlis’, as it is fondly referred to by locals, is easily recognizable from the shiny white towers perched on the rocky Nordic landscape, punctuating a liberal dose of woodland – a pattern characteristic of many suburbs in Northern Europe. It is easy to dismiss the area as yet another example of modernism’s failed attempt to deliver a good life, which often involved stacking inhabitants in towers set in vast green areas, with scant regard for the human scale. However, a closer inspection of the neighbourhood, 50 years after completion, supported by insights into everyday lived experience from residents, reveals clues that could come in handy to the contemporary urban designer interested in (re)designing urban environments to meet the needs of the 21st century. These hints, gleaned from a specific suburb in a sparsely populated European country, appear to be surprisingly relevant not just to the Nordic context, but elsewhere in the world as well. Delving into Pihlajamäki’s past and present reinforces the idea that as inhabitants faced with life in an increasingly diverse, resource scarce and urban world, we are united in our expectations from the different cities we call home.

INNOVATION IN (SUB)URBAN DESIGN Pihlajamäki (loosely translated as ‘the hill with the mountain ash trees’), first built between 1959 and 1965, was conceived to reflect emerging trends in architecture and urban planning, and is remembered as the first Helsinki neighbourhood to be built completely from prefabricated methods (Saarikangas 2011). The plan, prepared by architect Olli Kivinen at the Town Planning Department of the City of Helsinki, was realized through residential buildings designed by architects Esko Korhonen, Sulo Savolainen and Lauri Silvennoinen. The design is dominated by a series of long linear buildings, punctuated by the tower blocks which are local landmarks to this day. Streets named after different kinds of stones snake through the hilly terrain to connect the housing blocks, with the pedestrian paths segregated from automobile roads in most cases. As is characteristic of other suburbs built at the time, a modest shopping centre and schools for the inhabitants are included in the plan. Functional separation is near complete, with housing units at street level as well, and common facilities like the sauna that is ubiquitous in Finnish everyday life relegated to the basement floor. As described by residents in interviews for a book about Pihlajamäki by Markkanen and Tirri (2011), the main attraction for young families that first moved to Pihlajamäki was the closeness to untouched nature that it provided, with the industrially produced concrete buildings only a stone’s throw away from rocky cliffs and wooded lands. The spaces between the large building blocks provided safe play areas for their children, and basic necessities could be found within the neighbourhood. This safe and comfortable lifestyle promised by Pihlajamäki was in stark contrast to the poorly equipped and space-scarce city centre dwellings of the time.

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Facing Page - Pihlajamäki tower blocks, Helsinki. Image courtesy Ella Alin, former resident

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Facing page topA new suburb begins to take shape in 1963 – construction cranes and prefabricated techniques were used in Finland for the first time. Image courtesy: Foto Roos, Helsinki City Museum Facing page bottomThe urban fabric of Pihlajamäki has remained nearly unchanged since the 60’s, with the towers and linear blocks dominating the undulating landscape. Image courtesy Ella Alin, former resident BelowThe untouched and rocky nature is in stark contrast to the clean, modernist lines of the housing blocks. Image courtesy Ella Alin, former resident

Much has changed since the optimism of the 60’s when the first residents of Pihlajamäki moved in. The neighbourhood, not unlike other areas built during the period, has been accused of being a dormitory suburb, with little to offer residents in the way of urban activities. While smaller children and adults were happy with what they could find in the immediate neighbourhood, other age groups found the area dull and boring. The prevalence of this feeling even today is obvious from discussions with two residents in their 20’s, who feel other neighbourhoods offer possibilities more suited to their lifestyles. This view is in stark contrast to that of inhabitants who have lived in Pihlajamäki since the beginning, who still wax eloquent about how it was a wonderful place to raise their children. A major reason for Pihlajamäki not being as popular today is its perceived distance from the more vibrant parts of the city. A purely bus based transport connection in a city that boasts of commuter trains, metro and tram networks, and an absence of neighbourhood services beyond the local kiosk, hairdresser and grocery store, can be considered issues that are outside the realm of urban design. However, a feeling that features at odds with the ideal of an active public sphere have been unconsciously built into the neighbourhood’s design is hard to ignore. While Pihlajamäki is not a suburb with many independent single family homes that might suggest car dependency, the fact that towers and linear blocks, lacking an active street façade, dominate the urban fabric here makes it less attractive for residents to spend time outside. The hilly terrain already poses hindrances to walking and bicycling, which long, continuous blocks without breaks only compound.

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The local shopping centre while the neighbourhood was still being built in 1960. Image courtesy : Helsinki City Museum

The local shopping centre, that responds to the unfriendly Finnish weather, continues to be amongst the few places where residents can meet and interact outside their homes. Image courtesy Ella Alin, former resident

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The lived experience in Pihlajamäki today also seems to vary based on the gender of the user. During discussions with two women residents, the fear they felt when walking alone in the neighbourhood, with the network of narrow pedestrian paths through wooded and rocky areas not serving as a safe setting for non-motorized movement, became apparent. How this is affected by the design of the area, and whether this is a widespread issue that needs attention from designers and planners, would require further surveys and mapping, such as the one by the City of Helsinki that attempted to capture residents’ feelings about their neighbourhood in a graphical form (City of Helsinki 2010). Despite the criticism of the monotony of typical Finnish suburban life, Pihlajamäki continues to hold its charm for some Helsinki residents. Many of the

original inhabitants cannot imagine living anywhere else, notwithstanding the changes the capital has seen since the 60’s, and the wider variety of housing options on offer today. Other young families have recently moved in, enamoured by the reasonable prices, efficient floor plans, and proximity to nature. An active local community, visible in the number of events organized at the church, youth centre and ‘suburb’ centre supported by the city authorities, makes new residents, including those who have recently moved to Finland, feel welcome and included. Pihlajamäki is thus an apt example of how local communities can come together to improve their neighbourhoods, in the presence of a receptive urban administration, and professionals who are willing to combine their design and planning skills with an active local community’ s knowledge from daily experiences.

The street level experience is inhibited by the rocky terrain and continuous linear blocks. Image courtesy Ella Alin, former resident

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Despite the criticism of the monotony of typical Finnish suburban life, Pihlajamäki continues to hold its charm for some Helsinki residents.

Pihlajamäki from above in 1970. The relationship between the towers, linear blocks, wide car roads, winding pedestrian paths and the rocky, wooded terrain is visible. Image courtesy Rista Simo SER/ Helsinki City Museum

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LESSONS FOR CITIES OF TOMORROW In a matter of decades, Pihlajamäki has gone from being an area in demand, to one with little interest from those who hadn’t experienced life there personally, and has today morphed into one that is slowly regaining popularity among inhabitants looking for certain qualities in their urban lives. This transformation is proof that a one-size-fitsall approach to urban neighbourhood design is highly problematic. Cities around the world are today expanding by building new areas that follow a template that promises to avoid the modernists’ mistakes. Mid-rise, high density developments, often with street level store fronts and green courtyards, are being replicated en masse, even in areas where local conditions and residents’ lifestyles might render other approaches more suitable. By assuming all inhabitants can be served by a single ‘ideal’ typology, one is inclined to wonder if we are repeating the same mistakes that made suburbs like Pihlajamäki lose popularity not long after they were first built.

The importance of incorporating non-designed space in urban plans becomes obvious on closer study of the processes that have transformed Pihlajamäki through the last few decades. Residents have been able to come together to make small improvements to the area, through initiatives supported by the city authorities, like the recent addition in 2009 of a park catering to both girls and boys (City of Helsinki 2015). Buildings that were added to the area after the initial construction in the 60’s have also attempted to incorporate active street façades, improving the pedestrian experience in parts of the neighbourhood. Such changes would be near impossible in contemporary neighbourhoods, where high land values encourage every square metre to be consciously designed. Other means of accommodating future changes within the urban design might hence be required, as we draw up plans for our expanding cities.

Neighbourhood notice board filled with event announcements for different age groups, confirming the presence of a vibrant local scene not immediately visible to the occasional visitor. Image credit: Author

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The need to put the user at the centre of the design process, and involve them right from the early planning stages, is slowly starting to gain recognition as an important part of the planning process. A built environment such as that in Pihlajamäki, which unintentionally excludes certain user groups to this day, due to issues like connectivity and accessibility mentioned before, would have much to gain from more participation and representation from the end users. While a later inclusion of residents in designing the neighbourhood has improved some aspects of the built environment, one wonders if other shortcomings that plague modern Pihlajamäki could have been avoided altogether with closer user involvement right from the early planning stages. Pihlajamäki, more than five decades after it was first planned, proves that suburban neighbourhoods that are often criticised for their unfriendly built environment, can still evolve into areas with unique qualities and strong community bonds. If one is prepared to look past the contradictory image of Pihlajamäki as an area with high architectural values coupled with a low reputation, the adaptability of the urban fabric and its inhabitants to a changing reality becomes apparent. While the city centre is no longer characterized by cramped apartments with sparse services, suburban life is no more seen as the ideal escape, and young families with children aren’t the only ones looking for affordable housing close to the city centre, Pihlajamäki still manages to serve a wide variety of inhabitants, differing in their ethnic background, income levels and age. It remains up to contemporary urban designers to explore how such resilience and adaptability can be consciously incorporated into the cities of tomorrow that we design today.

REFERENCES 1. City of Helsinki. 2010. 2. “Pihlajamäen, Pihlajiston ja Savelan Kerrokartalla-kysely 2010 - kokonaistulokset - Results of the Pihlajamäki, Pihlajisto and Savela residents survey mapped 2010.” Helsinki: City of Helsinki Building Department. pihlajamaki_pihlajisto_alsu/kyselyn_yhteenveto_ pihlajamakipihlajisto_netti.pdf. ———. 2015. 3. “Pihlajamäen Nuorisopuisto - Youth Park of Pihlajamäki.”Vihreät Sylit. http://www.vihreatsylit. fi/?p=3070. Markkanen, Kristiina, and Lidia Tirri. 2011. 4. Näköalapaikka: kertomuksia Pihlajamäestä = A place with a view; recollections of Pihlajamäki. Helsinki: Helsingin kaupunginmuseo. Saarikangas, Kirsi. 2011. 5. “The Forest Started from the Back Yard’ Places of Memory in Narrated and Lived Suburban Space.” In Näköalapaikka: kertomuksia Pihlajamäestä = A place with a view; recollections of Pihlajamäki, by Kristiina Markkanen and Lidia Tirri, 29–37. Helsinki: Helsingin kaupunginmuseo.

About the Author Arvind Ramachandran is a Helsinki based architect and urban designer, who is captivated by the potential of collaborative processes in city making. He is currently exploring methods to integrate intersectional feminism principles into his design work, which ranges from small scale interventions to large public buildings and urban neighbourhoods. When not building up collectives of young designers concerned with socio-environmental aspects of the built environment, Arvind enjoys rummaging through flea markets, dancing to swing music, discovering neighbourhoods by foot, and preparing elaborate meals – all activities he loves sharing with fellow city nerds.

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HYDE PARK LIBRARY, LONDON Winning Entries Showcase An International Open Ideas Competition hosted by Archasm

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London has been the influence and subject for writers/poets/scientists/ thinkers and intelligentsia, who have in turn nurtured the city into the greatest hub of intellectual revolution. The city is home to great libraries like the British Library, Westminster Reference Library and London Library to name a few. London has had the biggest global influence on the socio-economic and cultural landscape of the world. It has practically absorbed the different times into its intense and heterogeneous landscape through accumulation and juxtaposition. However, with the invention of the internet, libraries are no longer relevant. In this context, the aim of the competition is to erect a ‘Public Library in Hyde park’ to revive interest in this typology of building and to promote reading culture among the general public and visitors. Spread over an area of 325 acres, Hyde Park is one of the largest parks of London and is contiguous with Kensington Gardens, being divided by the Serpentine and the Long Water. Londoners flock here every day to relax, have fun and savour the natural environment. The park is also a major venue for concerts, exhibitions and festivals. Create a new-age library typology that would break away from the formal environment of existing libraries of the world. The library should be a free-standing structure with exemplary urban form that will change the rigid outlook of libraries. The architecture should be inviting and informal to connect with the general public. The library must be spatially fluid and dynamic while being coherent with nature. The aesthetic quality, materiality, volume and form should add vitality, beauty and a sense of identity to the space, paying respect to the context and surrounding environment. The library should be constructed with easy-to-maintain, light and durable materials and must include transparency, light, nature and activity in the overall building concept. Re-program the functional and spatial aspect of the library to make it an exciting and viable prospect for the future. The library should be able to re-invent itself programmatically by introducing new ways and incorporating digital technology into its already existing ways and methods of learning. The participants should incorporate various other media (audio visual, 3D) apart from books and print media to make it a prospect for the future. The spatiality of the library should be re-interpreted from pragmatic interiors to innovative and flexible typology of reading spaces, furniture, interior arrangements etc. The participants should focus on creating an experience for the user in the library space that will stimulate the mind to stay and spend longer periods of time. Create a landmark and a useful public resource for the people and visitors of the park. The competition seeks to create a 21st century ‘library in a park’ paradox that will incorporate the social factor in an anti-social built form like a library. It should further become a useful prototypical public resource and an architectural landmark within the park that would even attract non-readers to visit the place. The library should strive to become a zone in the park where people could gather, share, exchange and spread knowledge on a daily basis, thus promoting imagination and creativity, rationality and intellectual thought process.

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SPECIAL FEATURE FIRST PRIZE Seounghyun Cheon, Jihyeon Min (South Korea)


An inspirational concept, learning outdoors amongst the trees. The 10m high Atrium space has a glass ceiling to let in light, and retains existing trees – which would need pruning if they got close to the roof! Grass is shown on the floor surface, in practice this would be difficult to maintain once trafficked, however the overall feel of the design intent is lightfilled and natural. Adrian Welch Juror, Hyde Park Library

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We came up with an idea of creating Hyde Park’s infinite horizon inside the library. The re-imagined library would allow people to experience a whole new kind of reading environment in the middle of Hyde Park with endless horizontal illusion. It is contradictory that people experience the borderless and infinite scenery in clear boundaries with a physical structure. The site is located between the Serpentine and Rotten Row in the north and the south respectively. Simple box-shaped library building, the perimeters of the site are reflected, was proposed to accommodate an atrium. The building itself will be a frame to make the atrium inside as well as the space to serve other library programs. The atrium, enclosed by mirror walls, will be a canvas for a newly emerged panorama of Hyde Park. The lobby is an in-between space, between Hyde Park and the atrium. In the lobby, with a height of 7 meters, the public programs of the library such as an information centre and retail shops are provided to visitors in an integrated open space. Also, service rooms and facilities located on the basement floor. The four sides of the curved facade with a depth of600mm thin vertical louvres and the long bookshelf corridor make up the building frame itself between the atrium and Hyde Park. The last destination of the library is the atrium which is the main reading room area. Visitors face a vast horizon with trees and bookshelves. Existing trees on the site remained, and the four-sided mirror walls reflect the environment of the site endlessly and reproduce the vast horizontal scenery. The scenery of Hyde Park is replicated, but not the same as the scenes outside of the library. The Atrium, which measures 120 meters in length and 24 meters wide in the centre of the library, surround with 10 meters high mirrors. Supported by 100mm rectangular white painted steel, the glass ceiling accepts the skylight inside and enables indoor activities. Public activities and the reading room will occupy the atrium beneath the glass ceiling. The main goal of this project is creating an illusion that produces an infinite, non-physical landscape made by finite and physical materials. The library itself becomes the frame and the connection between Hyde Park and hidden landscape. The boundaries of the building exist but the appeared phenomenon is boundless. In a virtual imaginary landscape space, people explore the world of knowledge without limit. An illusionary library-scape, hidden in Hyde Park, will be a new landmark in London

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The proposal appears at first to be a conventional architectural response to the brief and its parkland setting. However, within its orthodox exterior, the building creates a ‘hidden world’; a new park with an apparently infinite horizon and endless bookshelves. Like the experience generated reading a novel, a new “boundless” world is unveiled by the imagination that is not limited by physical size or location. Terry Pawson Juror, Hyde Park Library

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“Libreairy” project presents a library for a modern reader who lives in a big city. What is more, the aspect of the park, where the building was appointed, was also very important for me. Hyde Park is a royal park in the centre of London and it functions as the green resting area on the contrary to the strongly urbanised city. Placing a building in such surroundings seemed to be inappropriate and against the idea of this area. I started to think how architecture can make this place more lively and how to allow its users to get closer to nature. The first thing that comes to mind when one does not wish to interfere with the surroundings is to locate the whole facility underground. However,I wanted the library to be a bright, inviting place, full of sunlight, so I rejected this idea. Besides, who goes to park to sit hidden from the world? But still, there are some parts of the library that don’t need to be lit by sun. Meanwhile I was thinking about the pleasure of just sitting on the park bench, surrounded by nature and losing yourself in the book. One of the biggest sources of inspiration was the picture of the benches in Hyde Park. In order to be persistent with the sense they give I made the decision to keep such a bench design for the library visitors. That is why I decided about a grid of benches on the parcel. Some of them were covered by the delicate glass pavilions -this is the reading room of the designed library. Every park visitor can use

them. It creates a place of meeting in the fresh air and in the meantime it provides the protection against bad weather conditions. The remaining facilities such as lending room, rooms with multimedia, places of meetings and cafés are situated under the ground. In order to walk to the other part you can use a couple of staircases. Additionally, sunlight reaches this area through several skylights. The scheme of use is simple: You go underground where you encounter a bit of the mystery and you choose a book or any file that is interesting to you. Then you go upstairs where you can sit on the bench surrounded by the green landscape and other people. There are three pavilions on the site, so that everyone could use them in their own way: one is for calm reading, while in another you can meet other people and discuss, share ideas, or just spend time together. The construction of pavilions is very delicate and almost entirely made with glass. Both, pillars and ribs are out of this material. Downstairs, the rawness of concrete and the savour of copper highlight that this part of building is under the ground. It is an amazing library because it does not only provide the access to books and media but it also gives something really crucial nowadays: contact with nature and rest from the typical city atmosphere.


An elegant series of curvilinear glassy pavilions, surely inspired by Toyo Ito and SANAA. The parkland forms have a good relationship with the water and each other. By day, depending on glass types, they will be much less transparent, though the choice of a night-time images is beguiling. Much of the programme is below ground in a more rational, efficient envelope. Adrian Welch Juror, Hyde Park Library June 2017 | CITY OBSERVER123


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The proposal makes a clear and rational separation between finding, storing information and the act of reading. The way that the park flows through the site with the grid of park benches, creates an interesting relationship with the random disposition of the trees and the soft curves of the glass enclosures. The strict imposition of the grid interestingly has nothing to do with the underlying physical structure of the building, but seems to give an unusually strict spatial structure to the act of reading within the informality of the park. Terry Pawson Juror, Hyde Park Library

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SPECIAL FEATURE THIRD PRIZE Miriana Kostova, Bernd Bartoz Jan Wroblewski, Daniel Lechler (Germany)

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Rather than imagining the library as a single place, this design proposes a series of discreet locations where the individual (or small group) is hidden from the outside world within a private physical space created by the externally mirrored boxes. This architectural concept makes an analogous reference to how an individual relates directly and in a very private way with the contents of a book rather than its external physical presence. Terry Pawson Juror, Hyde Park Library

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A delightful, subtle response that doesn’t provide a building per se but a series of smaller points of learning threaded between the trees. In practice this proposal would need robust detailing to counter vandalism. The project works around the context rather than imposing upon it. Adrian Welch Juror, Hyde Park Library

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Our Design suggests a new form of urban typology, that encourages passers by to read and to pause, whilst integrating into it ́s setting and acknowledging the existing functions of it ́s environment. We started our design process by forging a list of our favourite reading situations, positions and atmospheres. By cross examining our list we narrowed down our favourites and so an emotional construct was formed. Oddly enough the term “Park” did not make the final selection and the term library was not mentioned once on our long list. This left us with the revelation, that we had to create a new typology, one that would meet the constrains of this competition and our emotional construct. So we set out to dissect the formula that makes up a library, to find the essentials that we would need to incorporate in our design. Obviously one of these essential assets would be providing reading material and other media of many sorts. Connecting people with similar interests is in our opinion one of the most important functions of a library but it is also one that often gets neglected in most typical library typologies. It ́s specific attributes make the premises a perfect place for leisure activities for the inarguably stressed and relaxation-searching inhabitants of this super dense city. In consequence it feels right to create an open public ground, that doesn’t reduce park-space with large structures. The structures are designed as invisible shelters - the so called “Hideouts”. The Hideouts are temperature-regulated weather shelters, planted along the park-side in 3 different sizes, giving the user an

unconfined 360° look of the park environment from the inside out. From the outside the façades are mirrored, reflecting the surrounding park elements, thus integrating the box-shaped elements into the landscape, almost to the point of vanishing. This allows the user to disappear and to have undisturbed privacy in an otherwise crowded City. The act of reading is a private one that encloses the reader in his own space, but should not isolate him from the outside. To the unobservant visitor the only visible elements are dark shiny pillars distributed in the area like path -stones. These “Steady Librarians” represent the essential infrastructure of our library. Each “Steady Librarian“ provides several functions like orientation, connection, energy supply and serve as a connector between the community members. These functions are essential for a progressive parklibrary. The library gives visitors everything they need to satisfy both their reading and their park needs. It offers the flexibility of a park visit but enabling reading in different constellations and weather conditions. Either alone in the single hideout, as up to 5 individuals next to each other in the medium hideout or in a group, listening to audio books and discussing books in the large hideout. If the weather says that there is no need to hide inside, we also say that there isn’t ́t. The site ́s area is still defined as parkspace allowing for all regular park activities to happen around the intervention while still benefiting from the “Hide Park ́s” infrastructure. We believe that our idea can create a benefit for the culture of reading as well as for the public space in a growingly dense city.

About archasm Archasm is an online international architectural competition organiser, blog and a comprehensive database. archasm aims to urge the architecture and design fraternity with a portal where they could express their creative talent, passion and vision through open-idea competitions in the fields of architecture and design. archasm welcomes professionals and students from around the world and all spheres and ranks of education (architecture, design, art, engineering etc.) to compete among the brightest and the most creative minds on Earth. Archasm is founded by three alumni of Chandigarh College of Architecture- Anirudh Nanda, Nikhil Pratap Singh and Harmeet Singh Bhalla.

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10 URBAN DESIGN LESSONS FROM HONG KONG by Vanishree Herlekar & Chirayu Bhatt

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INTRODUCTION We have had the opportunity to live in Hong Kong for ten months in 2010. After spending six years in Atlanta (USA) before our move to Hong Kong, at first we were not sure how this stint would turn out. However in a short span of time, the city grew on us. Like most leading global cities, the lifestyle of Hong Kong is addictive. Most people, once accustomed to the pleasures city life spoils you with, would never choose to leave. Here, we would like to outline the key lessons Hong Kong offers urban design enthusiasts like us.

Display at the Lantern Festival at Victoria Park, which is part of the Chinese New Year celebrations in Hong Kong. Parks and public spaces are adorned with colourful lantern displays, and streets become a spectacle with lively performances and exhibitions.

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With an average density of more than 275 persons per hectare (accounting for only built-up area), Hong Kong is one of the world’s densest cities. Of the total land area of Hong Kong, more than 70% comprises hilly terrain and environmentally sensitive areas with rich wildlife habitats. The city has preserved most of its ecological landscape in its natural state, classifying them as ‘protected areas’ - thus limiting availability of developable land. Topographical challenges coupled with rapid growth has led Hong Kong to embrace vertical living; where people, goods and services are concentrated in a tight footprint. This characteristic high density urban living in Hong Kong is largely viewed not only as desirable, but vital to its functioning as a global mega city. The mixed-use dense urban fabric coupled with excellent public transport affords its residents ease of access, convenience, and precious savings in travel times. For business, the density offers significant economic advantages. Concentration of people facilitates exchange of ideas, spurs productivity and innovation, and contributes to the vibrant living-working environment of the city. To make such high densities work, the city has made consistent and repeated investments in public transport, water and drainage infrastructure, green spaces and recreational facilities and other supportive infrastructure. The urban density of Hong Kong shatters the myth that people have cultural notions about use of space and density. Hong Kong hosts individuals and families from across the world and they are able to see value in the unique qualities that this global city has to offer. While on one hand it has very little to offer in terms of personal built space, it more than makes up through its well-maintained public spaces, excellent network of pedestrian pathways and world class public transport.

The Hong Kong skyline as seen from The Peak. The demand for dense urban living has resulted in Hong Kong being one of the world’s most vertical cities, with more people living or working above the 14th floor than anywhere else on Earth! Image credits: DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 Facing page- The mid-level escalator flanked by restaurants, bars, and shops makes for a vibrant public environment. Image credits: The authors

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Walking is central to everyday life in Hong Kong. The city’s compact, mixed-use development pattern ensures that most essential services such as shops, schools, parks, as well as transit stations are within a walking distance of most households. Nearly 45 percent of all trips in Hong Kong are thus made on foot. However, the steep hilly terrain of the city poses a considerable challenge for pedestrian mobility, especially in the dense CBD (central business district) and mid-level neighbourhoods. To promote walkability in these areas, the city has invested in robust pedestrian system comprising a network of covered walkways, skywalks, underground tunnels, footbridges, lifts and escalators. The mid-level escalator and walkway system is a multi-level pedestrian network comprising a series of 20 escalators and several moving walkways. It interconnects via covered footways to some of the main skyscrapers in Central CBD as well as to public transit stations, and is used by more than 100,000 people daily. During unfavourable weather, pedestrians can often complete their entire day of travel without leaving enclosed areas offered by skywalks and underground tunnels. Multiple entry and exit levels make it convenient for pedestrians to access buildings without having to climb up and down too many times. The walkway system flanked by restaurants, bars, shops, and terraces and seating greatly improves the walking experience for everyday commuters, but also makes for a vibrant public environment that offers interesting opportunities to engage with everyday city life. Far from being the uninspiring, standalone footbridges that dot the urban landscape in Indian cities, the escalators and skywalks in Hong Kong are designed to work as a three dimensional system that not only fosters pedestrian connectivity but also acts as the social spine around which the city thrives.

The Central–Mid-Levels escalator and walkway system, the longest outdoor covered escalator system is used by 100,000 people everyday! The escalator system traverses a rich and engaging urban landscape. Image source URL: numiak/4412891397/

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If citizens make a city, public transport is the glue that binds together the citizens of a city. In a city like Hong Kong, if everyone had to worry on their own about how each of them would get to work or school or hospital, the city would never have been able to accommodate so many people. Such a large population can be accommodated because early on, the city decided that they would tackle the issue of transportation collectively. In Hong Kong, using public transportation is like second nature. There are so many options that are convenient and affordable that everyone prefers to use it. Mini buses run frequently within a relatively small area connecting people to larger bus stops or metro stations. Buses and Metro trains allow people to travel long distances rapidly. Airport express connects the airport with major destinations in the city with a swift and efficient service. More affordable modes of public transport includes trams and ferries. The publicly managed escalator is a unique feature which connects the central part of Hong Kong from lower levels to upper levels. Most of the public transport options are paid for through a single mode - the octopus card. The octopus card is a debit card which can be used for public transport and other places like grocery stores, pharmacies etc. The extensive options, affordable price, reliable service and convenience of all these modes of public transport ensure that over 80% of Hong Kong residents use it every day. It forms the backbone of everyday life in the city.

A double decker tram plying in the CBD, part of the tramway system that has been active for more than 100 years. The tracks run along the coastline connecting major neighbourhoods with work areas as well as train stations and ferry terminals. One can pay using the Octopus Smartcard on all transit modes. Image Credits: The authors

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Integrating transport infrastructure with development is a central feature of the rapid growth of Hong Kong as a city. The MTR corporation, which owns and operates the metro system of Hong Kong, has since long maintained a policy of integrating real estate development with the development of metro stations and lines. As a result at each station, development next to the station is planned for from the conception. The integrations help the metro system attract users, while also allowing portion of the real estate development to pay for future development of new stations. The real value in this strategy is that by integrating development with transit stations, it is very convenient for end users to use the transit and associated infrastructure. In the busiest areas of the city, transit users exit directly into the building above the transit station. Typically, such a building would have basic amenities like a grocery store, pharmacy, coffee shop etc. within close proximity to the transit entry. In other places, such an integrated design allows travellers exiting the airport express to connect with local bus service or taxi service. In many places it also provides seamless connection with the dedicated pedestrian pathways. All these layers of connectivity and access make it easier or city dwellers to connect with the public transport and sometimes with one another, in many possible and convenient ways. Another benefit of such a strategy is that if public transport infrastructure is built stand-alone, it is frequently seen as an eyesore. Integrating it with buildings allows for a better urban aesthetic.

The IFC tower is one of Hong Kong’s most iconic landmarks, integrating commercial development, recreational, and public uses in a vertical footprint. The Central MTR station and the Airport Express Hong Kong Station located beneath the skyscraper can easily be accessed from within the mall. Image Credits: The authors

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In a high-density living environment, with relatively small living spaces, public open spaces are invaluable. They provide for outdoor recreation, but also offer opportunities to pause, stop, rest, and mingle. While Hong Kong residents have access to the vast expanse of nature preserves, lakes, and water bodies within a few kilometres, the city itself offers a range of planned public spaces. These include waterfronts, large recreational parks (such as Victoria Park and the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens), neighbourhood parks and playgrounds, to small pocket parks and plazas creatively carved amidst the skyscrapers and busy commercial areas. The pocket parks utilize small leftover spaces in between buildings and also terraces and podiums at above-grade levels. The streets and the network of elevated bridges and walkways also act as public spaces with dedicated benches and seating areas and accommodating the spill over of street side activity. The city also has a policy to encourage privately owned public spaces (POPS) by giving developers incentives to open part of their private property to public uses. For example the HSBC bank’s ground level plaza couples as an accessible public space that allows people to pass through, and seek shelter and respite during unfavourable weather conditions. Hong Kong offers many examples of creatively fitting public spaces in a dense urban setting. However there still is room for protecting and enhancing public spaces in built-up area, and also creating further opportunities for social interactions. The city’s long-term vision plan and development blueprint identifies expanding public spaces as a priority agenda for making the city more livable for all its citizens.

Since the city rises up on a hill, stairs are a common sight in Kong Kong’s urban landscape. Wide public steps create an inviting space and offer opportunities for social interaction. Image Credits: The authors

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A small pocket park in Hong Kong’s mid level district. The space below the elevated walkway system is creatively used to carve out a public space to meet, chat, and eat in the busy commercial area. Image Credits: The authors

The Stanley Waterfront promenade is popular with locals and tourists alike. It is particularly bustling during the weekends, with people walking their dogs, enjoying the ocean views, and hanging out at the many restaurants and bars flanking the promenade. Image Credits: The authors

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With diverse economic activity ranging from street vendors, small businesses, eateries, to upscale bars, restaurants and global corporations in swanky offices, Hong Kong offers one of the most vibrant street cultures in the world. In contrast to the perfectly manicured streets of European old towns, neatly lined with outdoor cafĂŠs, streets in Hong Kong are messy and chaotic, yet vibrant and bustling with activity. Street life in Hong Kong is closely linked to the life of its residents. Local eateries selling dumplings sit next to shops selling curios with a garment seller, florist, and a local fruit seller tucked in between. Hong Kong has managed to retain its vendors and small businesses even in the midst of high levels of overall gentrification. Next to high priced global offices, local markets continue to flourish. The most famous are the animated street markets in Mongkok that are bustling with activity, selling everything from trinkets to imitations of luxury goods, and delicious local food. A few times every year, the street becomes the backdrop for celebrations of major festivals like the fire dragon festival and the Chinese new year.

A pedestrian street in Whampoa Gardens, a privately developed estate in Hung Hom covering 19 hectares with a mix of residential and commercial uses including shopping arcades, movie theatres, restaurants, shops, and recreational facilities. The streets though privately owned and managed are publicly accessible. Image source: Wikimedia Commons (HK Hung Hom Whampoa Estate pedestrian zone Mar-2013.JPG)

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To accommodate its diverse population, Hong Kong offers different housing types and a housing mix ranging from shared accommodations, dormitories to modern studio flats, serviced apartments and bungalows and mansions. Housing options vary in terms of location, sizes, built densities, and availability of modern conveniences. Areas such as central, mid-levels that house some of the world’s most expensive real estate are more popular with expats living in rental apartments with small but efficient layouts. The Kowloon area, just a ferry ride away offers slightly more affordable options. Hong Kong also started developing new territories as early as 1950s to open up new land for residential development. Today these territories have several established town-centres that also include commercial and employment opportunities in addition to the residences. As you move away from Central, per square foot prices reduce allowing families to consume more built space. All these neighbourhoods, including those far away, are well linked to Hong Kong central with the city’s robust public transport infrastructure. At the smallest scale, a poor migrant is also able to afford formal house in the city by renting a bed space by the shift (3 different eight hour shifts in a day). While many criticise this aspect of Hong Kong as being inhuman, in essence it is a formal legal accommodation—in many ways preferable to the squalor and exploitation of slums in many other global cities.

Housing along the Stanley Waterfront. Stanley, a popular neighbourhood in Hong Kong offers housing options ranging from singlefamily bungalows, modern apartments, to public estates. Image Credits: The authors

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Hong Kong lays a great deal of emphasis on the quality of its public buildings. Private buildings are also well designed and managed, but the architecture of public buildings in Hong Kong truly stands out as a unique aspect of its urban fabric. Whether it is their extensive waterfront promenades, government offices or even a small public library in Stanley, the quality of architecture reflects the emphasis laid on public space. Being an island city, which in reality is a collection of many islands, Hong Kong has many waterfront promenades with passive and active recreation opportunities along them. One such is the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade with Hong Kong cultural centre and the Hong Kong space museum in its vicinity. The Promenade and the public buildings alongside provide a perfect backdrop for people’s activities to be situated there. The city facilitates this further by organizing formal and informal events attracting people to this place. The architecture of this place strengthens the identity and image of the city while promoting better civic responsibilities among the citizens. Another excellent example of public architecture is found at Stanley Village. Here, a municipal services building is combined with a public library and sports facility. This is next door to the old market, thus blending and giving way to the waterfront kiosks. The Stanley Market which is a mix of vendors and food stalls, lines up along a beautiful public promenade.

The Stanley Municipal Services Building houses recreational and cultural facilities including a library, children’s playroom, and other multi-purpose spaces. Designed without any boundary walls, the building sits right on the street edge and engages with citizens as well as passers-by via its courtyards and landscaped courts. Image Credits: The authors

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In Hong Kong space is always at a premium. Apartments are tiny and restaurants are holes in the wall. Because of very high prices, people in Hong Kong can’t afford a lot of space and as a consequence, they find their own ways of efficiently using the little space they have. With apartments marginally bigger than a cubby hole, most people do not have laundry facilities in their own apartments. Commercial laundromats provide not just laundry service but also the space to store clothes over short periods of time. So people only keep as many clothes in their apartment as they need within the week--rest are stored at the laundromat. Many restaurants are no bigger than a small room. People don’t mind sharing tables during lunch while they munch on their favourite dumplings. Shoppers don’t mind accidentally bumping into one another in a crowded shopping place.

Apartment blocks in Hong Kong. By Mstyslav Chernov (Self-photographed, [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://], via Wikimedia Commons



Hong Kong takes pride in its identity as “Asia’s World City.” It is truly a multicultural society--home to many ethnic groups including migrants from mainland China, expats working with large banks and corporations. Places like Chunking Mansions, home to small businesses and poor expats from developing countries like India, Pakistan and African countries, offer low cost accommodation, goods and services to some of the ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. As a global city, Hong Kong offers one of the most culturally diverse populations in the world.

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One of the side effects of the affluence of Hong Kong (it has the highest number of millionaires in Asia) is that it attracts a large number of non-Chinese ethnic minorities as domestic workers. Local regulation ensures that these domestic workers are not exploited and are provided a decent accommodation and remuneration in lieu of their service. One such regulation is the provision of a weekly day off- typically a Sunday. Hence, on Sundays, thousands of domestic workers from different parts of Hong Kong come together to occupy and appropriate the vast public spaces of the city. They spend the day picnicking with their friends, eating, chatting, grooming one another, gossiping, taking selfies and much more. They make the space their own, spreading their blankets, umbrellas, and using cardboard dividers they infuse the public realm with new functions and meaning. The city government’s approach towards this temporary appropriation is largely accommodative and this activity has become part of the city’s routine. Using blankets, umbrellas and cardboard dividers they infuse the public realm with new functions and meaning. The city government’s approach towards this temporary appropriation is largely accommodative and this activity has become part of the city’s routine.

Immigrant domestic workers picknicikng in the public plaza of Bank of China. Domestic workers from different parts of the city come together on a Sunday to spend time together, enjoy the city. Image Credit: Tom Spender, Flickr; Image source URL: https://

About the Authors Vanishree Herlekar is a communication specialist with deep experience in planning and urban development. She helps organizations and urban local bodies craft their communication for strategic initiatives. She also teaches as a visiting faculty member at CEPT University. She holds a Master’s in City Planning from Georgia Tech and a bachelors in Architecture from Pune University. Chirayu Bhatt is an Architect-Urban Planner working at the confluence of Urban Design, Planning and Policy. Apart from his full time role leading the President’s office at CEPT University, he also teaches courses on negotiation and consensus building. He holds a Master of City and Regional Planning from Georgia Tech and a Bachelor of Architecture from CEPT.

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RISE AND FALL OF BANGALORE’S PUBLIC SECTOR UNITS A Boon or Bane for the City? Case of ITI Township, Old Madras Road Third Semester Post- Graduate Urban Design Studio Exploration at RV College of Architecture, Bangalore

by Himadri Das, Anup Naik & Prasanna Rao

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Present-day cosmopolitan Bangalore is a gift of the PSUs, which not only contributed to the physical evolution of the city but also acted as a gateway to invite populations from different parts of the country, particularly from the other states in the erstwhile Madras presidency, to the city. One can say that this phenomenon coupled with the existence of the cantonment contributes to the diverse demographic profile of Bangalore today. However, not so long ago these PSUs had reached a point where they had outlived their relevance. Some were already shut down while others were on the sick-industries list and still others were selling their assets to pay for dues. In August 2016; the Government of India gave in-principle approval to prepare a database of the extent of lands and other assets of these PSUs. The idea was to document the extent of these lands, and eventually open them to strategic investors for sale. Although PSUs are spread across the country, those which are in land-starved cities like Mumbai and Bangalore are valuable real estate because of their prime location. So, these idyllic campuses with low-density housing, playgrounds, markets, schools, hospitals and factory-buildings are under threat. This is a particular cause for concern in cities, as these large campuses if redeveloped will add more people and consequently more pressure on already stressed infrastructure. The fact is, however; that PSU land being opened up to the market also poses an unprecedented opportunity to redevelop congested areas and refit them with adequate infrastructure while protecting local flora-fauna. The extensive lands made available from PSUs would be tantamount to ‘another chance’ for our cities to make things right. It would be vital, in such a scenario, to ensure that these areas respect sustainable living, promote walking and cycling while leveraging the real estate potential of these lands.

Facing Page: An oasis of green. Image credit: Anita J, Hima CS, Kirti H, Harshita D, Himabala, Vidhyashree

The third semester studio exercise explored the rise and fall of PSUs in the context of Bangalore, and therein creating the city in terms of the socio-cultural profile of the population and physical extents. The rise and fall of PSUs was triggered by a slew of national and state-level policies. The studio sought to understand these policies and how they affected the PSUs. They also tried to develop strategies and guidelines to develop these lands.

The primary goal of the studio was to look at urban design proposals as a catalytic force in ensuring future growth with design content, yet feasible within the existing policy, economic and political framework.

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FRAMEWORK FOR THE STUDIO The primary goal of the studio was to look at an urban design proposals as a catalytic force in ensuring future growth with design content, yet feasible within the existing policy, economic and political framework. The objectives of the studio were:

Cities are economic constructs. From time immemorial, cities have evolved due to the economic opportunities that they have offered. In this context, the following key research questions were addressed during the semester:

What were the key drivers which contributed to the location of PSUs in Bangalore?

How did these PSUs contribute to the growth of Bangalore as a metropolis?

What were the policies that helped trigger the proliferation of PSUs and later brought about their downfall?

• •

To understand and evolve policy-level guidelines which ensure an imagined future physical scenario, To understand the process of evolving urban design guidelines To illustrate such guidelines with a multiuse facility

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Mental mapping of Transformation. Image credit: Anita J, Hima CS, Kirti H, Harshita D, Himabala, Vidhyashree

How did this phenomenon impact the growth of Bangalore as a urban center and how did it shape the identity of the city?

The ITI area was located on a peripheral area but it enjoyed very good connectivity both by road and rail. •

How did the development at ITI impact the areas in the neighbourhood?

How did the city respond to ITI?

How did the relationship between the erstwhile gated PSU complex and the city transform to the

integrated, connected neighbourhood that exists today? The ITI lands, like in many other PSUs in the city, are high-value real estate. The central government directive to list them as ‘sick industries’ to either develop a revival package or sell to strategic investors will create an opportunity never before seen in landstarved cities such as Bangalore. In this context, what role can the extensive lands of the ITI campus play in a sustainable as well as productive future of the city?

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TEACHING URBAN DESIGN APPROACH TO THE STUDIO The approach to the studio can be perceived in three phases. The first phase was focused on developing an understanding of PSUs and their contribution to the city; the second phase focused on understanding the role of ITI and its impact on the geography as well as the demography of the area; and the third phase focused on exploring scenarios for the future development of the ITI lands if they were thrown open to the real-estate market. The methodology adopted was: a) Understanding the role of PSUs in the larger context of the city This was the data-collection and analysis stage where students traced the history of infrastructural intervention in Bangalore, starting with the establishment of a mud fort by the Mysore rulers, the setting up of the cantonment by the British, emergence of electrification and finally the rise of the PSUs in the post-independence era. The students traced the geo-political influences in the pre-British, British and post-independence eras, focusing on projects and policies that triggered the evolution of the city of Bangalore.

class focused on a city-level programme for the site and articulations of this on the ground. The important themes explored were those of economic identity, transit-oriented development and environmentally sensitive development.

RISE AND FALL OF PSUs The evolution of PSUs in the context of Bangalore was threaded together by the studio from secondary sources like various government and statutory documents, personal observations, interviews and questionnaires. Key takeaways of the story of evolution of PSUs are outlined under 5 headings as follows: 1. PSU as a form of nation building Public Sector Units (PSUs) were a key strategy for nation-building after independence. The thinking was to make investments in industries on one hand and restrict foreign and other private firms from having a free run in the Indian market on the other. The age of the PSU can be seen in terms of four key phases: •

The first phase from 1950-1969. This was the initial phase when the private sector in the country was still rudimentary. At this stage PSUs were seeded to develop a strong industrial base for an indigenous capital goods sector.

The second phase was 1969-1984. This was the golden period for PSUs, and they dominated the industrial sector. A huge part of the workforce was being assimilated in PSUs and private firms were marginalised. This was the time of license raj, the age of controlled markets. PSUs acquired physical assets like land and manpower far beyond their actual needs, even at this point.

The third phase from 1984 onwards. This was the age of decline of PSUs, especially after the economic liberalization in 1991. The market was now open to foreign investments and the ground was cleared for private firms to be competitive. It was at this point that PSUs started to become more efficient through cost-cuts and layoffs. Many of the PSU domains were open to takeovers from private firms and others became listed as sick industries.

b) Understanding the case of ITI both in terms of its surrounding context and its internal evolution This was the detailed data-collection and analysis stage where students gathered information from observations, workshops and interactions with various stakeholders, residents and workers to understand the processes that went behind the creation of ITI and how ITI became the anchor for the development of lands in the surrounding areas. Documentation of this information was in the form of photographs, videos, posters, sketches, textual articulations and exhibitions thereof. c) Exploring and identifying possible scenarios This was the conceptual design and detailed design stage where students started to synthesise the vast array of information to develop broad strategies and concepts for the ITI land. The strategies were developed keeping in mind the significance of this huge parcel of land as an integral part of the city. The strategies that were developed in groups within the

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A campus integrated with its context. Image credit: Anita J, Hima CS, Kirti H, Harshita D

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ITI: An overview of house types and activity mapping. Image credit: Anita J, Hima CS, Kirti H, Harshita D

ITI: Sections through the ITI campus. Image credit: Anita J, Hima CS, Kirti H, Harshita D

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The fourth phase was from 2016 onwards. This may reflect the future of PSUs. The central government is thinking about reviving sick industries by giving them grants or using their expertise in areas like defence or simply selling the PSU lands to strategic investors and liquidating their assets to pay dues, etc.

over by the state and the central government after independence. The following account traces the development of industry, and the related demand for housing, water and connectivity provided by road as well as rail. •

2. PSU in the context of Bangalore

The region of Bangalore was ruled by the kings of Bijapur, the Mughals and finally the rulers from Mysore. The Pete and the Bangalore fort was established to extend the influence of Srirangapatnam (Mysore). After the AngloMysore War of 1799, the British took control of Bangalore. A combination of strong trade connections coupled with the strategic location and the pleasant weather encouraged the British to set up a cantonment here. The origins of present-day Bangalore can be traced back to the layout by Lt. John Blakiston, of the British Army, for the encampment of the troops of Lord Cornwallis during the campaign against Tipu Sultan.1 The chosen lands were given to the British by the Mysore kingdom. The establishment of the cantonment triggered the first ingress of infrastructure in terms of roads, and eventually the railways connected Bangalore to Madras by 1864. Dual municipal bodies were set up to administer the Pete or city area and the cantonment. The cantonment spurred on the demand for markets, connectivity and industry. Cotton textile developed as the centre of a strong local economy and over the years the local textile industry became more mechanised. In the late 19th century, due to the non-availability of cotton from America because of its civil war, this industry picked up momentum.

The presence of PSUs in Bangalore was ubiquitous, more so in the western part of the city. Though the cantonment and areas under military were a total of 10 sq km, the land holdings under PSUs extended to 14sq kms in 1971 as per the Existing Land Use Revised Master Plan (ELU) (RMP) 1985. The main PSUs in the city were •

Bharat Electronics Limited (BHEL)

Indian Telephone Industries (ITI)

Hindustan Machine Tools (HMT)

National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL)

Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BEML)

New Government Electrical Factory (NGEF)

Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO)

Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL)

Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

By 2014, ITI and HMT had been declared sick and NGEF was closed. The total land under these PSUs at this time was 4sq km. 3. Evolution of Bangalore The evolution of Bangalore from the perspective of infrastructure and industries can be seen in two distinct phases, the moment of change being that of electrification coming to Bangalore around the turn of the century. The pre-electrification period is characterised by the development of the military cantonment set up by the British and the investments made by the Wodeyars of Mysore as they were the original owners of land in and around Bangalore. The post-electrification period is characterised by investments in industries by the British cantonment but driven by the needs for supplying material to the world wars. The investment in industries were taken

Pre- Electrification: Mud fort to cantonment and related infrastructure:

Post Electrification: PSU and related infrastructure Though the origins of industries in the Bangalore area can be found from the 16th to the late 19th century, it was in 1901-1910 with the electrification of the industrial sector by the Shivanasamudra project that production increased and provided a strong push to industries. Around the same time, the Wodeyars of Mysore were

1 Anuradha Mathur, 2006

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3 (Anuradha Mathur, 2006)

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Evolution of Infrastructure networks-1. Image credit: Urban Design RVCA 2015-2017

Evolution of Infrastructure networks-2. Image credit: Urban Design RVCA 2015-2017

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TEACHING URBAN DESIGN making efforts to strengthen the research base to support industries. They donated the land for the Indian Institute of Science (IISC) at this time. From about a decade ago, i.e., from 1890 to 1900, there had been a resurgence of the presence of the Mysore kingdom in Bangalore. Their lands on the western parts of the city had even been used to rehabilitate industries. During the next few decades, railway connections and roads were improved to support the industries. New commercial centers emerged in the city responding to the industrial development. The evolution of the city proceeded in roughly the following sequence: •

The period from 1940 to the 1950s saw the emergence of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) which is a PSU for aircraft repairs and assemblies. This PSU was a joint effort between the Central Government and the Mysore kingdom, employing 16,000 people. The housing and infrastructure for the employees was managed by a newly created HAL sanitary board. The board managed an area of 39 villages around the HAL. The City Improvement Trust Board (CITB) was created around this time to carry out planning activities in the city outside the municipal corporation limits. Significantly, around this time the Central Industrial Resolution Policy of 1948 facilitated the commissioning of PSUs like ITI along with other private industries like Kirloskar pumps in Bangalore. The period from 1971-1980 saw a doubling of the population of Bangalore due to increasing job opportunities. The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) was created in 1976 and the task of further planning was entrusted to it.

The period from 1981-1990 witnessed the new economic policy and associated single-window clearance and foreign equity regulations for the electronic sector of 1984. This led to the setting-up of companies like Wipro and Infosys in Bangalore. Even the first software Tech Park in Electronic City came up as a response to these policies.

The period from 1991 to 2000 was that of Liberalization. The availability of imported goods and technology at cheaper rates led to the decline

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of the monopoly of PSUs in the market. As PSUs started getting declared sick units, the large land holdings that they held within the city boundary turned out to be potential real estate. Some of the PSUs started improvising to serve the new phase of industrialisation. The eastern suburbs saw several infrastructure projects intending to connect the city to the new IT corridors. •

The period from 1992 to 1996 saw a surge in land prices to the extent of 300%-400% in some areas. This period witnessed the emergence of gated communities and townships built by private developers.

The most recent period, from 2001 to 2016, has seen multi-fold projects, such as the Nandi infrastructure corridor Road, Ring Road and Namma Metro. Higher densities in the inner core draws the attention of city planners and managers, and projects were commissioned to ease the congestion.

4. Cosmopolitan character of Bangalore: A gift of the PSUs The PSU represented an integral part of the evolution of Bangalore and they contributed not only to the physical extent of the city but to the diversity of communities and their religious as well as sociocultural beliefs. Present-day Bangalore being perceived differently from other southern cities has a lot to do with the contribution of the PSUs. In her account of Bangalore, Janaki Nair in her book The Promise of the Metropolis: Bangalore’s Twentieth Century writes: “Public sector companies paid good wages for fairly undemanding work. The perquisites are equally important, and including housing, transport, subsidized canteens etc, all of which were gains consolidated by a left-wing trade union movement. The Big Four units, HAL, BEL, HMT and ITI, employed largely Malayali and Tamilian workers: the Kannadiga presence was rather muted until the 1960s. The public-sector units were also important locations of well-funded cultural and fine arts groups, initially monopolised by Malayalis and Tamilians.” Nair also talks about the great strike of March 1981 in which seven PSUs participated and decided to

stay away from work’ posters appeared calling for the boycott of Tamilians and Malayalis as organisers of the strike, and asked for them to be expelled from the state. There were allegations that they were keeping the hard-working Kannada population from rejoining work. Evidently, at this time, the PSUs were the arena where Kannada resurgence groups were fighting with migrant, non-Kannada groups. For those living in Bangalore during the heyday of ITI, the campus was also a centre for sports. The amenities provided attracted aspiring sportswomen and men from the city. The ITI campus that started out as a gated enclave transformed during its 75year period of existence. The school, market and medical facilities began to be used by people from the neighbouring area. Ramamurthy Nagar was populated by many ex-employees of ITI who had built houses on private land that was made available in the vicinity of the campus, and who had settled there to take advantage of the proximity to available amenities and connectivity with the city. As the area around ITI was populated, the edge of the campus was appropriated in creative ways. The lakes and water catchments were leveraged to develop small playfields and parks, roads were built along the boundary. Plots were developed in an orderly fashion to allow for a sense of continuity from inside to outside. Most large CPSEs were allotted large tracts to build industrial townships. The government invested not only in establishing plants but educational institutions, housing, leisure facilities and so on. Over time these cities became more cosmopolitan, hubs of technical education, and large sources of technical manpower. 2 The example of ITI shows us that PSUs were a melting pot of cultures in Bangalore. They were the reason that the city today has so many religions, languages, festivals and communities. 5. Decline of PSUs: An opportunity in Disinvestment During the mid-1980s economic liberalisation opened different streams of electronic manufacturing to private competition. Come post-liberalization, there was a decline in the funding and functioning of

many of these PSUs. Many of them changed their strategies and products to stay relevant to the market. ITI went from manufacturing telephones and wires, to manufacturing micro-circuit boards, to eventually providing expertise in electronics to defence projects. The policy environment that led to the decline in the monopoly of PSUs was put in place a decade before they started to take effect with the Liberalisation process (Ref: Box 1). However, even today the original ITI factory continues to exist in a much smaller capacity; most of the factory area is leased to other companies. Presently, the government is looking to disinvest PSUs and sell their land to strategic investors. This opens up locked land in central city areas. The land owned by ITI at the Old Madras Road campus amounts to nearly 390 acres. These lands are a phenomenal resource to offset the pressure of development in burgeoning cities by creating open spaces, providing amenities, providing affordable housing, and augmenting infrastructure to ease congestion. “To open-up land that is not presently in use, particularly in big cities and urban areas, is, of course, an idea to be supported. If the government can actually set up auctions and get clear, honest and transparent prices, the effort should be applauded. “3 However, the scale of the lands and the lack of documentation about the extent and status of lands makes this whole process a tall order. “While the consensus within government regarding largescale strategic sales gains momentum, an issue gaining attention is the management of land-holding of CPSEs. Land stands alongside caste and religion in determining outcomes of democratic processes in India. It has to be handled deftly.” 4 “The present government has taken steps to move forward with the disinvestment of PSUs. As a part of that the first step was to start a massive exercise of creating a databank for an estimated 10 lakh acres of surplus and held by 298 Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs).” 5 These units (also known commonly as PSU) are spread across India and many of these units are already closed. 3 Chakravorty, 2016 4 Bahri, 2016

2 Bahri, 2016

5 Nayar, 2016

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TEACHING URBAN DESIGN “Beyond the guesstimate of 10 lakh acres, there is no concrete data on the surplus land with the 298 CPSEs, let alone the humongous amount of land over and above this held by mining and exploration companies, ports, railways, defence and power plants under various ministries, departments and autonomous bodies.” 6 The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) took an in-principle decision in August 2016. Accordingly, the land of HMT Chinar Watches, HMT Watches, HMT Bearings and Tungabhadra Steel would be transferred or sold to central entities after the closure of the companies. The transfer will be implemented after inviting Expressions of Interest (EOIs). “The process of land disposal, however, is no easy task. Besides the absence of a regulator who can control, arbitrate and ensure a fair process, the CPSEs do not know how much land is theirs to sell, and how much is on conditional or long lease from the state government. So, any attempt to put a price to such land could only be hypothetical. In rural areas, land cost varies from Rs 25 lakh an acre to over a couple of crores, while in landscarce Mumbai or Bangalore, the cost could be around Rs 250 crore an acre.” 7 At a time when the city of Bangalore is experiencing rapid growth, the price of land is also increasing exponentially. In such a context, relatively large pieces of land in the central city areas can be of very high interest to developers. If these pieces of land were to be opened in the land market, what would be a sustainable way forward that does not compromise on the real estate opportunity provided? At present, nearly 30 Sq KM of land is occupied by PSUs (including railways and cantonment) within the Bangalore city limits (BBMP area). This is the scale opportunity to intervene in the programming of the larger city.

6 Nayar, 2016 7 Nayar, 2016

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DESIGN EXPLORATIONS FOR THE STUDIO The design explorations began with a time problem for students to articulate their ideas through a graphic. The students articulated their concerns in the form of a poster that was based on their study of PSUs in the city context and ITI land in the precinct context. Based on the posters three broad orientations were agreed upon for the students to pursue. The three orientations were: i. Economy-based approach The ITI lands are located at a highly strategic location in the city of Bangalore. The real estate potential of this land is immense and can only be justifiably recovered through an intervention that sets out to re-create a new economic base. The scale of such a project will lend itself to developing an image of the city. The objective would be to identify knowledgebased institutions as well as to support high growth entrepreneurial outfits. The focus should also be on managing and protecting the blue and green networks in and around the intervention area. ii. Transit-based approach The ITI lands are at the crossing of many city level transit systems. The KR Puram Railway Station is an important junction for both express trains heading east and north from the city as well as commuter trains heading to east (to Kolar) and south (to Hosur). The base of the KR Puram flyover is a bus stop for private inter-state buses heading to Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu. The second phase of Namma Metro is planned to pass on the edge of the ITI lands to connect to the IT hub of Whitefield. There is also a proposal to connect the KR Puram metro station with a metro line towards the International Airport at Devanahalli. Under the circumstances, it is but natural that the ITI lands present a potential for development that can support a large city-level mobility hub. The idea would be to re-conceive factory spaces to integrate a new kind of function, use the ITI lands for support functions for the mobility hub, and leverage the green and blue network to create an open space network which is integrated with the existing and proposed built fabric.

Design explorations poster. Image credit: Hima. C. S

Design explorations poster. Image credit: Anita. J

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Design explorations poster. Image credit: Anna. P

Design explorations poster Image credit: Kirti. H.

Design explorations poster. Image credit: Manasa. M.

Design explorations poster. Image credit: Pramod. B

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iii. Ecology-based approach The ITI lands act like an oasis of green with its extensive plantations, open fields, playground, parks and gardens. It would only be prudent to extend its function as a lung of the city while determining the new role for these lands. The Garden City of Bangalore is losing its character to the congestion and sprawl triggered by its expansion. The erstwhile gardens of Cubbon Park and Lal Bagh play the role of lung spaces effectively in the areas close to the centre and south of the city. The areas to the east of the city, however, lack such a space. The possibility of developing the ITI lands as a city-level open space would only be justifiable if such a space could pay for itself. The idea would be to use the existing tree cover and topography to develop an open space along with a compact high-density development in a part of the site.

The growth of the city and extension of the City Corporation boundary during the decades of explosive growth in 1970-1980 and later from 1995-2007 led to many large parcels of PSU land being included. The Bangalore city corporation grew from 112 Sq KM in 1963-64 to 226 in 1995, i.e., it doubled in 30 years, but it grew from 226 Sq KM in 1995 to 716 Sq KM by 2007, i.e., it more than trebled in 12 years. This sudden spurt in growth was due to the inclusion of many villages in the surrounding areas and much of the land owned by PSUs. Once this land was included in the Municipal Corporation boundaries, they were subject to the same development pressure as other land which lay within the city. However, this land held out as an oasis of green between rivers of traffic and congestion simply because it was owned by the state or central government. Over the years, the non-porous nature of this land resulted in added pressure on

Design explorations. Image credit: Urban Design RVCA 2015-17

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TEACHING URBAN DESIGN roads in the surrounding areas. Some of the land renders the city discontinuous, creating barriers within the urban fabric. The balance of advantages, therefore, are weighed down by many disadvantages as well. The possibility of a redevelopment of this land offers an excellent opportunity for the city to re-engage it. But re-engage in a meaningful manner; to ensure that while the vast potential of real estate can indeed be harnessed, it must be done in a responsible manner. The intent must be to re-engage this land towards creating a more sustainable, compact and productive city than what we have today. Design explorations. Image credit: Urban Design RVCA 2015-17

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REFERENCES 1. Anuradha Mathur, D. D. (2006). The Deccan Traverses. New Delhi: Rupa and Co. 2. Bahri, S. (2016, September 21). Land for Reforms. Outlook, p. 28. 3. Chakravorty, S. (2016, September 26). Surplus? Where? Outlook, p. 24. 4. Joseph, K. J. (2017, May 17). Retrieved from dp88_pap.pdf 5. Kimura, K. (2006). China and India’s electrical and electronics industries: a comparison of market structures. In M. K. Ohara, Comparative Study on Industrial Development Process in China and India (pp. 97-115). Chiba: Institute of developing economies. 6. Nair, J. (2005). The promise of the Metropolis: Bangalore’s Twentieth Century. New Delhi: OUP. 7. Nayar, L. (2016, September 26). This Land is yours. Outlook , pp. 16-22. 8. Visvesvaraya Technological University. (2017, may 20). Retrieved from

About the Authors Himadri Das is an urbanist, academician and researcher based in Bangalore with over 19 years of experience in Safe access, NMT and urban design related to transit. In 2013, he received a special recognition in the Volvo Sustainability Awards for the project Towards a Walkable and Sustainable Bengaluru: A Safe Access project for Indiranagar Metro Station. In 2014, he co-authored the Safe Access Manual: Safe Access to Mass Transit Stations in Indian Cities. He has also developed workshops to help citizens prioritize strategies to improve their neighbourhoods. Himadri consults with WRI India and also teaches as adjunct faculty at RV College of Architecture. Anup Naik is an architect and urban designer with 23 years of work experience across Morocco, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Kenya, Vietnam and India. He is extremely passionate about sustainable design and drives a holistic approach to green architecture, zero energy developments, master planning and urban design at Space Matrix, a design consultancy firm with multinational presence. Anup has been involved in several award- winning projects ranging from master planning to high rise buildings. In addition, he is an active academician, involved with under graduate and post graduate programs and with the Council of Architecture as an Education expert. Prasanna Rao is an urban designer and architect with a keen interest in understanding the way urban governance influences urban design. This stems from his early experience working on an action planning project named Urban Governance, Civil Society and Local Economic Development supported by National Foundation For India (NFI),New Delhi. The project dealt with defining participatory governance, bringing out citizen’s charters and working with ward-level elected representatives to devise ward planning & management tools for the Mangalore City Corporation and Udupi City Municipality in Karnataka. He is the founder member of Urban Research Centre (URC) and currently coordinates the Urban Design postgraduate program at RV College of Architecture.

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Image credit: Hari Krishnan

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