City Observer- Volume 3 Issue 2- December 2017

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Volume 3 | Issue 2 | December 2017








Volume 3 | Issue 2 | December 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 collaborative platform for architects, urban designers and planners to create livable cities through participatory planning.

EDITORIAL TEAM Devangi Ramakrishnan Shruti Shankar Sunjana Thirumala Sridhar Vidhya Mohankumar


COVER ILLUSTRATION Nirupama Vishwanath

LAYOUT DESIGN Vidhya Mohankumar

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






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Feature Article

On Location

Sunjana Thirumala Sridhar



Aiswarya Jayamohan




Feature Article

City Trails

Community Engagement




Brenda Ceniceros & Carlos del Rosal

Ieva Punyte & Anna Johnson




Motion Captured

Art and the City

Feature Article




Stephanie Fy

Sarveswaran Ganapathy

Ahmad El-Atrash & Christa Reicher

Kasha Vande




Mobility and the City

Learning from Cities

Special Feature




Naina Agarwal

Rubaiya Nasrin





Feature Article

Teaching Urban Design

Closing Scene



Greena Joy Kallingal

Farha Irani

Bobby Nisha


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EDITORIAL 2017 has been a year we have all moved

That we have to know more, is only one aspect

slightly further apart. A nudge here, and

of this subject of mass displacement. That we

a shove there. The world might be getting

recognize this as a gargantuan crisis of our

smaller, but is the distance between us getting

generation, and formulate ideas, discussions

wider? 2017 has felt like a drift toward an

and solutions to ease this growing problem is

increasingly less familiar world. This has been

critical. Let’s discuss the situation prevailing

accompanied by a peculiar phenomenon

in the United States – that of accepting

plaguing our world. One where people find

immigrants. When it comes to the issue of

themselves waking up in seemingly unknown

immigrants, to ban or not to ban immigrants,

territory, with shivers and chills racing through

that is the question … for the courts. However,

their body, and an aching yearning to go

beyond the political and legal ramifications

home. Only to realize, (1) ‘home’ doesn’t exist

of attempts to ban immigrants, (as well as

anymore or (2) what was once their home, is no

citizens from Muslim-majority countries from

longer that, by way of a policy change.

entering a country), these moves signal a key broader concern - an economic and social

The homeless are of other types too - those who’ve lost their homes as a result of natural disasters, or those who have been forcibly removed from their own country, or more devastatingly, those who are no longer recognized in their own homeland.

ramification i.e. cutting off the economy from important sources of revenue - be it education, labour or tourism - by enforcing stringent immigration rules. It also heralds a future that is counter-intuitive to the positive impact of globalization.

All of these have a common thread, and that is - people being unnaturally displaced.

Closer home, the Rohingya crisis is one

Mass displacement of people is an urban

of terrifying ethnic cleansing. It has left

scale issue. It refers to the movement of

an internally displaced populace with no

refugees, internally displaced people (IDP),

options. The Rohingya camps can be likened

those displaced by conflict, natural or

to ghost towns- ones that exist spatially but

environmental disasters, chemical or nuclear

are a forgotten and ignored fabric in every

disasters, famine, or development projects.

other way. Since August 25, an estimated

And these are the more visible, more tangible

615,000 Rohingya have fled across the

phenomena of displacement. There is the hidden tell-tale of displacement too, the ones where invisible workforces migrate, where communities disappear, and where farmlands are abandoned overnight...

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

border into neighbouring Bangladesh. How are these massive numbers of people housed, rehabilitated and a sense of normalcy restored to their lives?

Touching upon another kind of mass

those most likely to change their environment.

displacement is that in the workforce, and

Our curated collection of articles for this

one caused by increasing automation in

issue touch upon critical ideas that warrant

every industry. McKinsey research estimates

discussion. They deal with the intangible

that between 400 million and 800 million

imprint of physical structures, ones which

people could be displaced by automation and

have withstood historic passages of time and

would need to find new jobs by 2030. The change could be on a scale unprecedented, except since the transition of the labour force out of agriculture in the early 1900s in the United States and Europe, and more recently in China. However, if history is any guide, it can be expected that this change in 2030’s

are showcases of human resilience. They deal with ideas which are geared towards bringing communities closer and art which calls out to a broader audience. On board with this issue is a range of talent, with an eye for beautiful captures and poetic expressions of urbanism and literature.

labour demands will result in new types of occupations that have not existed before.

As always, for the editorial team, it’s been a

Those are professions now unimagined or

pleasure perusing the articles and curating

nascent, with an equally vague workforce and

a collection which can stimulate minds and

an unchartered urban fabric.

conversations! Happy reading! Happy 2018!

At the core of City Observer lie people- the end

Sunjana Thirumala Sridhar

users, the most affected, most vulnerable and

On behalf of the Editorial Team






CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

A look into the early hours of the Battle of the Bogside at Rossville Flats. Image credit: Robert White




On a brisk April evening in 1969, a few members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary who had been patrolling the Northern Irish town of Derry, broke into the house of a private Catholic citizen, Samuel ‘Sammy’ Devenny. They accused him—on false charges, it would later be understood—of participating in an Irish Nationalist protest that had turned violent. This arm of a virulently anti-Nationalist carceral system then began to assault both him and his teenage daughters; all this, and more, occurring within the ostensible privacy and safety of their own home. Devenny would succumb to his injuries three months later. Local reactions to the incident were immediate and bloody; a few weeks after Devenny’s death, the fight would move swiftly from the territory of his home to that of numerous other members of his community. Rossville Flats—a high-rise tower block—became the central location for what would be one of Northern Ireland’s most violent clashes between the Nationalists and the Unionists: the Battle of the Bogside, which claimed the lives of hundreds, if not thousands. It is unsurprising, then, that some historians have since chosen to characterize the deplorable circumstances of Devenny’s death, as well as the repercussions that followed, as one of the embers to spark the ethno-sectarian strife we now know as the Troubles [1].

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

The result of the Battle of Bogside: ‘Free Derry’, an autonomous part of Derry established by the Nationalists, and which lasted only four years. Image credit: Homer Sykes.

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At the heart of this contextualization

(known as council estates) to specific

of events lies a narrative of a series of

denominational sects that would partly

distinctly spatial grievances. Both tragic

lead to this irrevocable ghettoization

and instructive, the story of Samuel

of cities. In Belfast, particularly, a

Devenny is the story of an incursion; of

majority of the population continue to

an unjustified intrusion by the punitive

live in sect-specific neighbourhoods. The

branch of a pro-Unionist local council

partisan effect of this kind of living is

into a Catholic space. Furthermore, if the

exacerbated by the fact that Protestant

Battle of Bogside proves nothing else,

and Catholic neighbourhoods have

it is that if cities such as Belfast and

been separated for several decades

Derry can at all be read as contested

now by the optimistically-named

spaces—as battlegrounds, even—then

‘peace-lines’ (boundaries that were, in

the residential spaces that constitute

fact, only meant to have survived for

them were no less complicit in their

around six months). As an eye-catching

material and ideological fracturing. With

combination of barbed wire and graffiti-

private homes accreting specific political

ridden murals, these peace-lines have

affiliations, the very question of who

had a tremendous impact on Northern

lived where became, as the Northern

Ireland’s urban and cultural landscape.

Irish novelist Glenn Patterson puts it, “a burning one” [2].

Of course, because these divisions are never as clear-cut as they may first

As public discord escalated, this

seem on a map, this city layout has

metonymic relationship between

created, as Joe Cleary contends, an

residential space and communal

impression of Belfast as “a balkanised

identity would gain more currency. Vis-

state continuously on the verge of

à-vis its urban living spaces, Northern

disintegration” [3]. But how, if at all,

Ireland found itself transforming into

does this extraordinary fragmentation

an active war-zone demarcated by

of the city—that is, by way of the

spatially-contingent religious blocs.

homes that constitute it—impact our

Indeed, it is the strategic allocation of

understanding of Northern Irish identity

property in government housing estates

politics? One attempt at unravelling this

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

A peace line separates a Catholic and a Protestant neighbourhood in Belfast. Image credit Ari Shapiro.

relationship between urban living space

rendering of the one that Devenny had

and identity involves a consideration

falsely been accused of participating

of representations of cities like Belfast

in prior to his fatal assault in 1969.

and Derry in modern literature. These

Ann looks around her immediate

representations are offered by Northern

vicinity to see a town geographically

Irish novelists with a keen grasp of

and politically divided by council

how communal identity is very often

estates that act like comically warring

contingent upon the cultural production

factions: “At some estates they would

of the city in which it ‘exists’ on a day-to-

be shoutin’ encouragement an’ giving

day basis.

us cups of tay an’ mince pies an’ pieces of Christmas cake, but at others they

Take, for instance, Frances Molloy’s

would be hurtlin’ abuse at us an’ callin’

No Mate for The Magpie (1985). This

us effin popish scum” [4]. For Ann, the

almost light-hearted look at the years

contested geopolitical topography of this

before and during the Troubles features

town is comprised of relatively stable

a sequence wherein its protagonist, Ann

binary oppositions: Protestants against

McGlone, marches along with fellow

Catholics, Unionists against Nationalists,

Catholics from Belfast to Derry; this

first-class citizens against second-class

civil rights protest is, in fact, a fictional

citizens. 12 13


A more literal fragmentation of the city of Belfast, and an attempt to come to terms with it. Image credit Carolina Palacios.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

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Even within the rambunctious Catholic

moment of camaraderie that also serves

estate in which Ann resides- known

to reify their Catholic identity. Thus, the

as ‘Korea’ because of the perennial

spaces that populate Molloy’s No Mate

neighbourly friction that causes

for The Magpie offer Ann a relatively

residents to be “always fightin’ an’

uniform and sectarian Catholic identity.

throwin’ bricks an’ bottles through each

In contrast, Glenn Patterson’s

other’s windows” [5]—the binary of

representation of Larkview—an

‘us and them’ holds strong. The mere

‘integrated’, though Protestant-majority

rumour that their Protestant delivery

council estate—allows his novel, Burning

man may have insulted the Pope

Your Own (1988), to capitalize on the

reinvigorates the estate’s sense of unity

rich personal and political dynamics

by invoking their shared denominational

that arise from the heterogeneity of

affiliation. Indeed, the women of ‘Korea’

a reluctantly integrated community.

work together to ambush the man in a

Though the notion of the integrated

Not always clear-cut? A resident, William Boyd, surveys a part of the peace-line that divides his garden in East Belfast, 2012. Image credit: Cathal McNaughton. CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

council estate- a collective-dwelling

Through the television habits of our

space wherein Catholics and Protestants

young protagonist, Mal, we learn that

would reside, side by side—became

civil rights activists have begun to

increasingly rare as the Troubles

mobilise in an unprecedented manner.

reached their peak, there is perhaps

These dissenters have begun to vocally

no setting more yielding for a narrative

condemn the Stormont government for

tracing the early stages of Nationalist

the architectural inadequacy of existing


estate homes, as well as the constant bureaucratic delay in budgeting for and

Indeed, in order to fully grasp the contributions of novels such as No Mate for the Magpie and Burning Your Own, it is important to note that these texts are highly conscious of the historical moment in which they are set; namely, that of the Northern Irish civil rights movement as it manifested in the late 1960s. This civil rights movement fought to uphold many of the basic human freedoms denied to the marginalized Catholics of Northern Ireland at the time. However, the novels in question are specifically concerned with problematising one particular human rights violation: the issue of institutionalized housing discrimination— both overt and covert—faced by Catholics regarding the allocation of

building new ones:

“The people of Derrybeg’s fed up seeing houses built all around them, but never for them. Well, we’ll not stand for any more. Either Stormont promises to allocate us the houses we need, or we’ll go and take them anyway,for we’ll not have our kin sleeping in the streets.” [6]

council estate-homes.

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The very existence of the telecast is perceived as a slight by the novel’s Protestant viewers, who consider this to be yet another incursion by the Catholic community into an ostensibly Protestant space: namely, into a discourse on the right to housing that has traditionally excluded the Catholic voice. This time, the narrative of spatial ‘incursion’ occurs on both a material and a rhetorical plane. The rising assertiveness of the civil rights movement is thus the source of much indignation for the Protestants of Larkview, who seem unable to view this strong call for equality as anything but an active encroachment on their territory. Consequently, certain reactionary acts of spatial fortification are carried out by the Protestant residents, arguably in an attempt to reassert their unsettled sectarian identity. While these acts are aimed at intimidating any potential influx of neighbouring Catholics into their estate, they also serve to alienate the very few, and much despised, Catholic families who have resided at Larkview for decades.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

‘We want houses, not platitudes!’: one of the resistance’s most common slogans. Image credit: Imperial War Museum.

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Belfast’s skyline on the Eleventh Night of 2017. Image credit: Photopress.

The first and most prominent act

In light of rising tensions, this year’s

of spatial fortification depicted by

celebrations have been issued with far

Patterson is the Eleventh Night bonfire

greater symbolic significance. Now,

that takes place on the Larkview

more than ever, the powerful orange

premises, part of an annual celebration

tones of the towering bonfire are a show

of the Protestant victory at the Battle

of Protestant solidarity and supremacy

of Boyne in 1690. We are told that

against the rising ‘incursions’ of

Protestant and Protestant-majority

Catholics into Protestant spaces. Indeed,

estates all across Belfast—as well as the

the Hagan family, who are Catholics

rest of Northern Ireland—participate in

and have lived on the estate since

this event, and that there is a friendly

its construction, are notably absent.

rivalry between them with regards to

However, the eventual fizzling out of this

the size and intensity of their respective

bonfire is a sobering experience. Mal


looks on, helpless, but cognizant of the

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

fact that the bonfire’s sputtering failure

more permanent and practical assertion

reveals the rift between expectation

of spatial/communal affiliation:

and reality when it comes to the

without agenda, graffiti in Burning Your

There, … a Union Jack had been painted and, in tall letters below it—a warning and a challenge to anyone entering the estate—the words: LARKVIEW IS PROD. DERRYBEGGARS GO HOME.

Own recalls Belfast’s own tradition of

The kerbstones before the wall had also

peace-lines, and is a key tool in the

been painted: red, white and blue, red,

demarcation of territory in the novel.

white and blue, right the way around the

Compared to the bonfire, it is also a

corner to the shops. [7]

sustainability of a united, sectarian identity. If Patterson’s rendering of Larkview’s Eleventh Night highlights how such territorial markers are both symptomatic and constitutive devices of Protestant allegiance, then another such device is that of graffiti. Whereas graffiti on government housing estates are typically seen as acts of vandalism

Larkview, located at Shankill, would have been adorned with pro-Unionist graffiti much like this. Image credit: Fribbler/ Wikimedia.

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Like in the case of the bonfire, such

whole. He is unknowingly inducted into

graffiti is both commemorative—

a spatialised confrontation of ideologies

specifically, in its bright Unionist

that, far from being new, has haunted

iconography—as well as inflammatory.

his city for decades.

Not only does the slur ‘derrybeggars’ seek to imply a very community-specific, anti-social vagrancy, but also, the constative statement that ‘LARKVIEW IS PROD’ completely elides the humanity of this estate’s Catholic residents, such as the Hagans. Furthermore, Protestant/ Unionist iconography in the novel is also seen by Mal as being one of “two faces of a double-faced penny”, with

It is important to note that young Mal does not remain in a state of blissful ignorance. If the novel spatialises the unequal struggle between competing discourses of Protestant and Catholic identity vis-à-vis Belfast’s council estates, then the most prominent challenge to this Protestant hegemony

the Catholic/Nationalist face being

within the estate is offered by Francy

the “battered and faded” graffiti on his

Hagan. Francy is one of Larkview

city streets championing “Home Rule,

estate’s rare Catholic residents, and

Home Rule”. Thus, Mal is “surrounded

its most precocious pre-adolescent;

by signifiers demanding repudiation or

importantly, he has created for himself

acceptance” [8] as he walks the streets

an alternative space, known as ‘the

of both his estate, and Belfast as a

dump’, behind the estate’s woods.

Facing page- A mural depicting Catholic resistance. Image credit: Carolina Palacios.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

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CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Even on just an ontological level, the existence of the dump greatly disrupts Larkview’s dominant social and spatial order. Though Francy has an official residential address at Larkview, the fact that he has succeeded in creating a controlled space of his own within the borders of their perceived domain— complete with defensive ‘booby traps’ and a make-shift throne—is the apex of Protestant fear. At a time when the topography of Belfast—the political and cultural centre of Northern Ireland—is seen as threatened by the civil rights movement, the inextricable relationship that Patterson creates between Francy and this estate space is a flagrant challenge levelled at the notion that ‘LARKVIEW IS PROD’.

Northern Ireland divided into British constituencies Mal’s home is transformed beyond recognition. Image credit: Ordinance Survey of Northern Ireland.

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In one of the many memorable instances that define his role as Mal’s teacher—and the novel’s child visionary and historical custodian—Francy uses his knowledge of story-telling and Belfast’s past to enthrall Mal with a radical version of his estate and city. He undermines the apparent homogeneity of Mal’s Protestant-majority estate by narrating its colourful history of religious and even racial diversity after the formation of the Irish Republic in the early twentieth century. Francy accomplishes this by painstakingly listing out names of families—both Protestant and Catholic—that had once flooded Belfast long before the Troubles began. In doing so, he draws from an oral tradition to rhetorically (re)construct the monolithic community of Larkview that exists in Mal’s mind. As Francy asserts, “There’s a lot about this place you wouldn’t believe—I could teach you a thing or two” [9]. In challenging the very historiography of the estate, the adventures that Mal and Francy have in Francy’s rebellious, alternative space (‘the dump’) clearly have a significant impact on young Mal’s perception of not just Larkview, but also that of which Larkview is a microcosm: CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the world. In fact, Mal becomes increasingly wary of authoritative descriptions of spatialised life that are placed before him. Objects like maps become as vacant, repetitive, and a historical as the baffling graffiti that adorns his estate, particularly in comparison to Francy’s rich, oral rendering of the same spaces: “That another world map?” Mal asked [his cousin, Alex]. “No,” she said, “it’s Ireland.” Ireland; the world: Alex’s maps were pretty much of a piece to Mal’s eyes: none of them bore the slightest resemblance to what they claimed to be” [10]. Mal’s attempts to comprehend himself and his estate—from participating in communal bonfires, to interacting with graffiti, to assessing ‘official’ accounts of the space he occupies—are ultimately part of what Rob Shields refers to as the ‘slippery notion’ of the city, in the sense that it is in a constant shift between “abstract idea and concrete material” [11]. I submit that it is this conceptual slippage that makes both ours and Mal’s attempts to understand Belfast, and the identities that constitute it, simultaneously so fruitful and frustrating. It is in this intellectual spirit

that I find myself viewing literature as extraordinarily well-equipped to engage with the ‘slippery notion’ of the city. Close-readings of fictional portrayals of cities, and the homes that constitute them, allow for unique insights into the nuances of representing urbanity. Indeed, as this essay has sought to show, zeroing in on Northern Irish fiction allows us to read representations of Belfast and Derry in a manner that does justice to the complex ways in which each city’s living spaces during the Troubles are produced: not only as built environments in aesthetic and material reality, but also as ideological tools within a larger narrative of spatial conflict. End Notes: 1. Adam Hanna, Northern Irish Poetry and Domestic Space (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 6.

2. Glenn Patterson, Lapsed Protestant (Dublin: New Island Books, 2006), 40. 3. Joe Cleary, ‘“Fork-Tongued on the Border Bit”: Partition and the Politics of Form in Contemporary Narratives of the Northern Irish Conflict,’ in Literature, Partition and the Nation State: Culture and Conflict in Ireland, Israel and Palestine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 99. 4. Frances Molloy. No Mate for the Magpie(New York: Persea Books, 2010), 130. 5. Molloy. No Mate for the Magpie, 16. 6. Patterson. Burning Your Own (Belfast: Blackstaff, 2008), 212. 7. Patterson. Burning Your Own, 218–219. 8. Vincent Quinn, ‘On the Borders of Allegiance: Identity Politics in Ulster,’ in De-Centering Sexualities: Politics and Representations Beyond the Metropolis (London: Routledge, 2000), 257. 9. Patterson. Burning Your Own, 17. 10. Patterson. Burning Your Own, 170. 11. Rob Shields, ‘A guide to urban representation and what to do about it: alternative traditions of urban theory,’ in Re-Presenting the City: Ethnicity, Capital and Culture in the Twenty First Century Metropolis, ed. Anthony D. King (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996), 235.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Aiswarya Jayamohan is a research student specialising in critical and aesthetic approaches to urban space in twentieth-century British literature. She recently completed her MSc in Literature and Modernity at the University of Edinburgh, having explored—as part of her dissertation—the uncanny spatiality of apartment spaces in literary landscapes ranging from Manchester to Prague. In preparation for doctoral study, she is currently working on a cultural history of the notorious Gorbals estate in Glasgow. She can be reached on Twitter at @ Aiswarya_Jay.

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DREAMS BUILT IN CONCRETE London’s promised 21st century town


CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Southmere’s characteristic towers and elevated pedestrian waterfronts that give Thamesmead its recognizable silhouette. Image credit: Tomas Degenaar / LUC)

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When the first family moved into the brand new neighbourhood in June 1968, Thamesmead was hailed as a new town for the 21st century. Yet, within a mere ten years the area suffered the consequences of erratic governance, insufficient investments, and poor public realm management. Social and infrastructural objectives were quickly behind target. By the end of the 1970’s perceptions had changed, appreciation had dropped and most of its original inhabitants had moved elsewhere. However, in 2017, perceptions of Thamesmead are changing again. New investments give new hope. Large scale urban and landscape regeneration and upgraded transport opportunities set the tone for its long overdue revival. For hundreds of years, the site that now houses around 50,000 people seemed an uninhabitable area of oftenflooded wetlands: the Plumstead and Erith Marshes. Located at the southeast edge of Greater London it directly borders the River Thames. Proof of prehistoric and Roman inhabitation is sparse. The most compelling evidence of early occupation is the remnants of Lesnes Abbey, just south of Thamesmead. Now ruined, this 12th century abbey was constructed on the northern edge of Abbey Woods, overlooking the seemingly inhospitable marshlands. The Abbey monks drained the marshlands and transformed parts of it into arable farmland. Later, river bunds were constructed to protect the flat hinterland from flooding. From the 18th

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

century onwards, eventually for over 300 years, the four square kilometre area was home to the Royal Arsenal, a national reserve for the manufacture, development, testing, and storage of weapons. The facilities closed in 1967 and the site sold to the Greater London Council (or GLC, since 2000 known as the Greater London Authority or GLA). The site had unmatched development opportunities: it was home to a nearly five kilometre long waterfront, almost unknown to Londoners, and it was at the time Greater London’s largest undeveloped site. GLOSSY BROCHURES Planning began in 1964. GLC architect Robert Rigg, supported by his team of architects, town planners, civil engineers, and landscape architects, believed that the landscape should form the basis for the new development. Original promotional sketch Thamesmead. Image source: GLC/GLA

‘That water adds to the visual interest of a place has been evident for years in many parts of London,’ a 1970

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The original Thamesmead Masterplan (1968) shows clearly that a blue network of canals, waterways and lakes forms the backbone of the urban development. Image source: GLC/GLA

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

promotional film for Thamesmead explains, while showing footage of Little Venice in Maida Vale, one of London’s most scenic and affluent neighbourhoods [1]. The film and GLC’s glossy brochures, images and sketches of lakes with yachts and happy people at every corner, coupled with ultramodern accommodation enticed Londoners to move to Thamesmead. The urban plan was based on the principles of pedestrian/vehicular segregation [2]. The book Modern Housing Estates suggested that traditional streets were examples of ‘wasteful design’, while cul-de-sacs were more effective in laying out new towns [3]. In Thamesmead, vehicular access to the houses was designed by way of a series of cul-de-sacs, seen as the modern, more desirable alternative to traditional streets. A local bye-law in force when the scheme was being designed required that there should be no habitable rooms at ground level

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Isometric drawing of a typical Thamesmead housing block. Image source: GLC/GLA

Architectural section showing living spaces raised off the ground floor, elevated walkways and stacked apartments. Image source: GLC/GLA

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

The first stretch of linear housing at Coralline Walk photographed shortly after completion of construction in 1969. Image source: GLC/GLA

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because of the risk of flooding. As a result, the whole scheme was raised, the ground floor used only for garages, tenants’ storage rooms, services, and in the case of three-storey townhouses, for access to the dwellings. This requirement made the principle of upper level pedestrian circulation easier to implement.

provided for within the town itself.’ [5] The enthusiastic first comers were eager to leave London’s urban decayed Victorian quarters. ‘The Gooch family, making Thamesmead history, was the first family to move into a five-room maisonette on Coralline Walk,’ the

A modern, district heating system was

compelling voiceover in the promotional

installed to provide warm houses for all

video tells us. ‘Here Mrs Gooch has a

[4]. Clean and modern public spaces

patio where the whole family can sit out

with a lot of seating opportunities were

and get the sun, when there is any. She

to set the scene for an active urban

has a modern kitchen adjoining a big

daily life. The new town thus, provided

lounge. For the first time her daughter

a long-desired answer to London’s

and her two boys have separate rooms

housing shortage and poor quality living

and a study where they all can do


their homework’. [6] Thamesmead’s demographics where carefully

Thamesmead was to become a ‘selfcontained, balanced community with facilities for such things as recreation, housing, and education fully CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

orchestrated to make this new town a success. Mrs. Gooch’s husband Terry recalls: ‘The GLC approached us when we lived in Peckham and they said they were looking for people to start this new town which was called Thamesmead… They then came back, having checked our credentials... and said we were the ideal couple to actually come down here’ [7]. However, the Gooch family remained

Local 1968 master plan for Southmere area including a commercial centre on the lake edge. Image source: GLC

Southmere Lake being constructed out of the Plumstead and Erith marshes, 1970. Image source: Kentish Times

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The beginnings of a new community in Thamesmead. Image source:https://www. thamesmeadnow. history/

Thamesmead’s urban centre in the early 1970s. Image source: GLC/GLA

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Thamesmead’s urban centre in the early 1970s. Image source: GLC/GLA

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without neighbours during its first summer, autumn, and winter. No more residents moved in until the following year. Rain penetration– even in the show home– proved to be a first adversity that marked the onset of Thamesmead’s gradual decline. UNFULFILLED PROMISES Despite the Council’s determination to provide every facility for modern living to be included in the plan, it did not take long for things to go awry. Firstcome shops quickly closed and other elements - like a shopping centre around a new marina - did not arrive at all. Factories that would provide work close to home for thousands were never built. Already commissioned works such as the London Underground Jubilee Line Extension connecting Thamesmead to London’s city centre were soon abandoned. A proposed vehicular and pedestrian bridge connecting the new neighbourhood to the north banks of the Thames was never constructed.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Elevated walkways transform ground floor areas into no-go zones. Im

Public spaces remain mostly unused throughout the year. Image credi

mage credit: James Virgo.

it: James Virgo.

The once utopian architecture and urban plan is now in dire need of transformation. Image credit: James Virgo.

Private gardens are used as allotment gardens by occupants, seemingly the only hand-built elements in a fully prefabricated world. Image credit: James Virgo.

40 41


Discouragement, scepticism, and sheer

have aged and weathered. Poor

despair replaced unbridled hope. On

maintenance and outright neglect have

top of that, the then Utopian-looking

left its public spaces and landscapes in

architecture turned out to be a failing

an impoverished state. ‘Plenty of open

one. With all habitable living spaces at

space’ surrounding new dwellings was

first floor level, the ground floors were

once seen as a positive contribution

left without any natural surveillance.

to general health and well-being [8].

The elevated walkways were seen as

However over 50 years later, the vast

futuristic but became a hazardous

green zones have turned into no-go

design element prone to socially


unwanted behaviour. Streets remained abandoned from pedestrian movement for large parts of the days and most parts of the nights. This no-man’s-land streetscape became the scene for flytipping, neglect, and vandalism.

An abandoned Golf Club has become an illegal motorbike track, and overgrown edge-lands without surveillance are now physical barriers that isolate rather than provide a democratic space for all. The many poorly lit park zones remain

Within a decade of its glorious start,

unused during vast parts of the year.

Thamesmead had become a sink

There seems to be too much open

estate for the surrounding councils,

space to care for successfully. Horses

characterised by high levels of

and ponies owned by the traveller

economic and social deprivation, as

communities graze large parts of these

well as one of London’s most notorious

open spaces, inadvertently maintaining

neighbourhoods, dominated by gang

the public realm, a unique London

violence, a large traveller community


faced by unprecedented prejudices, and continuing urban decline.

Yet overall, negative connotations by both inhabitants and visitors remain. In

Today, Thamesmead’s once pristine

a comment on the 1974 film Living at

light grey and white concrete façades

Thamesmead, YouTube-er David Hunt

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

The Elizabeth line station at Abbey Wood will halve journey times between Thamesmead and central London, linking directly to Canary Wharf, the City, the West End and Heathrow. Image source: https://www.thamesmeadnow.

writes: ‘It’s a grimy, grotty rabbit warren

central London and beyond. A journey

of stained and discoloured, graffiti

from Thamesmead’s main station -

covered concrete, narrow unlit walkways

Abbey Wood - to Liverpool Street Station

and roaming gangs of pikes and racist

will drop from 48 minutes to a mere 17

thugs. It has become a dumping ground


for the worst, most anti-social tenants from across London, a real sink estate

London’s continued growth also

that’s full of tension and fear.’ [9]

provides opportunities for wellplanned densification and renewal.

A WELL-TIMED OPPORTUNITY The 21st century however, has finally provided a momentum of hope. New

More than 12,000 homes are planned to densify the existing urban tissue. Peabody recently acquired vast parts of Thamesmead land and buildings.

infrastructure connections such as

Founded in 1862 by George Peabody,

Crossrail (a new main railway line to

an American banker, entrepreneur and

open in 2018) will provide residents

philanthropist, the Peabody Donation

with the long-desired fast connection to

Fund – now: Peabody – was set up to

42 43


Visualisation - Bird’s eye view looking over Southmere Village Lakeside Square – proposed as part of first phase of works. Image source:

Southmere Lake in West Thamesmead - these grassy steps have been used for open air cinema screenings. Image source:

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Gallions Reach Park in West Thamesmead, opened by Peabody in January 2017,connects Thamesmead’s 5 kilometres of river path with Gallions Hill – a man-made viewing point offering spectacular views across Thamesmead and London. Image source:

“ameliorate the condition of the poor

2016, planning permission was granted

and needy’ in London. As one of the

for a new centre that includes more

largest landowners in the area and one

than 1,500 new homes in South

of London’s oldest and largest housing

Thamesmead, alongside a new library,

associations, Peabody has committed

shops, and a lakeside square. [11] This

hundreds of millions of pounds for

new town centre aims to create critical

regenerating housing, infrastructure,

urban and commercial mass abuzz

and landscape [10]. The association

with human activity in an area currently

has initiated urban studies and

characterised by an abandoned feel.

enhancement projects to assess and

Among the first projects to be carried

solve real issues Thamesmead is facing.

out, in Southmere and Park View areas, public spaces are to be renovated.

The strong physical legacy of housing, infrastructure, and green zones forms

Future plans include significant

the basis for new plans. In October

refurbishment of buildings,

44 45


comprehensive repairs and

there are both long and short answers

maintenance projects, as well as

to these questions, the city that houses

creating beautiful and interesting

Europe’s richest neighbourhood [12], is

public spaces that serve the whole

also notorious for the unfortunate care

area. Feasibility and conceptual design

of its urban poor.

studies are currently underway for the abandoned golf course. This vast terrain will be the epicentre of landscape enhancement projects - connecting the Thames to the inland via the existing

Grenfell tower overlooks multimillionpound town-houses. Its extinguished torch sheds light on the inequality and urban problems facing London in 2017.

sports club and wider green network

London house prices have risen 670%

that extends beyond Thamesmead

since 1995. There is much pressure

itself. Following London’s propensities,

on councils to approve new high-rise

property values are finally increasing

developments. At the same time,

in Thamesmead, which consequently

councils have the legal responsibility to

hope to transform the local and general

house the economically disadvantaged.

appreciation of the area.

Neglect – intentional or not – causes councils to tear down housings estates

CONCLUSION It was one of the biggest tragedies in the past few decades in Britain. The fire in Grenfell Tower, on 14 June 2017, caused 71 deaths and many injuries. Over 220 residents lost their homes.

to make way for cash generating developments, missing the opportunity to create strategic and integrated urban plans that look beyond quick pounds and local footprints. In London ‘urban planners and policy makers are characterized by fragmented thinking

While criminal investigation into the fire

in favour of individual sites rather

is in progress, there is much sorrow and

than the neighbourhood as a whole,’

anger, in not only the vicinity, but also

architect James Soane writes. The scale

23 kilometres southeast from Grenfell

and nature of the integrated approach

Tower, in Thamesmead. How could

towards development in Thamesmead

the Grenfell catastrophe happen in a

is rather unique for London. It is a fresh

modern, affluent city like London? While

and promising way of thinking that

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

unites its unique past to its hopeful future. Once regarded as a futuristic new town, Thamesmead quickly became one of the many symbols of London’s failed policies, governmental neglect, and poor urban living conditions. Now, in the 21st century, London has the unique chance to set a new example that inspires both national and international regeneration projects.   REFERENCES 1. Thamesmead. 1970. Film. London: The Greater London Council. 2. GLC Department of Architecture and Civic Design. 1975. The First Areas. Thamesmead Promotional Brochure. London: The Greater London Council. 3. Gale, Stanley. 1949. Modern Housing Estates. London: B.T. Batsford Ltd. 4. GLC Department of Architecture and Civic Design. 1975. The First Areas. Thamesmead Promotional Brochure. London: The Greater London Council. 5. University of Greenwich. Year unknown.

‘Ideal homes: A history of south-east London suburbs’. case-studies/thamesmead/8 6. Thamesmead. 1970. Film. London: The Greater London Council. 7. BBC. 2008. ‘Inside Out, London, Thamesmead’. insideout/content/articles/2008/10/08/ london_thamesmead_s14_w4_feature. shtml 8. Thamesmead. 1970. Film. London: The Greater London Council. 9. Living at Thamesmead. 1974.Film. London: The Greater London Council. Comment on film by David Hunt. com/watch?v=NtqX9PJv-Nk&lc=Ugzt2xxzAmWx45I__p4AaABAg 10. Peabody. 2014. ‘Trust Thamesmead and Tilfen Land to join the Peabody Group’. 11. Peabody. 2016. ‘London’s growing new town’. londons-new-town/homes/ 12. 2015 GDP per capita in 276 EU regions, 2017. documents/2995521/7962764/130032017-AP-EN.pdf/4e9c09e5-c74341a5-afc8-eb4aa89913f6,

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Tomas Degenaar is a Dutch landscape architect based in London since 2015. He works for the British firm Land Use Consultants (LUC) on two projects within Thamesmead: a feasibility study including conceptual design for the abandoned 24 hectare golf course (in collaboration with Project Orange Architects) and a redesign for Southmere’s public realm, both commissioned by Peabody. Tomas studied at Wageningen University in The Netherlands from where he graduated in 2010 as a garden and landscape architect. During his studies he traveled to Bangladesh and Brazil to study slums and their landscapes. Some of his favorite books include Transitory Gardens, Uprooted Lives by Diana Balmori, The Old Waysby Robert MacFarlane and Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition by Robert Pogue Harrison.

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Tactical Urbanism Shaping the City STÉPHANIE FY CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Creativity flourishes during hard times. The repercussions of the 2008 financial crisis on the city of Dublin were unprecedented. Once bustling with a skyline dotted with building cranes, it was suddenly brought to a standstill as work on major construction sites ground to a halt. In their place though, small-scale interventions began to flourish all over the city. Light, temporary interventions appeared, proving the resilience of Dublin: a pop-up city. START SMALL Small scale interventions don’t need a lot of human or capital investment: they are recession-proof. Pop-up projects are emanating from the local community, collectives and like-minded individuals who focus on a small parcel of land and offer a direct and local solution aimed at improving the liveability of their neighbourhood. At the end of the project, the site is reverted to its original state. This is exactly what PARK(ing) Day does: every year in September, participants transform car parking spaces into pop-up parks and installations for just one day. It was started by urban activists Rebar in 2005 in San Francisco, with the idea “to promote creativity, civic engagement, critical thinking, unscripted social interactions, generosity and play” (Rebar). PARK(ing) Day also advocates for quality of life, a greener city, and a better balance of pedestrian spaces.

Facing page- Bláth Cliath parklet on Camden Street by landscape architect Marion Keogh. Image credit: Marion Keogh Garden Design

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The first edition of PARK(ing) Day,

providing invaluable support. The first

launched in 2011 with fifteen parklets,

parklet in Ireland was a prolongation

became an immediate success. Over

of a pop-up park of the 2012 edition of

the next five years, the number of

the event: “The Sheep Pen Park”, built

participants doubled, from fifteen to over

in Capel Street, was extended for two

thirty teams involved. A wide range of

weeks. The parklet included a large

participants make the event extremely

comfortable bench to sit down and

diverse and different every year, from

have a chat, and a planter with lavish

charities to government organisations,

vegetation, surrounded by a blackboard

landscape architects to local businesses,

for the community to leave messages.

students, and urban enthusiasts. Live

The Sheep Pen Park was a success and

theatres stages, mini jazz clubs, giant

was well used by the public during the

board games, cosy living rooms, Alice

two weeks of its opening.

in Wonderland World and off course gardens and art installations are just

Independently organised by a pair of

some of the examples of the amazing

landscape enthusiasts- who met during

pop-up parks created in Dublin over the

the first edition of PARK(ing) Day-

years. All those pop-ups advocate for

Bloom Fringe celebrates gardening,

a better quality of life in the city, more

biodiversity and ecology in the city.

public spaces in the city centre and

The event branched out of the official

most of all, a creative and interactive

garden festival, Bloom, and since

community. A trusting relationship

2014 coordinates pop-up landscape

has gradually developed between the

installations, gardens, workshops, talks

event’s organisers, the city council,

from international speakers, and walks

government organisations and local

all over the city. The organisers want to

business associations, that are now

encourage the community to engage

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

The Sheep Pen Park parklet by landscape architect Michael Andrews. Image credit: Yann Bourke

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with the public space in their city. Those


pop-up installations and events really

If you look at the city as an ever-

resonate with the official garden festival, in a perfectly complementary way: the main festival is contained in the Phoenix Park, and Bloom Fringe events are free and scattered all over the city, reaching those people that might not usually be attending the garden festival, and can be seen as a more inclusive event. Bloom Fringe’s Wolf Tone Square pop-up play park was a truly inclusive event bringing together the members of the community, from children to older people.

changing environment, an incremental approach could be more appropriate. Dublin City Council developed a better way to test ideas. The Dublin “Beta” team since 2012 organises pop-up project trials to assess ideas and to encourage community feedback. Popup prototypes are quite diverse and can range from parklets to rain box planters, traffic light box artworks, residential cycle parking box or digital street library. Rain box planters aim at reducing the amount of storm water entering the city drains. Digital library is available

Both PARK(ing) Day and Bloom Fringe

by scanning with a phone a QR code

strive to create and promote place-

integrated within a notice board or a

making in the city, particularly in the city

piece of street art and allows passer-

centre, using parking spaces, pockets

by to download books for free. In an

of disused lands or lanes and revealing

iterative process, the projects are tested

them to the public. Pop-ups create

over a couple of weeks or months,

disruption and surprise, by encouraging

assessed, and re-tested in a different

creative interventions on open space

version. The process is designed for

with a very tight budget. They bring

learning and amelioration. At the end

citizens and specialists together

of the experiment, the site is reinstated

to actively interact with their local environment.

to its original condition. Dublin Beta projects are quick, reversible and flexible, very cost-effective and can be

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Urban Mirror by Architecture Republic in Drury Street. Image credit: Architecture Republic

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scaled or replicated in another suitable

tourism, innovative models of healthcare


and recreation. Following the footprint of an old railway line, the site extends

Between test-bed and site activation, an interesting project is shaping the north-

from the river Liffey to the Botanical Gardens a few kilometres away. The

west inner city of Dublin. The Lifeline is a

Greenway, named “the Lifeline�,

collaborative umbrella gathering pop-up

becomes a living laboratory in which

experimentations aimed at activating

students from the nearby university,

the development of a new sustainable

and the residents can take part: pop-

urban quarter in the north-west inner

up events and workshop, use of the

city, with a focus on ecology, well-being

reference library or the kitchen lab to

and health. The projects focus on urban

engage with nature in different ways.

agriculture, biodiversity, research, eco-

Eco-friendly products are created and

Traffic light art box. Image credit: Shane Waring; Dublin Beta CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

manufactured on site. The goal is to

architects, landscape architects, arts

build a “ribbon of biodiversity” over the

and community groups, and the City

next ten years, which will become the

Council, and funded by a crowdfunding

spine of the future sustainable quarter.

campaign which raised €20,000. The

This will start the activation of Dublin’s

vacant site was transformed with up-

The series of pop-up events and projects bring residents and students together, and encourages citizen-led biodiversity projects that could be replicated in other cities nationwide or abroad.

cycled, recycled and donated materials

north west inner city.

It acts as a catalyst for a wide range of pop-up community driven projects working towards a sustainable urban restoration of the north-west inner city.

into a multi activity park: a sheltered exhibition space and café, a green wall, a playground and a performance space. Architects and landscape architects were involved in the design of the garden, café and stage. Open for one month in August, the pop-up park was an immediate success with the local residents, especially children, and the people all over Dublin alike. A full calendar of free art events, outdoor cinema, theatre, concerts and educational projects were organised during the month, creating a hub of activity in this otherwise large vacant land. The pop-up park generated a large footfall to this otherwise quite bleak


corner of the neighbourhood: the site

During the recession, a number of large

was visited by 40,000 people in only one

sites in the city centre were vacant.

month. The temporary park revealed

One such site at the corner of a busy

possibilities for the development of this

retail street became the first large-

vacant site, and started bringing visitors

scale pop-up park in Dublin: Granby

into a neighbourhood they wouldn’t

Park. Two years in the making, it was

have the occasion to visit. This pop-up is

organised in 2013 by a not-for-profit art

a great achievement in term of site pre

collective, backed by some promoters,

activation and community involvement. 54 55


SHORT TERM ACTION, LONG TERM IMPACT By exploring various temporary projects that appeared during the recession years in Dublin, we can interrogate the real impact they had on the city. Behind what some people may qualify as a pop-up “spectacle”, what is the real impact of temporary actions? First of all, pop-up projects are a local response to local needs and problems. Pop-up projects are the essence of sustainable redevelopment, by transforming vacant lands with very little local resources into a productive urban environment such as “the Lifeline” in north west Dublin. Pop-up urbanism can also be seen as a laboratory on the city: a quick way of testing ideas using limited resources, in a temporary and reversible way. This is the case of the Dublin Beta projects. Pop-up projects bring people together. Granby Park is the proof that pop-ups have the potential to re-establish a sense of community in the inner city neighbourhoods, making connections between urban enthusiasts or activities, architects, artists, designers and residents. They are empowering communities. Bloom Fringe shows that pop-ups are engaging people in a fun CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

The lifeline bio- remediation workshop. Image credit: Kaethe Burt-O’Dea

Granby Park. Image credit: A2 Architects

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way, bringing exciting new projects to

positively disrupting the normal order,

the heart of our neighbourhoods. Pop-up

they are changing people’s mindsets

projects also start something bigger... by

towards quality of life, liveability, and the

Before & after images of ‘The World’s Smallest Jazz Club’ by The Improvised Music Company. Image credit: The author CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

place of the car within the city centre -

of the site. In a recession, temporary

requiring them to think critically about

urbanism can be an alternative way of

alternatives such as the need for parks, play and seating spaces, restaurant

developing the city. With a appropriate

terraces, etc. Long term, they can

planning framework in place, such

become a tool for managing change

as San Francisco’s “Pavement to

in the urban environment, for instance

Parks” initiative, temporary, bottom-up

advocating for the transformation of some of the car parking spaces or even for the pedestrianisation of some of the busiest city centre streets. Pop-ups are a

urbanism could kickstart development at a local scale, and become a flexible tool for planning the city.

phased approach to instigating change. The temporary use of vacant sites is kick-starting urban regeneration by demonstrating possibilities and potential

Lastly, pop-up projects in Dublin are a proof of the resilient ecosystem of communities, creatives and urban

qualities. They create a new identity

enthusiasts that work together to

or attractor in the neighbourhood, as

make the city a better place. In an ever

Granby Park reflected successfully.

changing city, pop-ups are opening new

They can lead to a more permanent use. On the development side, pop-ups

possibilities of experimentation and

can increase the value of the lands and

regeneration of the city: they are the

start an “activation or pre-activation”

start of the conversation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR With a double masters in architecture and urban planning and ten years of professional experience, Stephanie has a broad range of skills relating to the urban environment, with particular interest in sustainable development, urban renewal, transport-related projects and tactical urbanism. She studied and worked in Paris, Barcelona and Dublin. Stephanie was involved in exciting projects such as Cherrywood Dublin, Dublin Docklands and PIVOT Dublin -the city’s bid for World Design Capital. She was part of the Designing Dublin – Love the City team in 2010, Hack the City Idealab team in 2012, is a part-time lecturer in DIT School of Spatial Planning and is a co-founder of Dublin PARK(ing) Day since 2011.

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CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

As sure as night is dark and day is light I keep you on my mind both day and night And happiness I’ve known proves that it’s right Because you’re mine, I walk the line I Walk the Line; Johnny Cash

This year we had the privilege of walking the border in Juárez city as walk hosts. The activity was an ethnographic photowalk, with the intention of acknowledging our identities as a borderland community by showing and embracing the border architectural physical elements. The graffiti and the wall. Image by Luis Pegut, 2017.

60 61


What is it to walk the border? How does it feel? Well, we are from a border city; Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Juárez is a

colossi that stand out on the desert floor as man-made geographical landmarks, each impressive in its own regard; and recently the wall, filled with painful memories. In this walk along the border, we have noticed, now more than ever, significant aspects that are critical to make visible.

multifaceted city, the highest point of a rich territory in many ways. From a cultural point of view we can say that this border city is unique. Its richness lies in its many inhabitants (people from all around the world); its proudly vernacular architecture, and the spectacular desert views, to name a few. Also, Juárez is a historically significant location – once it was the Paso del Norte city in a period of our history, in another time it was the Rio Bravo entry, the border. Our goal was to understand and transmit the idea of the border by walking it. If you look in a map, at the borderland of Juárez, all you will see is a line. This simple line we call a border, is in equal parts an abstract concept,

THE BONES OF THE BRIDGE One of the significant landscapes of the border are its internationals bridges. The Paso del Norte bridge was the first wood bridge on the border, a silent witness of the Mexican revolution and the principal connection to the sister city of El Paso, Texas, United States. The name was changed to Santa Fe Bridge, though in many ways the same, in reality, very different. This place is not only an urban canvas for artwork, murals, messages and appropriations, but also a bastion of resistance and expression, where local, national and international artists have adorned messages full of colour and emotions. What was otherwise a

as much as it is a drawing, or even an

dull and murky region between two

idea. Some points on this line are very

countries, with the bridge neither from

important. For example, the Rio Bravo

here nor there, but merely floating in the

river, or the distant memory of a river;

shallow waters of the river, then had a

the international bridges, concrete

renewed identity.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Santa Fe bridge. Image credit: The author

Walking is a right of the city dweller, but walking on the border is an act of rebellion. This is, in part, due to the general idea of fear, restriction and differential power that the place evokes. The experience of walking this line, this powerful line as a real place, gives us a feeling of knowledge, of solidifying our border identity, of identification, and love of the GENIUS LOCI [1]. Under the Santa Fe bridge is the river, Rio Bravo, or what is left of it. But also there is a palimpsest of art. The images are impressive and nostalgic, being able to transform this place into a place for art and artists, and for the ever present

city rebels. We extended our invite to more people, and under the pretext of the Jane Jacobs day, we undertook the first walk. With an overwhelming response, and joined by people from many walks of life and professions, from photographers, visitors, academicians to students and urban artists, we embarked on our border walk.

Yorch is one of the many urban artists in Juรกrez, and he painted the mural of the Berlin Wall on the canal of the border, next to the river, under the bridge, and on the side of the black bridge [2]. He explains through this work that 62 63


‘Juárez is a force of resistance... by putting up with things, by imposing, or by simply expressing. There are many ways of expression. In this, our part was the urban graphic art that we do, the projects with our city, and all that... it is the way of resistance. The other is survival’.

View of Paso del Norte bridge. Los puentes hermanos: caminar la línea/ The brother bridges: walking the line. Shot during Jane Jacobs Walks May 2017. Image credit: Eugenio Abraham. CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Walking the line. Images credit: Eugenio Abraham.

Talking about the border with Yorch and Mario Romero. Images credit: Eugenio Abraham.

64 65


For Mario Romero, the border ‘is at the centre of attention, a big whiteboard to send a message to the other side’. The appropriation of this place is a unique experience. Especially under the ever-watchful eye of the border patrol - always slowly tracing your footsteps from the other side of the fence. The concept of the line being thought of as a border, as an empty meaning of words does not apply. It is transformed to a community understanding, one giving the space a significant sense of identity. Some topics discussed in the walks,were the feeling of freedom that this urban art gives to the walking experience. The different types of messages, claims, goodbyes, and the protests that you see, create a space between places, a secret in view of everyone, the communication cannot be interrupted, the information escapes beyond the walls and fences. Palimpsest of art at the border. Image credit: Alejandra Coronado.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

THE PERPETUAL AND (IN)VISIBLE WALL The infamous wall, the border wall reaches for the sky but has its roots on the ground, the border ground. One of the most controversial symbols of our times is the Wall. On this side of the wall, the rebel side, our backyard has an intruder - a big, rusty, dirty, and ugly trespasser that blocks the view. The architectural view can be identified as a cold oxidized element of the landscape in a faraway land, were kids climb it as a game. A ludicrous element that is new to explore, maybe, or new to paint. The walking in here is a little different, many people do not know it, do not see it. But to the people who live here, it is only natural, a barrier that has always being there, only now, it is taller. We explore it as an undisclosed place with many delights, solitude and much inner contemplation. View of the border canal and the international bridge. Image credit: Eugenio Abraham.

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Talking about the border on the line. Images credit: Eugenio Abraham.

Walking under the black bridge. Images credit: Eugenio Abraham.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Berlin Wall Resiste. Images credit: Eugenio Abraham.

Walking the line full of messages. Images credit: Eugenio Abraham.

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The wall of before. Image by author, 2016.

The wall now. Image by author, 2017.

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine I keep my eyes wide open all the time I keep the ends out for the tie that binds Because you’re mine, I walk the line I Walk the Line, Johnny Cash CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

The wall in some places is a canvas also, like the graffiti ¨ Ni delincuentes, ni ilegales, somos trabajadores internacionales ¨ (Not criminals, not illegals, we are international workers). This intervention talks about an appropriation on an element of imposition, as a message for anyone who can see it. Because we are all immigrants at some point, as is our human nature to be nomads at some juncture in our travels.

REFERENCES [1] Genius loci is a Roman concept. According to Roman believes each being has his “genius”, its guardian spirit. This spirit gives life to people and places, it accompanies them from cradle to grave and determines their character or essence. Even the Gods have it which it perfectly illustrates the fundamental nature of the concept. According to Louis Khan, “genius”, indicates what something is or it wishes to be. [2] El Puente negro, the black bridge, is one of the remaining historical bridges that were used by Mexico and United States as a passage of people and merchandise. Today only merchandise is free to pass through. Also, this is one of the symbols at the border, it is something that people recognize and knows about.

We cannot erase the border, this border, but we can explore it, mark it with the experience of walking. The significance of this place is like the city, it appears immobile but it is always in motion.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS Brenda is an architect and visual artist born at the border city of Juarez, she has taken a special interest in urban artistic interventions as a way of public expressions for taking the people rights to the city. Currently she is getting a PhD in architecture from Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolas de Hidalgo. Her work always strive to be multidisciplinary and from a group effort through Colectivo Bazart Juarez. Carlos is an architect and writer born at the border city of Juarez. Through Colectivo Bazart Juarez he likes to explores the literary side of his native city and, hopefully, find the secret stories hidden in the sands of the desert. Together they work in, on, the city border, write, and conspire for more projects to come with many special accomplices.

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CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Throughout human history, ‘Circular Economy’ as a strategy to beat shortages of food, goods and shelter – has been an inherent aspect of human survival. Over a century ago the linear, take-make-waste revolution enabled mankind to reduce poverty and scarcity in absolute terms. However, at the same time, the linear successes directly contributed to a painful deepening of inequality, exploitation of resources and unmanageable waste-scapes. This being incompatible with the finite carrying capacity of our planet, poses a real danger to our environment, economies and society as a whole [1]. The modern circular economy therefore positioned itself to target abundance, not scarcity - to support human survival for generations to come, while simultaneously, reimagining and re-designing our short-term relationships with products, places and perceptions. Today human consumption accounts for excessive amounts of waste, which rapidly increase with population growth, which is interlinked with unruly urbanization [2]. Moreover the absent and/or ineffective waste management infrastructures leak poisonous waste into our air, soil and water worldwide. The right infrastructure is not the only missing link in achieving sustainable circular development - it is also the extent to which urban societies lack awareness about the scale of these issues. Most big-city dwellers do not see, and hence do not give much thought to where their waste goes, how it is processed or what impact it may have on the environment. Facing page- The unaltered stomach contents of a dead albatross chick photographed on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific in September 2009. Image credit: Chris Jordan

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The issue of unprecedented amounts of waste and overconsumption of natural resources has finally started to be taken seriously and recognised as a palpable threat to society. At different levels (via different sectors), teams are working to identify means to introduce sustainability and circularity into their systems [3]. Development policies, goals and projections towards a circular economy are being integrated at national, regional, and local government level. Presently, the challenge in the current direction of progression is how do we put people at the centre of operations, while targeting the

WASTED. Image credit: Cities Foundation

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

development of the right physical and economic infrastructures? Hence, circularity in itself should not be wrongfully profiled as the end. It is a means by which we can reach greater goals as social inclusion as well as equal and sustainable growth. And, this is where local, bottom-up initiatives like WASTED become global game changers, as they demonstrate the possibility and potential of putting people into sustainable urban development and sustainable urban development into people.

WASTED is a flagship project of the

rewarded in the form of digital currency,

CITIES Foundation, which is an urban

which can be exchanged for deals and

research organisation trail-blazing the

discounts on goods and services at 40+

path to the re-introduction of circularity

local businesses in Amsterdam Noord

in cities, while positioning agency

[the Northern district of Amsterdam], 30

and empowerment at the core of its

in Oost [the Eastern district] and 15 in

operations. A pioneer in its design,

Amsterdam Centre. The ample variety

WASTED serves as a community-level

of rewards attracts different groups

initiative to foster collaborative waste

of members, who can redeem their

separation, by way of awareness raising,

digital coins for anything from an extra

educational activities and ‘monetary’

coffee at Al Ponte cafe, to FC Hyena


cinema ticket(s), extra wine at De Ceuvel sustainable restaurant, discount on

The premise is very simple - community members create an account via the WASTED website, and in doing so they

TOMS shoes or a skateboarding lesson at the SkateBoard School Noord, and much more.

enter into a rewards-based scheme. The team from WASTED deliver a starter

This innovative approach to

package of transparent, re-usable

circularity has not gone unnoticed.

rubbish bags (made of recycled plastic)

The Municipality of Amsterdam has

to the newly joined members, along with

entered into a collaboration with

the do’s & don’ts on waste separation.

WASTED - transitioning the redemption

All that an individual is required to do is

platform from analogical to digital, thus

separate their glass, paper, textiles, and

expanding the reach and impact of the

plastic waste and deliver the bags to the

project. However, there is much more

standard recycling container on their

value to this rewards scheme than retail

street. Each bag of separated waste is


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The WASTED digital system. Image Credit: Cities Foundation CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

On a fundamental and somewhat more profound level, WASTED not only encourages an environmentallyconscious change in behaviour, but embraces the potential of circularity through recycling, nurturing social cohesion, and stimulating local economy growth.

In the household context, a veil of mystery surrounds waste recycling. Common misconceptions include sentiments such as ‘But all the waste I separate goes to landfill anyway, so what’s the point?’ However, there is more to recycling than meets the eye. In the first instance, circular potential of careful waste separation doesn’t get enough air-time or media attention. Not only are we exacerbating our personal environmental impact, but there are also the missed opportunities in repurposing materials, and importantly, significant savings that can be made by local governments - where money saved through a reduction in waste to landfill sites, could be spent much more efficiently. And hence, the importance of the WASTED approach, whereby ‘good

In essence, WASTED is successfully

behaviour’ is incentivised, is a strong

championing an approach that is

proponent for triggering perception

multi-faceted, both in its appeal and

change in regards to recycling and

associated benefits. The WASTED

recycled products. Furthermore,

system can be seen as an important

rewards schemes have a proven track

tool for behaviour change - carrying

record globally. A number of deposit

significant value in terms of driving

return schemes see more than 90%

increased sustainability. Through a

of materials recycled by contrast to

people-focused attitude, with regular

the 50% recycled mostly via street

liaison at the community level, WASTED

side collection schemes [4]. While

is proactively raising awareness around

incentivising behaviour change by way of

the importance of recycling, and for

providing monetary rewards is one thing,

good reason.

the WASTED system takes this concept 76 77


Waste picking in Amsterdam Noord. Image Credit: Cities Foundation

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

78 79


several steps further. Instead of the flow

district. Furthermore, in the district

of behaviour change being guided purely

only a very limited portion of the urban

by a motivation for economic benefit

population makes the effort to separate

- the system carries further value,

waste. According to the Municipality

addressing one of the greatest social

statistics, it has a very low recycling

challenges of our time.

rate per neighbourhood. This, provides a basis for the assumption that the

THROUGH WASTED TO SOCIAL INCLUSION Importantly, the WASTED initiative serves to tackle the issue of social inequality. Research conducted by CITIES Foundation in Amsterdam Noord revealed particularly interesting results concerning the neighbourhood demographics and recycling habits. Amsterdam Noord itself is unusual - according to Statistiekbij OIS [5],

population does not prioritize waste separation due to: • The fact that neighbours are more concerned with their basic livelihood; • The fact that neighbours perceive waste separation as a time costly and unrewarding activity; • The fact that neighbours lack awareness of environmental value, social and economic gains of waste separation.

it is one of the most socially and economically diverse districts within

The innovative WASTED system changes

Amsterdam. Historically, Noord has

this by empowering people living below

one of the lowest income levels, and

the poverty line to afford more items

the second lowest employment level;

and services at the neighbourhood level.

also the second lowest number of

An additional bonus of the scheme

households with income (excluding

is what it can do for a metropolitan

students). With regards to education, the

landscape in terms of cleanliness,

district has the second lowest average

making for a more pleasant and vibrant

score on the final tests for the basic

residential environment. As seen in the

education, and lastly, it has had the

documentary made by Schuldig (Dutch)

second lowest average score for social

[6], people reliant on the welfare system

cohesion in the neighbourhood by the

in Amsterdam Noord started collecting

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

School children taking part in one out of many WASTED activation campaigns to clean neighbourhoods in Amsterdam Noord. Image credit: Cities Foundation

waste outside in the streets, keeping

This in part, is what WASTED wants to

the neighbourhood clean in order to

achieve by incentivising ‘good’ recycling

enjoy rewards they would not be able

behaviour. Consequently, with time we

to obtain otherwise. This is an example

anticipate seeing not only an increase in

how community orientated currencies

waste separation in this area, but also

have the potential to recognise and

improving social cohesion; as interaction

encourage people’s participation

between different socioeconomic groups

locally, and support individuals with

increases when each group is able to

the necessary infrastructure and

access a shared pool of local products

incentives to drive positive change [7].

and services.

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THE WASTED SYSTEM PROLIFERATES MULTIPLE BENEFITS FOR THE LOCAL ECONOMY The popularity and success of the scheme is realised through three key factors. Firstly, in the growth of memberships, which has seen a 300% increase in uptake, and now currently stands at more than 3000 members since August 2017. Since that time, WASTED has also seen a marked increase in the number of separated bags of waste - a rise of 626%. WASTED has simultaneously proven its ability to boost the local economy since, as of October 2017, it has directly contributed to the generation of 2.100 Euro value of rewards. This contribution to the local economy is important - but why is this the case? Numbers show that local currencies do generate value. When one is spending in a chain outlet, the money spent is not worth much to the community. And the reason for this is that the money doesn’t stay in or benefit the local area. According to one study, less than 20% of a coin spent in a chain store actually stays in the local area, the rest goes into shareholders’ pockets and long, complex supply chains - because big CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

chains do not source anything locally [8]. By contrast, local businesses are very motivated to work with WASTED, as through the tangible opportunities the initiative creates, these business owners reach a new consumer audiences. These include low-income communities, who

WASTED education workshop - “Plastic Archaeology”. Image credit: Cities Foundation

without the discounts, would not be able to spend in certain businesses, whose goods and services were unaffordable to them previously. At the same time, by bringing together members of differentiating income groups, WASTED creates a space in which social cohesion

can be strengthened across different social classes. Lastly, as businesses provide rewards through the WASTED system, this enables the so-called ‘local multiplier effect’ [ibid]. This means that when the money is spent in local shops it is re-distributed within the local area, 82 83


such as when a local business owner

In light of these arguments, the

re-invests money spent in their shop

environmental, social and economic win-

into improving the quality of sale stock

win-win aspect of the WASTED initiative

and importantly, building relationships

indicates the potential for this digital

with local suppliers and purchasing their

currency to do more than save money.


Importantly, it becomes instrumental for increasing quality of life. The flow of

Hence there is substantial evidence that the greater emphasis on the improvement of socio-economic conditions at the local level has many benefits. Moreover, the emergence of local economy and local currencies is not a new phenomenon [9]. And yet, the concept of alternative currencies to those we recognise at the regional level, continues to gain traction. Grabbing media attention at the macro level is the cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, the likes of which can be worth thousands of dollars. But, by contrast, local currency

benefits extends between the initiative’s ability to stimulate sustainable behaviour change and educate; while improving waste management, creating demand for recycled products and reducing environmental impacts and strengthening social cohesion and the local economy. What began as an exercise in improving recycling behaviours at the community level, now has bigger social ambitions - especially in terms of expanding the scope of WASTED to cover every district in Amsterdam. In order to take WASTED to city-wide level, the team is actively

has rather an explicit social value and

finding ways to make it easier to

purpose. It can be used in a specific

redeem rewards, increasing the level

geographic locality at participating

of engaging communications with the

businesses and organisations, enabling

current rewards and subscribers, and

users to think about how and where

conducting more research to ascertain

they spend their money. In times where

which aspects of the scheme can be

financial crises loom in the wake of

improved further. Needless to say,

political and economic instability, a local

paramount to fulfilling the aspirations of

currency becomes the alternative.

WASTED, expanding and creating global

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

community of conscious residents and business, will be the enhancement of social inclusion. REFERENCES 1. Walter R. Stahel,“Reuse and the Circular Economy”, in The Re-Use Atlas, A Designers’ Guide Towards a Circular Economy; 2017 2. Cat Fletcher,“What a Waste!” The Re-Use Atlas, A Designer’s Guide towards a Circular Economy; 2017 3. Source: Roadmap for the strategy on plastics in a circular economy, January 2017. http:// docs/plan_2016_39_plastic_strategy_ en.pdf prepared by European Commission 4. Matthew Taylor, “Plastic bottle deposit return scheme could save England’s councils £35m a year.” The Guardian; 2017.https://

oct/11/plastic-bottle-deposit-return-schemecould-save-englands-councils-35m-a-year 5. Onderzoek, “GemeenteAmsterdam.” InformatieenStatistiek. http://www.ois. (Accessed December 04, 2017) 6. Schuldig, “Schuldig: Het schuldendorpkijkje op”;2017; https://www.npo. nl/schuldig/14-11-2016/VPWON_1250450 7. Source: People powered money: designing, developing and delivering community currencies; 2015; prepared by New Economics Foundation 8. TEDxTalks. “How Local Currencies Give Value for Money: Simon Woolf at TEDxBrixton.” YouTube, YouTube, 14 Sept. 2013, www. 9. Source: “Eko Community Currency.” Ekopia Resource Exchange Ltd; 2017; https://www.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS Ieva Punyte is content and communications coordinator at CITIES Foundation also in charge of international partnerships and collaborations. With her background in political science and urban research, at CITIES, her responsibilities vary from project assessment to publications to processes management. Having a strong interest in participatory governance and development as well as empowerment, Ieva believes that technological solutions paving the way to circularity are constantly being implemented, yet the behavioural change is what requires more attention. Anna Johnson writes content for CITIES Foundation flagship projects WASTED and FOODLOGICA, alongside studying for MSc Environment and Resource Management at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. Anna followed her passion for sustainability to Amsterdam in August 2016, following a 5 year long career in event management. Working for Team Love Ltd., based in Bristol (UK), Anna led as Procurement Manager and coordinated all sustainability-focused initiatives; from introducing bio-fuel generators, to integrating a reusable cup system on a number of music festival sites. For more information about WASTED visit: OR

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CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

A mirror cannot exaggerate, it can only reflect what exists. With this character of the mirror, the contrasts, histories and concurrences of different entities of the city - that is, the image of the city - is captured and put forth in a series.

600001 The coarse grain of the initial imperial interventions made space for the finer layers of later years, forming this dense neighbourhood in the core of the city.

86 87


CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

600004 Not all additions fit in. Luxury here is environmentally volatile, heightening the existing tensions surrounding the life and livelihood of urban fishing villages along the coast...

88 89


CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

600028 ...and along the river.

90 91


CITY OBSERVER | December 2017


92 93


CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

600002 Beauty is different eras co-existing in the same place; harmony abundant in this seemingly chaotic mix.

94 95


CITY OBSERVER | December 2017


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CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

600038 Correa’s wall speaks of the universal sea; across the road, the walls speak the sounds of the streets.

98 99


CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

600099 And in the periphery, the city grows with no end. A place without reflection.

Acknowledgements: Karthik Rajakumar; Vignesh Harikrishnan

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER Sarveswaran Ganapathy is a young Architect from Chennai. His interest in understanding the built and the living regardless to its scale is often reflected through his photographs. He currently works at The Madras Office for Architects and Designers (MOAD) and passionately enjoys art and photography alongside. Follow him on instagram @sarve.sh17

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CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Resting quietly on the Bay of Bengal, 150 km south of Chennai and 300 km east of Bangalore is Pondicherry, part of the Union Territory of Puducherry. Influenced by the Romans and then through complex colonial histories with the British, Dutch, and French, this old fort town was a centre of trade for centuries. Despite its reputation as a quiet coastal town, Pondicherry, affectionately known as Pondy, has an unexpected cosmopolitan air about it, which probably began early on through trade, but has remained a characteristic throughout. This is due in great part to the Ashram of Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa(better known as The Mother), which continues to draw attention and visitors from around the world. The international feel of the city further enhanced when Alfassa, otherwise known by her followers as The Mother, initiated the utopian community experiment, Auroville, in 1968, about 10 km north of Pondicherry. Auroville and its 3000 plus residents host thousands of national and international visitors and volunteers each year, most of whom also spend time in Pondicherry.

Amirtharaj Stephen brings his work to the PondyART wall. “In my Backyard“ is a photo essay on the uprising of the local community against Government of India’s commissioning of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP). Image credit: Amirtharaj Stephen

102 103


Despite this continuing influx of

chosen to make the city their home.

cosmopolitan travellers, the visibility

For example, ceramic artists abound,

of the arts as a whole in the city has

but studios remain mostly private

remained focused on the classical;

workspaces, and there is no dedicated

traditional dance and music forms being

public gallery or retail space for this art

most common. In comparison, modern

form. Sculptors and sculpture (other

dance, contemporary music, and theatre

than traditional bronzes) follow suit.

are slowly developing a loyal public

Exhibitions of works on paper (drawing,

audience,albeit showing in mostly semi-

painting, printing, photography, etc.) are

private or private venues.

more common, with regular shows in the four or five private galleries spread

The visual arts show similar trends. Architecture is as publicly popular as the classical performance arts although, ‘modern’ residences, offices,

between Pondicherry and Auroville. Unfortunately, most of these galleries are away from high traffic zones, remote from the general populace.

and retail outlets are rapidly replacing structures representative of traditional lifestyles, apace with the increasing prosperity of the country and citizens. Despite this, Pondy’s urban fabric still reveals beautiful colonial properties of various architectural styles. Aided by a pedestrian friendly scale and easily navigable street grid, the city’s architecture is a major draw for tourists.

There are no footnotes to refer to for the paragraphs above. These comments are my personal observations made over the 15 years I have lived and worked in the city. It should be noted that they are generalisations; there are annual Latin dance flash mobs on the Beach Road, DJs with state of the art equipment spin at the occasional ticketed festival, and one may stumble upon contemporary

Traditional crafts are easy to find in

sculpture built from recycled waste

small shops or government sponsored

in some unexpected public space.

markets held regularly through the year,

However, my overall impression has

yet, contemporary visual art forms must

remained unchanged in all these years;

be actively sought out. This is surprising

public access to the contemporary arts

given the number of artists who have

is largely non-existent in Pondicherry

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

and this status quo will remain without

the late Francis Wacziarg, several

increased public-private collaboration.

individual shows were curated from ARTWORLD’s collection and sent for

In 2012, through some collective brainstorming over the situation, a few like-minded residents teamed up to create the PondyART initiative. Our original initiative was two-fold in concept - increase public access to contemporary art forms, and boost local

public exhibition to Pondicherry’s Hotel de l’Orient. The hotel welcomed the public to these shows of original work and attendance was high for the openings. Contrary to our hopes however, public interest and attendance to these events waned with time.

economy. Each month, we invited local businesses to promote the arts in some

As a second option, a photographer

form. For example, they could offer

suggested creating an even more

artists space to display their work or to

public gallery. Subsequently, a

perform, screen films, or host an author

strategically positioned compound

for a reading. It was envisioned that

wall was ‘borrowed’ and a series of

once PondyART became established

photographs printed on paper pasted to

on the city’s monthly calendar, hosts

its surface. The exhibition, titled ‘Global

and associated businesses would begin

Sex Trafficking’, was now visible along

drawing additional local and out of town

one of Pondy’s busiest thoroughfares,

event-drawn visitors, boosting their

where thousands walked, bicycled, and


motored past daily. Response to this ‘public gallery’ and awareness-building

As part of this citywide event, PondyART made a consummate effort to promote

artwork was overwhelmingly positive. PondyART had glimpsed its future.

existing private galleries to larger audiences, and to create new public

PondyART’s second public exhibition

gallery spaces showing internationally

“+ Mothers”, was printed yet again on

recognized artists. With the support

paper but at a larger scale, with text and

of the Director of Chennai based

captions added in two languages – Tamil

ARTWORLD Gallery, Sarala Banerjee,

and English. This second art and social

and Neemrana Hotel Chain Co-Founder,

awareness exhibition received coverage 104 105


Srikanth Kolari’s work “Global Sex Trafficking” was PondyART’s first foray into offering public access to the art of photography. Image credit:PondyART Foundation

in local papers. Although the citywide

contract period for access to the wall

‘open evening’ concept was promoted

ended. PondyART sadly pulled down the

as a long-term project, support and

show and whitewashed the wall clean.

participation by venues dwindled and funds for promotional campaigns disappeared. In contrast, PondyART’s wall as ‘public gallery’ project gained

In an effort to ride the wave of positive public attention, a third exhibition had already been scheduled. A new location

attention and increasing community and

had to be found quickly. Thanks to local

financial support. Unfortunately, despite

well-wishers of the project, permission

the success of the second exhibition,

was obtained to use a wall on the Beach

the property owner asked PondyART

Road. Officially known as Goubert

to vacate the space once the agreed

Avenue, the Beach Road is a popular

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

PondyART starts working at a larger scale increasing impact with its social issue focused exhibition “+Mothers� by photographer Srikanth Kolari. Image credit: PondyART Foundation

evening seaside promenade along the

The visual impact of these large format

Bay of Bengal for both residents and

photographs of tattooed individuals

visitors, and is designated pedestrian-

was impressive and attention grabbing.

only daily from 6 pm until 6 am.

Public knowledge of the project grew.

PondyART jumped at the chance to use a wall in such a prominent location.

At this point, PondyART began issuing press releases for its exhibition

Photographic portraits of the rapidly

openings. While preparing the first

disappearing Ramnamis of Chhattisgarh

release, we stumbled upon a Puducherry

and the associated informational

Government sponsored set of statistics

captions were custom sized for panels

stating that an estimated 200,000

pasted along 60 running meters of wall.

pedestrians visited the Beach Road in 106 107


Visibility of PondyART exhibitions increased with its new location on the Beach Road, a purely pedestrian promenade popular with locals as well as tourists. Image and work ©Yannick Cormier

The 55m long public exhibition wall on the Beach Road showcasing award winning Tamil photographer, Senthil Kumaran’s work on the effect of pollution on the environment. Image credit: PondyART Foundation CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

any given month. This was the moment

Cormier shared his enthusiasm for the

that PondyART first gauged the reach

project with his extensive professional

and potential impact of its initiative.

network and curated the next few months of exhibitions. By October

PondyART was now presenting awareness-building art exhibitions

2013, over a period of 7 months, eight exhibitions had been presented on the

for an enormous audience. While the

wall at the Beach Road. PondyART

rest of the monthly event seemed to

had shared photography, all work by

be disappearing, the ‘public gallery’

Indian artists, and information,with an

initiative evolved. PondyART remained

estimated 1.2 million visitors (according

focused on making art, particularly

to government statistics) on topics such

photography, publicly accessible, but


the associated economic goal was

• A minority community

now replaced with a mission to build awareness and offer alternative means of public education.

• Environmental pollution • A regional landscape • The Kumbh Mela

This third show on the Ramnamis, the

• Mental illness

work of French photographer Yannick

• The nuclear power dilemma in South

Cormier, was pivotal for PondyART.


Kasha and team pasting the printed paper exhibition, “Kumbh Photo Sewa” by Varun Gupta on Pondicherry’s Beach Road in 2013. Image credit: PondyART Foundation

108 109


Throughout this period, PondyART presented its exhibitions only in black and white. Local boys helped paste images and text printed on paper to wall surfaces with rubber cement. Exhibition preparation was labour intensive as the printer worked only with a 90 cm width paper roll. For larger walls, prints had to be hand-trimmed and then overlapped on the wall, taking hours of work. Waswo X. Waswo’s exhibition “Confessions of an Evil Orientalist”, next on the schedule led to another significant development in this public art project - our first colour photography show. PondyART had so far avoided presenting colour photography because of the high costs of printing on paper. Research indicated that plastic flex, a less environment friendly material, was the only financially viable option for colour printing, one we were reluctant to use. However, Waswo’s work needed colour and we decided to test this new material, ordering prints from a local sign and banner contractor. The ensuing collaboration with Muthu Stickers was another critical point for PondyART. S. Muthukrishnan, a young Tamil entrepreneur with several years of CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

training in Malaysia behind him, caught onto our excitement about the project. He understood the medium better and had an experienced team in place ready to handle installations. The new prints

PondyART presents its first flex printed color exhibition “Confessions of an Evil Orientalist” by Waswo X. Waswo. This was the beginning of an ongoing collaboration with S. Muthukrishnan a local entrepreneur with a growing printing business. Image of the artist and his work © Pablo Bartholomew

were cost effective, faster to install,

barrier for thatch roofs. Waste material

and held up better in the often-harsh

and old flex were distributed secretly

coastal environment. Working together,

post-event, within neighbouring slums,

we found an up-cycling opportunity for

to be used as protection against the

the plastic flex as an effective moisture

intense South Indian rains. 110 111


PondyART could now leave the technical aspects of the exhibition- printing, installation, and take-down, to Muthu and his team, and concentrate on scheduling, designing, and promoting. The moment was opportune, as once again, PondyART was asked to look for another venue,as the current wall owner decided to renovate his property. This time PondyART made a public appeal for new exhibition space through its expanding and supportive social and press networks. For the first time, the Union Territory’s leadership stepped up to help. Then Lt. Governor Virendra Kataria sent word to PondyART that the long unused Old Distillery at the north end of Goubert Avenue might be available through formal application to the Department of Tourism. PondyART made its first official request for assistance to the Government of Puducherry. A Kite’s eye view of 3 Acre beachfront site of the vacant arak distillery offered by the Government of Pondicherry to PondyART as its next exhibition site. Image credit: Nicolas Chorier

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

112 113


Before the offer by the Lt. Governor and

structures of various sizes and one

during the lengthy process of gaining

6-storey tower, the site was overgrown

official permission for access to the Old

and strewn with garbage. The various

Distillery, PondyART had simultaneously

spaces however were full of potential,

been looking at taking the art and

and the PondyART team’s excitement

awareness exhibition concept further

mounted as we installed the first and

afield to Chennai. Cormier and another

then second exhibition using a limited

Chennai based photographer, Varun

area of the site. Using flex prints and

Gupta, spent over a month applying

with the support of Muthu’s team, it was

for site permissions to present an

now possible to exploit the full range the

extensive group show in Chennai public

site offered - varied wall sizes, surface

space. It proved impossible to get

levels, and spatial sequences. Workers

access to any reasonable space in the

came with experience as well as the

larger metro. The bureaucratic process

equipment, and scaled heights with

was lengthy and challenging, but our

ease to install photographs, some even

persistence in Pondicherry paid off and

20m x 30m in dimension, hung from

eventually we were allowed to cut the

steel trusses 6 stories up. However, the

gate’s locks (keys could not be found!);

property was huge and solo shows were

and PondyART stepped into our next

using less than 10% of the site. It was

‘temporary’ exhibition site. With the Old

time to bring a larger show to life.

Distillery now in the hands of PondyART, there was adequate space for a larger project back at home and the Chennai based team turned its efforts back to Pondicherry.

There were challenges to using the Old Distillery. Government gave the space freely but offered no support in terms of utilities, general maintenance, security, or public safety. When PondyART took

The gated, three-acre arak factory

over the site in January 2014, we

had lain mostly vacant for around two

simply blocked off 90% of the area.

decades except for its outbuildings

However now, in preparation for a larger

from which land registration offices

show that seemed to be turning into a

temporarily operated. Composed of a

small photography festival, the entire

series of dilapidated concrete and steel

site needed attention. We cleaned

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

S. Muthukrishnan’s team install Yannick Cormier’s work ‘Tribals of the Indian Subcontinent’ at the Old Distillery in preparation for the first edition of PondyPHOTO in 2014. Image credit: Yannick Cormier

out truckloads of paper waste and

connection unless we paid it off. As

laminated identification cards from

there were no working light fixtures on

the outbuildings. Areas designated

site anyway, we hired contractors to

as pathways by lining them with rice

install miles of electric cable connecting

powder, were cleared of weeds, rocks,

hundreds of lights, and generators to run

bricks, and concrete blocks. Unstable stairs to upper levels were blocked off and loose window overhangs knocked down for public safety. Underground


Andreas Deffner, a locally based

spaces were boarded up to keep

German photographer/designer,

the curious out and holes covered

produced the promotional campaign

with concrete slabs to prevent falls.

and graphics for “Tribals of the Indian

An outstanding electricity bill left by

Sub-Continent” while Cormier curated

previous tenants meant no power

and designed the installation. I searched 114 115


PondyART gains public attention with its new venue with its innovative use of varied wall sizes and surface levels, spatial sequences and scales. Image and work © Peter Kabel

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

for funds, scheduled workshops, delivered VIP invitations by hand,and carried out other administrative tasks. Thanks to Nazar Foundation, another 18 exhibitions arrived from Delhi Photo Festival, and the whole team came together to unpack the crates and hammer the panels to walls. The festival exhibitions were installed over a period of two weeks throughout the Old Distillery’s main grounds, on the Beach Road, and in a number of other local venues that PondyART had started the original initiative with back in 2012. The first edition of PondyPHOTO opened in the Old Distillery in March 2014. When gates opened on the first evening, the public entered an old factory now reinvented into a public centre of arts and education. Everywhere one looked, there was the art of photography. With every photograph was information about a tribal way of life, costume, tradition, or regional landscape. A band played in the main hall, tribal dancers arrived in a parade, and vendors served local snacks under a tent. Schoolchildren came for guided tours. In the ensuing weeks, we held workshops, presentations, panel discussions, and more performances.

116 117


PondyPHOTO 2016 in the Old Port. Work by Gideon Mendel. Image © ArUn for PondyART Foundation

The public embraced the reinvented

The first two years of PondyART’s

space, the art, the subject, and the

effort to reinterpret public spaces

individual associated events.

into catalysts for the arts and public awareness covered a lot of distance

Unfortunately, public approval of a project did not guarantee success in other sectors. Pledged funding failed to come through, requiring the removal of

in terms of the development of the organization’s mission and methods. That learning curve has not lessened as the PondyART Foundation, now a

generators and lighting halfway through

government registered trust, approaches

the festival, and by the end,leaving

its 5th birthday. Having worked with

organisers unpaid and burdened with

over 200 professional photographers,

debt. The biggest lessons we learnt

artists, and performers, presented more

- bureaucratic process is unyielding;

than 30 exhibitions and 15 events, and

persistence, not just popularity, remains

moved site eight times, heading into

key to meeting challenges and making

the third edition of the PondyPHOTO

the most of opportunity.

festival, PondyART is still concentrating

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

PondyPHOTO 2016 installation at the Old Port on the Beach Road. Image ©Sandeep Sathi for PondyART Foundation. Work by Arko Datto and Pablo Bartholomew (behind)

PondyPHOTO 2016 Installation in the Old Port. The third edition of the festival will open in 2019 in the same venue. Image © Soumya Sumitra Behera, Work by Sucheta Das

118 119


on that two-fold mission to make art, particularly photography, publicly accessible while building awareness. Pondicherry remains the focus of our efforts, and we still make the most of accessible ‘temporary spaces’. However, as the Director of PondyPHOTO Festival and Founding Trustee of PondyART Foundation, my personal mission has been to reintegrate that

• Increasing regional, national, and international tourism • Driving economic growth and rise in revenue • Revitalizing of public space • Improving of quality of life • Enhancing public education • Reinforcing civic pride • Recognizing tangible and intangible heritage

economic angle we left behind with the monthly open night part of the initiative.

The PondyPHOTO Festival now heading

Whether PondyART is presenting a

towards its third edition, opens in early

solo exhibition or a festival, there are

2019 at the Old Port of Pondicherry,

costs involved. In addition to achieving

representing a successful and now

PondyART’s mission towards its

globally visible platform. When

audience, to generate monetary support,

stakeholders take advantage of these

the priorities of potential stakeholders

opportunities through in-kind or financial

also need addressing. It is a big

support, PondyART meets its own

challenge for a single event to meet

challenges, all parties achieve their

the expectations of individual patrons,

missions, and the public as a whole

non-profit organizations, government

benefits. As the PondyART Foundation

departments, and businesses at local,

continues presenting art and building

national and international levels.

awareness in public space, experience,

Through thoughtful project design

patience, and persistence are helping us

though, I believe that carrying out

learn to not only seek but also to create

PondyART’s mission can create multiple

opportunities. PondyART believes the

opportunities for stakeholders:

public deserves the effort.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Installation on privately owned wall in the popular French Quarter in Pondicherry. Image credit: PondyART Foundation and work by Subrata Biswas

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Franco-American Kasha Vande studied classical violin at the Eastman School of Music before earning her Masters in Architecture from Tulane University. She left the USA in 1994 for sojourns in Hong Kong, Paris, and Abu Dhabi as a Project Manager for such companies as HSBC and Lucent Technologies. Kasha arrived in Pondicherry, India in 2001, and still can’t imagine leaving! A concept designer, project coordinator, and social entrepreneur at heart, she initiated PondyART in 2012 and the PondyPHOTO festival in 2014 as a passion project, alongside her other businesses.

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From de-industrialization in Germany to de-colonization in Palestine AHMAD EL-ATRASH & CHRISTA REICHER CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Planning for sustainable urban growth is challenging due to the many pertained uncertainties and the multi-disciplinary nature of affecting causes. This is more problematic in volatile geopolitical contexts, like in the case of the West Bank, especially when dealing with the derelict areas or brownfields that are anticipated to emerge when decolonizing the de facto Israeli artifacts and constructs, especially the illegal settlements. This research article aims at learning from the successful German experience gained in the International Building Exhibition (IBA) Emscher Park Project that started in 1989 for the period of ten years across the Ruhr region in upgrading derelict areas, and try to re-read the IBA Project in the context of the West Bank region. This research article tries to chart the ways of doing and define the guiding strategy for the IBA Project, along with the associated tactics and initiatives, to help address the research questions of how one can re-read the IBA Emscher Park Project from a Palestinian perspective, and in which capacity one can mobilize such initiatives towards a more sustainable built environment in the West Bank. The promotion of the idea of de-colonizing Israeli architecture, and unfolding the associated potentials for future Palestinian spatial development is the concrete takeaway for spatial planning practices in present-day Palestine. Facing page- Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord; A landscape park spanning approximately 180-hectares around a decommissioned metallurgical plant in Duisburg-Meiderich, which was built as part of the IBA Emscher Park. Source URL: Landschaftspark_Duisburg-Nord_-_Blick_auf_Hochofen1-1.JPG Image credit: By Ra’ike (see also: de:Benutzer:Ra’ike) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www. or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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The nascent discipline of spatial

Palestinian, or Israeli planning schemes

planning in present-day Palestine faces

and processes. The promotion for the

many challenges. Prominently, dealing

idea of de-colonizing Israeli architecture

with the Israeli settlements is one of

and unfolding the associated

those, especially when considering the

potentials for future Palestinian spatial

dismantling of these illegal settlements

development is the concrete takeaway

and their integration with the current

that this article aims at.

Palestinian spatiality. Nevertheless, the question of how to plan for such integration remains of high importance. This article will try to provide insights to how Palestinians could plan for the integration of the illegal Israeli settlements in the whims of Palestinian spatial planning system within a credible statehood. Tellingly, the article will eschew a thorough study of the ontology (ways of being) and epistemology (ways of knowing) of such integration and will try to focus on the methodology (ways of doing) by learning from post-conflict

The issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank has been defined as a final negotiation item in the peace process talks between the Palestinian and Israeli sides. Silencing and deferring the discussion about key issues of the conflict, especially Israeli settlements have prolonged and intensified the potency. The analysis and demystification of such a key issue – the insurmountable obstacle for peace as perceived by many – is considered

experiences, more specifically the

important and timely, especially in

German experience in the International

light to the current impasse in peace

Building Exhibition (IBA) Emscher Park

negotiations between the Palestinian


and Israeli sides.

At the very beginning and at the risk of

The following section provides a

sounding tautological, this article does

context to the evolution of the Israeli

not aim at conducting a comparative

settlements and the policies deployed to

analytical study between German,

perpetuate them.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017


from all sides allowing for the maximum


possible surveillance and control of the

The Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt):

land. Today, 199 Israeli settlements

the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem came under the Israeli military occupation in 1967, and since then the Israeli authorities have built Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands, which is considered a violation to the international humanitarian law and United Nations resolutions. Signing the Oslo peace accords in 1993 did not stop such activities rather in fact Israel has doubled the area of Israeli Settlements in the West Bank. For instance, the number of Israeli settlers in occupied East Jerusalem alone increased by almost 100% since the peace process was launched back in 1993.

exist in the West Bank that occupies an area of 194.7 km2 (3.4% of the West Bank mass area) with a population exceeding 600,000 settlers. The Israeli settlement’s master-plans that serve as the allocated area for future spatial expansion of Israeli settlements calculates 486 km2 (8.5% of the West Bank mass area) (Khalilieh, 2011). These sober realities have been further complicated after Israel has started unilaterally building the Segregation Wall in the West Bank in 2002. The Segregation Wall connects the Israeli settlements blocks with Israel, as 107 of the Israeli Settlements are in the western segregation zone, which is the area located between the Segregation

Since its occupation of the West Bank,

Wall path and the Armistice Line of

Israel has gradually and strategically

1949, AKA Green Line that serves

implemented its calculated plan

as the political border of the oPt.

of colonization. The plan relies on

Ultimately, these Israeli geopolitical

the premise of erecting the Israeli

constructs on the ground leave the

settlements on hilltops. Spread almost

Palestinian communities in isolated

everywhere in the occupied West Bank

cantons (Figure 1). Therefore, discussing

territory, these settlements overlook

the future of these areas against this

and surround the Palestinian landscape

dismal background or what the Israeli

124 125


geographer Yiftachel (2006) calls

orders. Actually, the Israeli authorities

“stubborn realities” might seems absurd

themselves designate 21% of the built-

or visionary at this time. Nevertheless,

up area of the Israeli settlements as

Israel itself had let some settlements

Palestinian private properties (B’Tselem,

go, and closed military areas after

2010: 5).

starting construction of the Segregation Wall, now creating a scenario that Palestinians have to accordingly plan for.

It is important to mention that a multitude of incentives and special benefits have been granted by the

The Israeli settlement enterprise has

Israeli authorities to facilitate and

been characterized, since its inception,

encourage Israeli settlers to live within

by an instrumental and commonplace

the West Bank-based settlements.

utilization of “statutory” planning

This includes subsidized housing

processes that have enabled the

loans and mortgages, free education

continuous confiscation and pilfering of

and transportation, and higher wages

land from Palestinians in the West Bank.

for settlers. In the same vein, huge economic benefits were given to

The principal means used by the Israeli authorities to ensure ample land reserves for the continuing spatial development of Israeli settlements in the West Bank was the declaration of about 16% of the West Bank as “state land,” during the settlement’s

industries inside the Israeli settlements. For instance, between 1997 and 2001 the Israeli Ministry of Trade and Industry earmarked about 20% of its development budget to the industrial areas inside and around the Israeli settlements (B’Tselem, 2010: 43).

construction wave of the late 1970’s. Nevertheless, the Israeli authorities

In 2004, the Israeli government

deployed other means of confiscation

unilaterally dismantled the Israeli

of private Palestinian lands through

settlements in the Gaza Strip and

the reams of many decreed military

redeployed its military forces to the

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Israeli Settlements in the West Bank. Image source – POICA, 2017

126 127


borders of Gaza. In tandem, the Israeli government withdrew from four small settlements in the north of the West Bank, namely: Kadeem, Ganeem, Homesh, and Sanur. At this time, the Palestinians faced the challenging task to integrate those settlements to the prevailing Palestinian spatial planning realm (UNEP, 2006). In general, Palestinian planners found the unilateral Israeli plan of disengagement nebulous and ambiguous, and therefore it opened a wide range of interpretations: should the evacuated settlements be demolished, subverted, or reused? (MOP, 2004). The Palestinian experience in dealing with the dilemma of dismantled Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip is not yet concluded, since the integration of these settlements is still a work in progress (Hilal et. al., 2012). Nevertheless, one lesson learned so far was that the dismantled settlements in Gaza were dealt with separately, case-by-case and no integrated planning process was ever realized to coordinate the integration

the Ruhr region. While acknowledging

challenge. To this end, learning from

the spatio-temporal differences between

similar experiences might be useful for

the West Bank and the Ruhr region, the

the Palestinians. The following section

lessons learned from the IBA project

showcases the German IBA project in

would arguably provide insight about the

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

The spatial dimension of the IBA Project within the Ruhr region. Source: (RVR, 2011)

ways of doing with respect to the Israeli


settlements and the plausible futures for

The experience gained from the IBA

the geopolitical fate of the West Bank, at large.

Emscher Park Project that started in 1989 and continued for the period of ten years across the Ruhr region is an 128 129

FEATURE ARTICLE SPATIO-TEMPORAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN RUHR/ GERMANY AND WEST BANK/ PALESTINE REGIONS Ruhr Region (Germany) West Bank Region (Palestine) Population (2011) 5.2 million (63.3% urban; 2.6 million (69% urban; 26% rural; 5% camps)2 36.7% rural)1 Area (Km2) 4,4351 5,6612 Population Density (Capita/km2) 1,1641 4682 Human Development Index (HDI)– 0.905 0.641 3 Country Level (2011) Female: 53.1% Female:16.5% Labour Force Participation Rate Male: 66.8% (Female-to-Male) – Country Level Male: 68.4% (2009)3 51.5% 81% Dependency Ratio – Country Level 3 (2011) Source: 1 (PCBS, 2011); 2(RVR, 2011); 3(UNDP, 2011)

interesting case to look at. Re-reading

The Ruhr region after shunning the coal

the IBA Project in the context of the

mining and heavy industry was one of

West Bank region might be useful while

the most polluted and environmentally

acknowledging the distinctive spatio-

devastated regions in the world. The

temporal differences between the

process of de-industrialization and

Ruhr and West Bank regions (Table 1). Importantly to refer to in terms of spatial difference between the Ruhr region and the West Bank is that the Ruhr region has been redefined using new creative approaches as in the IBA Project, while the West Bank region at large has been defined and redefined because of the charged geopolitical context as epitomized by the many Israeli artifacts, including the Israeli settlements that undermine the possibilities of building a sustainable Palestinian statehood (Bäumer & Shaheen, 2010).

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

structural change resulted in many brownfield areas that disrupted the natural landscape of the Ruhr region (RVR, 2011: 6). With the IBA Project, the run-down industrial landmarks of the region have been transformed to serve new recreational uses while still preserving the region’s rich history. The redevelopment has given the region a greener image, created a more cohesive community, and maintained the area’s identity (Uttke, 2008).

The ways of doing in the IBA Project in the Ruhr region. Image credit: Authors

130 131


Nevertheless, the question remains if it

individual (sites) projects are

is indeed possible that the experience of

interlinked by an invisible web

the Ruhr region be transferred to other

of principles and quality criteria,

regions. When Kunzmann (2004) was

ensuring that the combination of

trying to answer this question he argued

top-down & bottom-up approaches to

that it is difficult, but not impossible, i.e.

regional modernization inspires and

NO, BUT!? NO, because:

fosters creativity.

• The IBA Project is very specific to the Ruhr region. • Other regions may not find the kind

• The public sector begins, then the private sector follows. Urban entertainment is money making, as

of financial support the Ruhr received

the derelict lands were subverted into

through the State of North Rhine

functions based in cultural industries,

Westphalia for a 10 year period.

enabling the private sector to be engaged.

But, not emphatically NO because the lessons learned from the IBA Project


could inform policy making in the


following perspectives:

Arguably, the ways of doing in the IBA

• The IBA Project was a continuous

Project fits to the context of the West

process of guided incrementalism

Bank. More specifically, the deployed

(flagship projects, e.g. Landschafts

process of “guided incrementalism” is a

Park in Duisburg-Meiderich& the

suitable framework to discuss the future

Zollverein in Essen-Katernberg),

of Palestinian spatial development with

entailing that no blue print or

regards to the Israeli settlements. The

comprehensive master-plan was

process of “guided incrementalism”

designed, just as in the case of the

is the conceptual amalgamation or

Gaza dismantled settlements.

compromise between the rationalistic

• The IBA applied a rhizome approach to regional modernization, where

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

model (rational-comprehensive model) that focuses on goals or outputs and

the incremental model that focuses

the processes of reintegration and

on processes. While the rationalistic

development of such future evacuated

model tends to posit high degrees of

areas more tangible and would also

control of decision-making over the

prevent any possible violations on public

spatial environment, the incremental

and private lands. Moreover, such a

model alternatively assumes much less

“De-colonization Manual” should be

command over the environment. Etzioni

formulated in collaborative efforts and

(1986: 8) defines such an approach as

based on solicited Palestinian views and

mixed-scanning, which is a hierarchical


mode of decision-making that combines higher order, fundamental decision making with lower order, incremental decisions that work out and/or prepare for the higher order ones. Tellingly, the term “scanning” is used to refer to search, collection, processing, and evaluation of information, along with

In general, one could outline three approaches in dealing with the colonial architecture within the proposed “De-Colonization Manual”, namely: destruction, re-occupation, and subversion (Weizman, 2007).

to the drawing of conclusions, all elements in the service of decisionmaking. Therefore, there is a need for an inventory to the Israeli settlements in the West Bank with details about their functions, sizes, socio-economic backgrounds, etc.

The first approach, destruction promises to turn the sites of settlements into a vacant field on which all potential forms of spatial development would seem possible. This is a very appealing approach, given the Palestinianperceived psychological barrier

Within this framework, an approved “De-

arising from the settlements, and the

Colonization Manual” by the Palestinian

possibility of de-camping refugees in

Cabinet that includes the guidelines

settlements close to Palestinian cities

and specifications for hierarchical

after the construction of mixed-use

steps for de-colonization, would render

residential buildings on the destroyed

132 133


and removed settlements. However, one

change the use of Israeli settlements,

should pay attention that demolitions, if

since even the most horrific of structures

undertaken, pose as well environmental

could surrender to the formless

and logistically wicked problems, in

typologies of everyday life. Also, it is

which the rubble itself could become

important to take into consideration a

either a hazard or a resource.

type of architectural formulation other than housing, where public institutions

The second approach, revealed as another strong temptation presented throughout the histories of decolonization, is there- occupation of colonial buildings and infrastructure and use them in similar ways. As before, reusing the evacuated Israeli settlements may problematically reproduce something of their inherent alienation and violence; their system of fences and surveillance technologies would thus serve to their seamless transformation into gated communities.

could be adapted including hospitals, universities, and cultural centres. These specific proposals may also help to imagine the subversion of the entire geography of occupation in the West Bank, with each of the evacuated settlements put to a use different from what it was designed and built for. In summary, the process of “guided incrementalism� does fit to the context of the West Bank, since the Palestinians do not have full control over land and natural resources that renders their efforts to adopt a highly

However, evacuated colonial

centralized planning system for the

architecture did not always reproduce

time being inefficient. At the same

its previous use, there are countless

time, Palestinians do not have the

examples of other functions, planned

financial and technical capacity to

and spontaneous that have invaded

adopt a devolved (de-centralized)

evacuated architecture, subverted

planning system in the short run.

and made other uses for it. The third

Since Palestinians lose more land

approach of subversion would help

and resources every day due to the

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

prolonged Israeli military occupation

it might seem a leap of faith or a pipe

practices epitomized chiefly by the

dream to suggest a Palestinian vision

Israeli settlements, what remains

for de-colonizing these settlements at

needed is a mix of both systems, as a

this time. However, imparting knowledge

halfway solution. This is particularly true

and uncovering new heuristic methods

of the West Bank where centralization

- arts of doing- through learning from

is a strong culture, such as the years

other experiences, as in the case of the

of despotism experienced as a result

German IBA Project, is really a professed

of the many powers that ruled over the

need within the framework of the

West Bank, namely: Ottoman Turks (1516-1917); British Mandate (19181948); Jordanian Administration (19481967); and the prolonged Israeli Military Occupation since 1967. As such, it is a glaring fact that the Israeli authorities are defying basic principles of conflict resolution by even refusing to agree on a moratorium on settlement activities. The continued building and expansion in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank serves as the real impediment to peace talks at present, and ultimately would prolong rather than conclude this

current Palestinian flagship project of “ending the occupation, establishing the state”. Along and detailed exposition into the ways of doing in the IBA Project is beyond the capacity of this article. This would nevertheless be a commendable effort in related future research, to uncover the ability of such a project in devising suitable policies analogous to the Palestinian condition, enabling spatial planners to conceptualize the decolonization of Israeli architecture in the oPt at large.

festering conflict. This is becoming more problematic with the Israeli calling for

It is important to mention within this

the outright unilateral annexation of

context that Palestinians should never

these settlements to Israel by building

perceive “autonomy” as tantamount to

the Segregation Wall. In this context,

“sovereignty” – however, there is nothing

134 135


preventing Palestinians from developing

de-colonizing Israeli architecture and

a vision and devising apposite strategies

unfolding the associated potentials for

for the inaccessible areas due to the

future Palestinian spatial development

Israeli geopolitical constructs, such as

is the concrete takeaway for spatial

in the case of the Israeli settlements.

planning practices within the prevailing

Therefore, those involved in policy-

Palestinian context.

making at the Palestinian side need to be vigilant of whose definition and


interpretation dominates, keeping in

This article has been inspired from the work done at the “International Excellence School of Innovative Approaches in Regeneration Planning and Design of Low Density Urbanized Polycentric Regions in Transformation” curated by the Faculty of Spatial Planning at TU-Dortmund University, Germany during September 22 - October 6, 2012. The authors would like to extend their thanks to Päivi Kataikko and Jan Polivka the coordinators of this summer school for their enthusiasm and dedication.

mind that in the arena of sustainable spatial development, a gap between policy rhetoric and outcomes on the ground still exists within the Palestinian context. To conclude, geopolitics in general prevent Palestinian planners from properly planning for sustainable


spatial development. Palestinian spatial

B’Tselem - The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. 2010. By Hook and by Crook: Israeli Settlement Policy in the West Bank. Jerusalem: B’Tselem.

planners can build support by learning from the experience of post-conflict regions like the Ruhr region that have been almost completely destroyed after World War II. Such a learning process should be approached as a collaboration with local experts to devise suitable policies that satisfy the needs of the present without compromising

Bäumer, Katrin, and Lubna Shaheen. 2010. “Role, Significance and Challenges of ‘The Region’ in Different Cultural and Geopolitical Contexts: German and Palestinian Experiences.” In Embracing the Past, Enhancing the Future: Planning Spaces through Inter-cultural Dialogue, by Christa Reicher, Katrin Bäumer, Maram Tawil, Dana Jacob and Lubna Shaheen, 132 - 138. Essen: Klartext.

the future aspirations and rights of

Etzioni, Amitai. 1986. “Mixed Scanning Revisited.” Public Administration Review 8 - 14.

citizens. The promotion of the idea of

Hilal, Sandi, Alessandro Petti, and Eyal

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Weizman. n.d. Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency (DAAR). Accessed December 6, 2012. Khalilieh, Suhail. 2011. “Charting the Occupied Palestinian Geopolitical Situation .” In Status of the Environment in the occupied Palestinian Territory - A Human Based Approach, 2011, by Jad Isaac, Abeer Khair and Jane Hilal, 2285. Bethlehem: Applied Research InstituteJerusalem (ARIJ). Kunzmann, Klaus. 2004. “Creative Brownfield Redevelopment: The Experience of the IBA Emscher Park Initiative in the Ruhr in Germany.” In Recycling the City: The Use and Reuse of Urban Land, by Rosalind Greenstein, 201-248. Cambridge: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Ministry of Planning (MOP). 2004. Reintegration and Development of Evacuated Areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Oslo: MOP. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). 2011. Local Community Survey 2010: Main

Findings. Ramallah - Palestine: PCBS. Regional Association Ruhr (RVR). 2011. The Ruhr Metropolis Small Atlas: The Changing Ruhr . Essen, Germany: RVR. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 2011. Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All. New York: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 2006. Environmental Assessment of the Areas Disengaged by Israel in the Gaza Strip. Nairobi, Kenya: UNEP. Uttke, Angela. 2008. International Building Exhibition Emscher Park: The Projects 10 Years Later. Essen: Klartext. Weizman, Eyal. 2007. Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation. London: Verso. Yiftachel, Oren. 2006. “Essay: Re-engaging Planning Theory? Towards ‘South-Eastern’ Perspectives.” Planning Theory 211-222.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS Ahmad El-Atrash is a Palestinian spatial planner and urban development specialist. He has extensive experience working with think-tanks, academic institutions, NGOs, and UN agencies in issues related to geo-political and strategic planning, governance reform, resilience, and sustainable development within the Palestinian context. He is also a member of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. Ahmad has a PhD in Spatial Planning from TU-Dortmund University in Germany. He can be reached at Christa Reicher is a German architect and urban planner. She has been the Head of Department of Urban Design and Land Use Planning, TU-Dortmund University, Germany since 2002. Before that she was affiliated to Bochum University of Technology and RWTH Aachen, FH Frankfurt, FH Trier, and RWTH Aachen. She is in the membership of a number of renewed associations and advisory boards, including: EUROPAN and National Urban Development Policy Board of Trustees. She can be reached at

136 137



The transformation of Fiji’s travel payment system NAINA AGARWAL CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Fiji, the land of paradise, has recently gained plenty of attention due to its involvement in COP23, as well as steps taken to curb the impacts of climate change on its islands. From community awareness programs to heading towards sustainable transport, Fiji is gaining momentum in spreading the word about the importance of the sustainable measures it is taking towards the future. One of the major initiatives undertaken by the government of Fiji in the year 2017 is to switch its transport revenue systems to cashless payments by digitalising the payment methods. Before we delve further, it is important to understand the Fiji way of life – according to the local people, there is an official term that is used in Fiji - ‘Fiji Time’ - that often refers to a relaxed way of life and that one should plan for the unexpected. The bus companies might have a schedule, but the bus may be delayed because the driver decided to chat with a friend, and that is OK. Having said this, when the initiative to go cashless was announced to the public, the sheer efficiency that it demanded made it seem like a dream that won’t come true. However, it did – and continues to do so. Facing page- View of the Bus stand in Suva, Fiji. Image credit: The author

138 139


Public transport plays an extremely

The Fijian Government recognises

crucial role in the lives of these Pacific

the need of public transport and

Islanders. With over 1,470 buses

the role it plays within the society.

and hundreds of boats and taxis, a

Transport agencies like Land Transport

significant percentage of Fiji depends

Authority and Ministry of transport

on public mode of travel for their daily

and Infrastructure offer grants and

movement [1]. With a population of

concession for commuter convenience.

approximately nine hundred thousand

The bus companies also receive

people, at least one fourth of the

concessions to renew their fleet. Along

population (including school and college

with others, the bus companies are also

students, elderly people) are dependent

exempted from paying Value Added Tax

on public transport daily.

(VAT). Before the implementation of the e-payment scheme, transit would

The transport fare is regulated by the

be paid for in cash and the transaction

government and maintained at low

would be held between the customer

costs – currently minimum fare for short

and the driver of the bus. This mode

distance travel is 68 Fijian cents. All

of payment caused huge losses to the

students and elderly people are eligible

bus companies, as accounting for the

for a fare reduction and about 61,000

revenue did not have a proper system

people are eligible for 100% fare waiver.

in place. Besides the loss of money, the

School students can receive discounted

cash exchange also didn’t allow for easy

bus fares under the Government subsidy

data analysis of use of public transport,

scheme for needy children through

and would rely on the tables/charts

Ministry of Education. [2]

filled out during staggered inspections.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Part of daily commute, wait for the bus at the central bus stand. Image credit: The author

140 141


To respond to such challenges, the

exchange big currency notes to pay for

government rolled out the electronic

my ride back home – the trouble of

ticketing system for Fijian public

it all would finally go away. However,


there was doubt in the minds of many in Fiji about how the initiative would


be accepted, as it would be a lifestyle change for people. For instance, the

When I first heard about the initiative,

thinking went, people in the villages

I was excited by the thought of not

who probably have had limited access

carrying a coin wallet with me anymore.

to smart technology would be confused

I would no longer have to struggle to

and might feel disadvantaged.

Man tapping e-transport card at the beginning of his journey. Image credit: The author

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Alternatively, the initiative might be

The roll out was one with plenty of

seen to be copying other nations but

hurdles for the companies involved.

not addressing the direct needs of the

The stakeholders involved - ranging

population in general. The debates

from the Government of Fiji, Land

that were going around before the 1st

Transport Authority (LTA), Ministry of

October 2017 deadline to convert to the

Social Welfare, Vodafone Fiji and Pacific

cashless system generated an eclectic

Financial Inclusion Program (PFIP) –

response to the initiative.

all collaborated on the development of the system. Vodafone Fiji supports

While waiting in the long queues to collect our cards, I met a 74-year-old lady who had to travel for 30 minutes to collect her new e-transport card (as there was no booth set up in their village). While she seemed relieved that she would not be running around

the front end of the program, including customer support, training for the drivers, equipment and software support along with other roles while the Fiji Government provides for financial subsidies and support to the bus companies to achieve the target.

her grandchildren anymore asking for

accounts of the travel money given to

The phased distribution of the program

them, she expressed her worry about

was one of the strategic moves that

the minimum top-up price of $2 set up

helped in handling the challenges faced

by the company. In Fiji, it is common

by stakeholders as well as provided

to come across people who live their

time for adoption to people who were

lives on day-to-day expenses – and for

initially in denial of the change. The

them, the switch to e-transport card

initiative was initially rolled out in July

was nothing but a liability on their daily

2017 by setting a date of 1st October

expenditure – how is one supposed to

2017 for the mandatory switch to the

take out chunk of their daily earning to

card. From then to now, the behavioural

top up the card with the minimum fee,

reactions towards the digital payment

was one of the questions that I was left

method have demonstrated certain

pondering about the switch.

trends – it is observed that most people

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Infographic stuck on the bus to guide people through the process of digital payment. Image credit: The author

of the younger age group have accepted

not been designed keeping them in

the switch while in most cases, the


older generation still hasn’t completely grasped the idea behind the technology.

The end goal of the progressive initiative

In terms of social structures, there

was to ease the revenue management

seems to be a mixed-bag reaction as

and develop a comprehensive database

the financially challenged population

that would eventually lead to informed

continues to feel that the system has

development within the sector. The

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

initiative is planned to reach out to all

initiatives could also be implemented, to

the islands of Fiji, and to continue the

benefit Fiji.

work in easing in the process, to enable the extended roll-out of the scheme.


Such a strategic move by the

[1] (2017). Smart Electronic Ticketing for Public Transport. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Nov. 2017].

Fijian Government in the year 2017 demonstrates that there are opportunities for developing nations to cope with the pressures of the changing world around them. While these fundamental shifts in the modes of operation will very likely create societal tension in the short term, if steps are taken to spread the awareness in a thoughtful manner and help integrate

[2] (2017). Smart Electronic Ticketing for Public Transport. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Nov. 2017]. Other resources (2017). Vodafone Fiji eTransport. [online] Available at: https://www. [Accessed 23 Nov. 2017].

smart measures to truly benefit all

Personal interviews/conversations with fellow travellers

of society, plenty of other successful

Daily newspaper articles

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Naina Agarwal is a young urban planner who has been working towards finding synergies between urban settings since 2013. With a background in architecture and masters in urban planning from National University of Singapore, she is committed to social change through physical and social interventions as well as enjoys exploring strategic approach towards development through policy implementation. Contracted under Asian Development Bank to assist the Fiji authorities and local councils with development of their planning scheme, she has been working to collate data to present urban findings. Born and brought up in New Delhi, she hopes to improvise planning toolkits to reflect and respond to various urban scenarios around the world.

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Osaka is ranked as one of the safest cities in the world and it offers not just a safe environment for its residents, but a good quality of life as well. The urban design lessons outlined here - the pedestrian priority roads, simple signage for people to follow, accessible public transportation options like the subway and public buses, appropriate arrangements for children and old people, development guidelines that allow convenient stores in every block, extensive shopping streets, heritage streets, the food culture and landscape policy that ensures urban parks and many small interventions for the ease of citizens – all of it together create a comfortable place for people and make the city work as a whole. After the effects of World War II, Osaka took some time to recover and build its new identity. The municipal authority transformed the city with strategic city planning regulations. Initially a port, Osaka is now being re-framed as a tourist city, as it has a lot to offer not only for its inhabitants but also for international visitors. Osaka shows us that civic spaces and public comfort can and should be prioritized in all aspects of the design of the city. The most significant learning from Osaka’s rebuilding is that while it is important to be modern and technologically advanced, at the same time, we must respect available natural resources, as well as the tangible and intangible heritage that is inherited by the city.


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View of the pedestrian road. Image credit: Author

Walking through Osaka is a pleasurable experience that motivates people to take to the streets on foot. Wide sidewalks allow pedestrians to stroll side-by-side, while still making room for bicyclists with a demarcated lane. The sidewalks are highly used by people commuting to work through the subway or students on their way to school. At times, the sidewalks are intertwined with pathways of a park or promenade or plaza. And at times, sidewalks are designed so well that the lines between park and sidewalk are blurred.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

View of the pedestrian crossing. Image credit: Author

The pedestrian walkways are well planned with wide crosswalks, pedestrian signals and other street amenities. There is always a layer of trees of varying heights, incorporated strategically with climate and context in mind. Defined space for bike parking is also provided within the sidewalk. Indeed, Osaka has a very inviting streetscape for people.

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My personal experience of exploring the city without needing to use the internet or data on a smartphone was very revealing of the high quality of infrastructure and signage throughout the city. The modern signage incorporated throughout is minimalistic in style, but nevertheless highly functional and creates an elegant image for the city. Signage for the bus stops, subway stations, food streets and shopping streets are all well organized and strategically placed for ease of wayfinding. All the stations and different subway lines have floor plans or train lines in plan for easy communication.

Signage of bus stop. Image credit: Author

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Signage of Osaka station plan. Image credit: Author

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Some signboards also double up as tourist attractions, such as the giant neon advertisements in Dotonbori that are a popular tourist spot. Most tourists who visit Osaka have a photo with the famous ‘Glico man’ advertisement board.

Signage as advertisement. Image credit:



In his essay on ‘A Contemporary City’, Le Corbusier states that ‘A city made for speed is made for success.’(Corbusier 1925) Osaka’s municipal authority seems to have reinterpreted this notion, keeping up with the pace of the population by providing easily accessible mass transportation. City buses run in the specified routes perfectly on time, as do the subway trains. There are always options

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Public transportation city bus stops. Image credit: Author

152 153


for walking, or taking the bus or train, to get from one place to another. Train stations are usually connected to or adjacent big shopping malls or other public facilities, making the journey to these large destinations very efficient. Multiple exit gates, good signage and a quick ticketing system helps visitors navigate easily and efficiently to their destinations. The Osaka station which is a larger hub, is connected to a huge public plaza which works as a great social space. Osaka has a great deal of connectivity within the city but it is also very convenient to travel to other cities by Shinkansen or the high-speed bullet train service. Shinkansen is not only fast, it is also extremely convenient and a very comfortable way to travel. Despite its high-speed and success, local authorities continue to develop the Shinkansen service, to reduce travel time to and from Osaka to other cities like Tokyo.

Public transportation ticketing system. Image credit: Author CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Shinkansen or the high-speed bullet train service. Image credit: Author

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Convenient stores. Image credit: Author

It is very familiar to see the tea shops or ‘pan dukans’ (betel leaf shops) in all the corners of street, inside narrow alleys or even along the ground floors of every other building in India or Bangladesh. But the scene is different in Osaka, where there is a high level of organization. For the daily necessities of people living or working in an area, every block has one big convenient store which serves all purposes. These stores are strategically placed in all residential or commercial areas and each one combines a vegetable market, grocery store, super market to cater to all needs of the residents.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017



Asian cities have always treated their streets as space for public life. One such big example is ‘Dotonbori’ which is a vibrant, dynamic public space. It is a unique street beside a river, surrounded by eateries and shops that has evolved into a greater space for people. There are other examples of great streets as well, such as the shaded walkway in Shinsaibashi

Fish market. Image credit: Author

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Dotonbori street. Image credit:

or Namba that reveal the sensitivity with which these places have been designed. The convenience of walking under shade in a sunny or even a rainy day, attracts more people to these shopping streets.



Japan, as a whole is known for keeping their history and tradition alive even today. Osaka city is no different: Osaka castle stands tall as one of the iconic symbols of the city. The fifteenth century castle was reproduced after it got destroyed during world war. There are many other castles, temples, old houses which are now being renovated and the municipal authority plays a vital role in their maintenance. There is easy pedestrian access, open plazas, public toilet facilities, and souvenir shops surrounding such heritage museums. CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Osaka castle. Image credit: Author

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A lot of private owners have transformed their traditional old houses into museums or exhibition spaces as well. The ‘Tatami’ rooms, the intricate wooden interior, courtyard gardens altogether creates the ambience of the past, and showcase the extent to which the people of Osaka relate to and are connected to their cultural roots.

Public toilet near Osaka castle. Image credit: Author CITY OBSERVER | December 2017



Le Corbusier’s ‘skyscraper in the garden’ from his idea of the contemporary city (Corbusier 1925 )is also a part of Osaka’s fabric, carrying through the idea of the garden not just on the ground level, but also to the public spaces at the upper levels in buildings and on roofs. Most of the high-rise buildings in the city such as Abeno Harukas, the Umeda sky building etc. incorporate roof gardens in a big scale, and these peoplefriendly spaces are truly public, accessible by all.

Urban park in different levels. Image credit: Author

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Namba park. Image credit:

Whether it is a small community park like Utsubo Park or a large scale urban project like Namba park, the urban gardens in Osaka all have their own special charm, and provide a breath of fresh air to citizens. Urban parks such as the Children park at Tennoji or the waterside plaza in front of Osaka station, cater to people of all ages and from all strata of society, brimming with public life at any given point of time. One restaurant near Tennoji park even featured spaces to park baby prams – demonstrating the thought given to even the small details of making a space child-friendly and inviting for parents with small children. CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Tennoji park. Image credit: Author

Nakanoshima park. Image credit: Author

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Osaka is also known as the nation’s kitchen – a title that is justified by the variety of food available here. Osaka showcases a wide variety of delicacies to both locals and visitors but more importantly, the city celebrates its food on its streets. The vibrant atmosphere of the restaurants through day and night, the etiquette of eating, the specific uses of cutlery and the variety of Japanese dishes all embody the food culture of Osaka.

Food street at night. Image credit:

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017



Small initiatives and fine details add a great deal of value to the overall image and experience of the city. There are several examples of this attention to detail in Osaka, ranging from the ease of converting foreign currency for international visitors to the intricate design on manhole covers throughout the street. The sense of beauty, finesse and perfection even in these everyday objects and interactions make the city a joy to inhabit, in Osaka.

Manhole cover art. Image credit:

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“Indeed, a distinctive and legible environment not only offers security but also heightens the potential depth and intensity of human experience.�(Lynch 1960) All the above components altogether express visibility and transparency, which create a sense of safety and comfort in Osaka. Apart from strict laws and regulation, these aspects provide residents as well as visitors with a sense of legibility and freedom that is empowering.

The secured feeling invites people to move freely around the city. Image credit: Author

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

For visitors to Osaka, especially those of us from South Asia, there are definitely more than ten lessons to be learned from such a developed city. Although there is a big difference of population and density in Osaka, in comparison to south Asian cities, it is still very relevant to observe how this city has been designed to create greater legibility and stand out as an international example of good urbanism. These lessons are not intended to be copied, but to be learned from and adapted in ways relevant to each context. With growing urbanization, we should prepare our cities with smart technology and strategic planning to design for future. References Corbusier, Le. 1925. “A Contemporary City of Three Million Inhabitants.� Lynch, Kevin. 1960. The Image of the City. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Rubaiya Nasrin is currently working as a Research Associate at Bengal Institute for Architecture, Landscapes and Settlements located in Dhaka, Bangladesh. After completing her bachelors in Architecture from BRAC University, she worked as a community architect and visited many cities within Bangladesh to work with local communities. Her interest for understanding cities have motivated her to visit different places with a purpose (volunteer work or internship or training). She was a participant of the CEPT winter school program and did a course on Sustainable practices in Auroville, later she worked as a volunteer architect for Tibet Heritage Fund in Leh, Ladakh. She was invited as a speaker for Arcasia 2017 at Jaipur among many renowned architects and urban designers. Recently, she was selected for Ando scholarship program for training in Osaka, Japan. All her ventures have been helping her to grow as an urban thinker and she hopes to contribute more to the society through her research. Connect with her on LinkedIn at

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CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

What if schools had no grades, subjects and books ? What if we lived in an age where school and learning was not systematized but optimized ? What if the process and hierarchy of the schooling setup was never there ? What if there was more to the static architecture of a schooling environment ? We seem to have forgotten that schools are the real ‘Temples of Innovation’ that shape children of the future. Schools are supposed to be ‘fun’ places that inspire wonder, creativity and innovation through the teaching and learning. Schools should offer welcoming environments that instil in us confidence to pursue our dreams and interests. Pedagogy i.e. the art of teaching faces a real test in today’s times for it has remained very stagnant and rigid in its discourse. Innovation in methods and practices of education has been slow and very limited. In most of the countries, schools have adopted a very general, mechanical and theoretical system of education that minutely focuses on problem solving, practical and experimental methods and most importantly, personal interests of children. Schooling environment, since the industrial revolution has done very less to revamp their gloomy, colourless, isolating and lifeless spaces. 168 169


Brain development between ages 5 and 12 is significant and understood. Cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists are intrigued with how cognitive capacities are affected by the architectural attributes and spatiality of a school environment. Architecture affects our intellect and emotions, influences our performance and motivates achievement — mostly on a subliminal basis.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

The highlighted area in the image is the site for the competition. • Location: Tempelhof Feld, Berlin • Latitude: 52°28’16”N Longitude: 13°23’14”W • Site Area: 9480 square metres approx. • Maximum Built Area: 8000 square metres (i.e. Maximum Cumulative floor area for all floors)

Classrooms are also called ‘third teachers’ for their impact on the learning process just in terms of spatiality.

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 ArchitectureAnirudh Nanda, Nikhil Pratap Singh and Harmeet Singh Bhalla.

The competition seeks the creation of a middle school (age group 5-12) that completely negates the present day ‘bench-table-chalkboard’ idea of a classroom and a regularized building typology of a school. The competition seeks to radicalise the school system through architecture not only in terms of improving the quality of study environment but revamping the system and breaking all the physical and metaphorical class divisions into an entirely new school system. The competition seeks ideas from participants to create a fun built environment for a middle school that understands the individual needs of each child yet being very collaborative in nature. The school should strive to create a new pedagogical space that emphasizes on people-oriented design in behavioural terms as they interact and use spaces. Berlin is the 21st century contemporary world’s ideal capital. The city left its torrid history behind to quickly grow and cement itself into the intellectual and cultural core of the world. Berlin is the epicentre of any new movement that starts to demolish the old world order. The site for the competition is located in Templehof, Berlin and aims to create an exemplary prototype for all the new world schooling systems to follow.

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FIRST PRIZE Carla Sentieri, Lucas Vidal, Alba Carinena (Spain) CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

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SECOND PRIZE Edouard Fizelier, Pedro Coehlo, Benoist Rouel-Brax (France) CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

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THIRD PRIZE Nathavat Kamronrittisorn, Wasin Hemachartwiroon (Thailand) CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

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REVISION OF THE MUMBAI DEVELOPMENT PLAN Chronicling proceedings for 2016-17


Cities quintessentially reflect a conflicting state of affairs: from emancipation to discrimination, from modern architectural marvels to decaying heritage, and every contradiction in between. Case in point Mumbai - its Development Plan (DP) preparation, undertaken every 20 years by Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), presents an excellent opportunity to tackle such complexities, correct city level issues, and ensure effectual progress of the city. This essay chronicles various proceedings that ensued post publication for public scrutiny, the Revised Draft Development Plan 2034 of Greater Mumbai (RDDP-2034), popularly called the Mumbai Development Plan. STEPS LEADING UP TO THE SUBMITTING OF RDDP-2034 FOR SANCTION In succession to the Earlier Draft DP 2034 (EDDP-2034), on 27th May 2016, MCGM published in the Government Gazette and local newspapers, the Revised Draft Development Plan 2034 (RDDP-2034) and Draft Development Control Regulation 2034 (DCR-2034), under Sec. 26(1) of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning (MR&TP) Act 1966. The plan was prepared for an area of 434.55 sq. km under its jurisdiction. Suggestions/objections were invited from the public, to be submitted by 29th July 2016. Facing page- DP Revision team meeting for review of tasks assigned to urban planners, held at MCGM Head Office. Image source: Author

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BACKGROUND The first Development Plan (DP)

prepared as directed under Sec.22

for Mumbai was sanctioned in the

of the MR & TP Act 1966, and after

year 1967. The second DP for the

due process, the Earlier Draft DP

city, known as Sanctioned Revised

2034 (EDDP-2034) was published

Development Plan (SRDP) 1991

under Sec.26(1) of the MR&TP Act

was sanctioned in parts from the

1966 on 25th February 2015 in the

year 1991 to 1994. Revised Draft

Government Gazette and in local

Development Plan for Greater


Mumbai 2034 (RDDP-2034) is the third DP for the city of Mumbai.

A significant public outcry against errors in the DP ensued which led the

Municipal Corporation of Greater

Government of Maharashtra (GoM)

Mumbai (MCGM) by its resolution

to step in and appoint a Committee

dated 20th October 2008 declared

chaired by the Chief Secretary, GoM,

its intention to revise the DP under

to prepare a report on errors in the

Sec.23 of the MR & TP Act 1966.

published EDDP-2034. Subsequently,

Notice to this effect was published

GoM directed revising the EDDP

in the official Government Gazette

2034 to account for all errors and

on 1st July 2009. The preparation

be re-published. Revision included

of a base map of Mumbai using

correcting of errors in mapping of

Geographic Information System (GIS)

existing land use and examining

software, provided the foundation

planning and legal matters. The

for preparing the Existing Land Use

Revised Draft Development Plan

(ELU) Plan that was uploaded on

2034 (RDDP-2034) along with the

MCGM’s website as well as displayed

Draft Development Control Regulation

in each administrative ward on 12th

2034 (DCR-2034) was revised and

December 2012. Subsequently, the

finally republished on 27th May 2016

Proposed Land Use (PLU) Plan was

for public scrutiny.

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Existing Land use map for Greater Mumbai, used as base for preparation of DP. Image source: Revised Draft Development Plan of Greater Mumbai 2034, MCGM

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Government of Maharashtra (GoM)

Geographic Information System (GIS)

had earlier revoked a first draft of

team from AIILSG carried out mapping

the DP. For the second draft, MCGM

related works. On 15th October 2016, as

reconstituted a new team, comprising

per provisions in the MR&TP Act 1966,

twelve urban planners from MCGM and

a Planning Committee was constituted,

an equal number from All India Institute

comprising three members appointed by

of Local Self-Government (AIILSG), led

the Director of Town Planning, Pune and

by Officer on Special Deputation (OSD)

three members from MCGM’s Standing

for DP Revision, Dr. Ramanath Jha. A


AIILSG urban planners carrying out DP Revision tasks at conference hall allotted for DP Revision at MCGM Head Office. Image credit: Author

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

The participation of diverse voices in

The Planning Committee then undertook

a city’s decision-making processes is

the massive task of conducting public

critical to successful urban change.

hearings on suggestions/objections

Encouragingly, a wide gamut of

received within the stipulated period

citizens sent in suggestions/objections;

of two months, from October until

Members of Parliament (MPs),

15th December 2016. In spite of all

Members of Legislative Assembly

the criticism from various quarters

(MLAs), Corporators, Institutions, Non-

towards this process, it was undeniably

Government Organisations (NGOs), and

an enormous exercise in public

individual citizens who live and work in

participation, probably unprecedented,

city spaces. Another notable initiative

in the future planning of any Indian city.

undertaken during this process was

Subsequent to its completion, on 6th

the introduction of an online system

March 2017, a report of the hearings

on the MCGM web portal for filing of

along with the Planning Committee’s

suggestions/objections. This enabled

recommendations were submitted to

citizens to engage with the public review process from the comfort of their homes and offices without having to personally

the outgoing mayor of the Municipal Corporation under Sec. 28(3) of the MR&TP Act 1966.

visit the MCGM’s administrative office. Filings received were categorised to

MCGM, in view of their upcoming

help extend systematic invitations

elections of 21st February 2017,

to the various groups of people for

sought a two-month extension period

hearings, organise scheduling, and avoid

to deliberate on the recommendations

duplication of cases. The categories

of the Planning Committee. 164 of the


227 electoral wards of MCGM voted

• MCGM (various departments),

in first-time Corporators, whose lack

• Institutions (various professional bodies),

of experience with the DP led them

• VIPs (MPs, MLAs, Councillors),

need for capacity building of these

• NGOs, and

public representatives to gain informed

• Individuals (including DCR & general suggestions/objections)

knowledge of the DP, MCGM organised

to seek the extension. Realising the

a learning seminar for them. Of the 227 182 183


elected and 5 nominated Corporators,

proposal to locate the Mumbai Metro

159 attended this seminar, of which,

Rail Car Shed within Aarey Milk Colony,

158 were first-timers. Post seminar,

a green zone.

the group leaders of all political parties commenced scrutinising the proposals sent by their respective party Corporators before submitting them to the Mayor.

At the end of the session, MCGM empowered the Municipal Commissioner to submit the RDDP2034 and Draft DCR-2034, along with the list of 2245 recommendations of

On 31st July 2017, MCGM ran a

the Planning Committee subject to

marathon session of over seven hours,

modifications suggested by MCGM, to

running well past midnight, in a bid to

the Maharashtra State Government for

pass the RDDP-2034. More than 60

sanction under Sec. 30(1) of MR&TP

Corporators opined on the proposed

Act 1966. In case of any discrepancy

plan and regulations, and moved a

between the recommendations of

comprehensive list of 266 approved

the Planning Committee and MCGM,

amendments. Of all the amendments,

modifications suggested by MCGM

only one needed voting, the contentious

will be considered final. The State

AAREY COLONY The RDDP has proposed to drop the opening up of Aarey land for institutional use and other developmental uses that were recommended by EDDP in search of new growth centres. In regard to the Metro Car shed proposed within Aarey(34.41 Ha) or alternatively at Royal Palms (89.32 Ha), a Committee has been constituted by GoM under the chairmanship of MMRDA MC. The RDDP 2034 will accept the decision taken by GoM on the matter. The RDDP, in keeping with the nature of the land, has proposed a 113 hectare botanical garden and zoo to be created. -Excerpted from Revised Draft Development Plan of Greater Mumbai 2034, MCGM

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

P-South Ward - Proposed Land Use as published in RDDP-2034: During review process, the Planning Committee recommended converting of Aarey Milk Colony from ‘No Development Zone’ to ‘Green Zone’ and deleting reservation for Metro Rail Car Shed in this ward. This recommendation was approved by Corporators, and became part of the list of amendments.

K East Ward - Proposed Land Use as published in RDDP-2034: During the review process, the Planning Committee continued ‘Green Zone’ in this ward but reserved land for the Metro Rail Car Shed. This reservation for car shed was overruled through voting by Corporators.

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Proposed Land Use Zones for Greater Mumbai. Image source: Revised Draft Development Plan of Greater Mumbai 2034, MCGM CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Proposed Public Open Spaces for Greater Mumbai. Image source: Revised Draft Development Plan of Greater Mumbai 2034, MCGM

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Government now has six months to scrutinise and review the RDDP-2034, before eventually sanctioning it for implementation.

Act 1966. On 30th August 2016, MCGM declared their intent to revise the DP for these areas, following the process laid down under Sec. 23 of the MR&TP Act 1966. A selected team of urban

Simultaneous to the process of publishing and reviewing the RDDP2034, MCGM carried out two supplementary tasks: 1. Preparing Development Plans for three areas that were transferred to MCGM in 2016, and 2. Implementing social amenities reserved in RDDP-2034 DEVELOPMENT PLAN FOR THREE AREAS TRANSFERRED TO MCGM During preparation of the RDDP2034, Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) transferred three land parcels: Bandra A Block, Oshiwara District Centre, and Parigkhadi, adding approximately 1.14 sq. km to MCGM, which became their Planning Authority.

planners commenced the process. The DP for the Three Transferred Areas will eventually be integrated into the RDDP-2034. To maintain cohesiveness, the recommended vision, goals, and objectives of RDDP-2034 will apply to these three areas, as will regulations for land use zoning, legends and amenity standards. In addition, to avoid confusion during its implementation, this DP followed the planning principles adopted for the preparation of RDDP2034. With these principles in place, MCGM undertook the preparation of a GIS Base Map for the three areas, the foundation for preparing the Existing Land Use (ELU) Plan. This was uploaded to MCGM’s web portal on 28th March 2017. Subsequent to the ELU, the process of preparing the

To avoid delaying the on-going preparation of RDDP-2034, MCGM decided to take up planning of these areas separately, in accordance with provisions under Sec. 34 of the MR&TP CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Proposed Land Use Plan (PLU) began as directed under Sec. 22 of the MR&TP Act 1966. Following earlier procedures undertaken for RDDP-2034, MCGM published the Draft Development Plan

Key map of Three Areas Transferred to MCGM in the context of Greater Mumbai. Image source: Draft Development Plan of Three Areas Transferred to MCGM-2034, MCGM

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of Three Areas Transferred to MCGM-

Old Age Home, Care Centre, Student

2034 under Sec. 26(1) of the MR&TP

Hostels, and Multi-purpose Housing for

Act 1966 on 18th October 2017 in the

Working Women.

Government Gazette. It is presently available for public scrutiny for a period of sixty days.

RDDP-2034 also features regulatory guidelines and policies for mainstreaming gender and

The team had estimated that it would

requirements for the differently-abled

be comparatively easier to handle the

into the planning process. For example,

smaller scale of these areas post the

as per budgetary provisions, MCGM

mammoth city planning exercise. On

will construct a Multi-purpose Hostel

the contrary, the location and scale of

for Working Women at Goregaon in

these areas brought forth unanticipated

north Mumbai, to be operated and

challenges, and there were immense

maintained by agencies that have

new learnings from this exercise.

expertise in the field. A team of planners has been interacting closely with several

IMPLEMENTING SOCIAL AMENITIES RESERVED IN RDDP-2034 Realising the necessity for effective provision of social and economic

specialists and academicians to ensure a realistic affordable housing option for working women in the city.

opportunities for citizens, MCGM has


initiated integration of the DP with the

Various aspects of this urban planning

civic budget. This undertaking is a first

blueprint for Mumbai are underway

by any Indian city. 2000 crore rupees

at MCGM, and AIILSG continues to be

have been allotted for the financial year

an integral part of these proceedings.

2017-2018 to implement various social

AIILSG’s team of urban planners

amenities reserved in RDDP-2034. As

continually provides support essential

the plan is yet to be sanctioned, MCGM

for the scrutiny of RDDP-2034 being

is developing amenities on those lands

undertaken by the Maharashtra State

already in its possession. Amenities

Government, the various procedures

include Homeless Shelter, Aadhar

involved in the DP of Three Areas

Kendra with Skill Development Centre,

Transferred to MCGM, and establishing

CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Proposed Social Amenities for Greater Mumbai. Image source: Revised Draft Development Plan of Greater Mumbai 2034, MCGM

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TIMELINE July 2009

December 2012

February 2015

MCGM publishes notice declaring intention to revise the existing Mumbai Development Plan

Existing Land Use map prepared

MCGM publishes EDDP-2034

April 2015

GoM directs MCGM to revise EDDP-2034

May 2016

RDDP-2034 published. MCGM invites suggestions and objections over 60 days

September 2016

MCGM publishes notice declaring intention to revise the DP for ‘Three Areas transferred to MCGM’**

October 2016

A six-member Planning Committee is constituted for RDDP-2034

November & December 2016

Planning Committee conducts public hearings on the suggestions and objections received

February 2017 March 2017

May 2017

Planning Committee seeks extension until March 2017 Planning Committee submits report to outgoing mayor. Newly elected Corporators ask for an extension of two months to approve the DP After passing of the 19th May deadline, MCGM asks for another extension of two months until 18th July

July 2017

General body of MCGM seeks another extension until 2nd August, and finally approves the RDDP-2034 on 31st July. Ultimately the RDDP2034 is submitted to Government of Maharashtra for sanction

October 2017

Draft DP for ‘Three Areas Transferred to MCGM’ is published. MCGM invites suggestions and objections over 60 days**

** - Activities related to the Draft DP for Three Areas transferred to MCGM, carried out simultaneously to the RDDP 2034.

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DP Revision team sorting suggestions & objections received from citizens supervised by the Town Planning Officer at the conference hall in MCGM’s Head Office. Image credit: Author

policies and procedures for developing


and operating social amenities.

1. Revised Draft Development Plan for Greater Mumbai 2034- irj/go/km/docs/documents/Draft%20 Development%20Plan/ENGLISH%20 DRAFT%20DP%20REPORT%20 2034(27May2016)/Draft%20D.P-2034%20 Report%20English.pdf

The pioneering initiatives embarked upon in Mumbai by MCGM, India’s wealthiest Municipal Corporation, offer rich lessons to guide urban policy in other Indian cities.

2. Draft DP for Three Areas Transferred to MCGM- anonymous/qlcedpdocs

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Farha Irani is an urban planner with AILSG, and currently part of MCGM’s RDDP-2034 team, involved in planning Mumbai’s K/East Ward & Bandra Reclamation areas, and in setting up policies/ procedures for developing newly reserved social amenities. In an earlier position, as Deputy Chief (Town Planning Cell) with MCGM’s Business Development Department, interacting with local stakeholders and institutions, shaped her expertise in developing inclusive policies. She also worked on streamlining Construction Permit procedures to help improve India’s Ease of Doing Business rankings. Farha holds a B.Arch from University of Mumbai, and a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University (YCMOU), and is active in Mumbai academia.

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MAKING OF PLACE AND MEDIATION OF SPACE A case study of Chennai’s Marina Beach Stretch as part of the ‘Urban Design in the Global South’ module for the Post Graduate Urban Design studio at Department of Urban Studies & Planning, University of Sheffield.


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The dynamics between rapid urbanization and mix of diversity on the sociocultural panorama are acute in India. Since the 1600s Chennai has been characterized by profound ‘entropy’ where growth is characterized by increasing disorderliness. The neo-liberalisation in the 1990’s increased the pace of development and sparked the need to implement a visual order to open spaces. Chennai as a city that accommodates an estimated 8.5 million people has a wide array of public spaces from ethnically grounded public space to new age shopping malls. As a reflection and extension of community living, public spaces in Chennai have a strong religious, ethnic, custom and cultural dimension embedded into their being. As a manifestation of tradition, the public spaces seek to represent arts and literature. The western ideology of public spaces such as esplanade and parks was inherited under the British colonial rule and this led to the evolution of hybrid variants such as the Marina waterfront and Fort square and parade grounds. Facing page- Bird’s eye view of Chennai’s Marina beach. Image credit: Vidhya Mohankumar

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The Marina Promenade, publicized as


the second longest beach in the world

The pedagogical philosophy of this

with its rich history, culture and diversity of users offers a unique and interesting context to understand the dynamics of public space design. The studio focuses on the spaces of social encounter to understand the qualities that has made this space the identity of the city and intrinsically relevant to a diverse group of people who come from various social, ethnic, and economic strata of the city.

Design Studio centres on creating an engaging, student-centred, constructivist and creativity-inducing learning. Such an approach with its natural tendency allows for greater transferability and application of the learning to other situations outside of learning environment and can meet the needs of diverse learners. The studio operates with the intention to engage students as co-producers as knowledge, than

Knowledge and understanding

treating them as passive receivers of

outcomes of the studio include:

learning content. Hence the learning

• Understanding of how particular

scenarios created respect the self-

features of spaces and places are analysed and designed • Understanding of some of the means by which planning and policy

expression and individuality of students to further inspire the creative thinking of the student as creativity demands incubation, preparation and verification.

responses might be formulated for a particular problem • Understanding of the process of developing sites and areas • Appreciation of the importance of situating design and planning responses in their social, political and economic context

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The studio is articulated into four phases: 1. Case analysis: Getting to know intimately this area, its links potentials and pitfalls. 2. Urban Design Strategy: Students propose a Strategic Plan and a

Concept Plan, together forming

All analysis (data collection) must be

the Urban Design Strategy, for the

completed in about one week time,

improvement of the area envisaging

and because such analysis are all very

actions and projects that deal with

demanding – especially for students

services, mobility, housing, and public

who are not familiar with the social-


economic and cultural context of the city

3. Design Testing and coding: Students

of Chennai.

will be requested to work out a complete morphological analysis


of urban blocks by the Marina Site.

Design professionals are often

The block analysis is carried out by drawing 3D articulation of your assigned urban block in an A2/A1 board and by producing a Physical model analysis of morphological aspects. Once all urban blocks have been worked out, students will derive

regarded as being part of the problem. As designers design for places and people they do not know and this takes the power away from the inmates of the place. Often entire projects are presented without the slightest appraisal of what is in place before the project is

from that a synthetic Urban Design

done and this challenge is even more


in the context of Global South. First to

4. Master-planning and place design:

be forgotten is real people in their real

Students are led to the production

environment, and the more than real

of a Master-plan. Students will learn

stratification of social values, memories,

how to take action for subdivision

symbols, practices, habits and mutually

of large Public spaces, a correct

sensible dynamics in general that

management of density as related to

simply make a place what it is and

transport and land use, how to design

a community of humans what it has

safe and livable streets / public

always been.


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Good urban design is based on knowledge and respect for what is in place, and this studio requires students to represent the place as it is. A. Drawing the city • To draw understanding into the city framework, with an understanding that covers structural aspects of the built environment. • To be aware of the complexity and depth of the urban material on which you are called to envision and produce change. B. History and stories • To summarize the spatial evolution of Marina’s built form in its broader context (Social & Economic history) • To associate urban types to historic periods and modes of life. • To report spatially specific narratives and memories through direct interaction with significant community figures and literature. • To represent the findings as a graphic

Stories addresses community based, but important narrative: it delivers a view of how the Marina Beach performed for its inhabitants and users over time. It is these relationship that still gift places with layered contents, values and meanings. Understanding such relationships can be revealing fundamental step for an urban designer to get the essence of a place.

story of Chennai’s past.

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C. Policy framework

D. Experiencing the Marina

• To understand land ownership /

It is not a question about correctness, but the most interesting outcomes are about ‘distortions’; that is how you have interpreted a place.

Coastal regulations Zone policies (CRZ) for Chennai city and links between different uses. • To describe the current environmental state of Marina, highlighting problems and opportunities. • To understand the relationship between residential/ institutional ownership and socio-economic conditions. • To illustrate in detail all current plans/ambitions that interest Chennai /Marina now or in the future.

• To generate composite mental maps by students and residents and compare them. • To trace the elements that contribute to create and image of the place and help people navigate through it. • To determine character areas and their salient aspects. • To represent perceived performance elements such as safety, accessibility and maintenance throughout the area and link these to urban elements.

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Mental maps: Residents’ perception Pretend you are moving away from Chennai. What will you carry in your mind? - What do you like and dislike about Marina Beach? - A friend of yours is coming to Chennai. Could you sketch/list the most relevant things you would visit? - List distinctive parts of the Marina beach, which you feel have special characteristics worthy of being pointed out to a person who wants to become more familiar with the city. - Can you draw the route you would walk from X to Y with the most relevant things you would see?

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E. Urban fabric analysis Connectivity and Accessibility of the Urban Texture. • To understand the basic spatial manifestation of the urban fabrics as a result of different street layouts. • To objectively reflect on the spatial structure, qualities, image of the site to identify the factors that stay behind the visible manifestations of street layouts. • To understand: Identify the broad structure of the area, the relationships The Site between activities and Structure patterns of landforms, use and infrastructure. Appraise the qualities of the The Site area, for positive and negative Qualities characteristics. Consider overall image of the The Site study area, identify strong image features and characteristics. Analyse opportunities and constraints to identify Opportunities possible and desirable action or to improve the structure Constraints qualities and the outlook of the area (SWOT analysis)

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PHASE 2: URBAN DESIGN STRATEGY The overall scope of the strategic phase is the generation of strategic

– What will Public Space at Marina Beach be in 20 years (vision)? – What are the leading factors that

programmes for the development and

will lead this transformation (main

management of transformation in a

themes for change)?

Public Space like Marina Beach within its immediate territorial context. On the basis of the information gathered in the previous analytical phase, students formulated imaginative but at the same time realistic scenarios for the transformation of the site and the ‘making of place and mediation of space’, recognising and taking into account often-contradictory forces and interests. Students compared emerging ideas for change and transformation to form a holistic strategy that takes into account formal, social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainable

– What is the spatial side of such changes? Can we draw it on paper? • To formulate a vision and directions for the improvement of Marina Beach and its urban context, their likely impact on space and how they can be combined into a coherent and positive framework for its sustainable Public space development. • To illustrate the best possible configuration of such framework through the design of hierarchies of centres, mobility, densities and open spaces.

urban development. Facing page- Urban design strategies as conceived by the studio participants

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PHASE 3: DESIGN TESTING AND CODING A city being a collective effort that develops in time largely without coordination. Cities evolve through continuous changes, and plans are part of what contributes to cities evolution. Design testing and coding as this studio regards is another story among the billions.

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PHASE 4: MASTER PLANNING AND PLACE DESIGN • Design a “smooth transition” between public and private domain: refer Clearly indicate where building fronts at the ground level are supposed to be “active”, i.e. to settle retail commerce and services. • Design a Master plan The studio treats Master plan not as the representation of a final stage but as a communicative tool and gives an idea of what the development of a city could look like with a set of initiatives involving a major public space. So the studio tests Master plan to explore the social control of local development. Presented here and across the following two spreads are master plans and representations of placemaking as produced by the studio participants.


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Culture walk at the memorial zone

Nature reserve along Adyar estuary

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Lightweight canopy for shade along fisherman settlements

Pedestrian viewing platform at the end of the Srinivasapuram stretch

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Fisherman’s market

Community park CITY OBSERVER | December 2017

Ecological park All image credits: Students work (2016): Urban Studies and Planning, University of Sheffield.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bobby Nisha is a Teaching Associate in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Sheffield since September 2014. After graduating as an architect in 2005, she gained international experience working for an architectural practice in Dubai. Over time, Bobby realized the enormous potential to bridge the gap between urban planning and building architecture while addressing the environmental issues that need to make a city sustainable. This led her to a post graduate qualification in Urban design (M.Arch) from the University of Nottingham in 2009. Bobby moved full-time into Academia as a Graduate Teaching Associate at University of Bolton in 2010 where she earned her PhD. She also graduated PGCHE (PG Cert in Teaching and learning in HE) from University of Bolton in 2012. She holds Fellowship status of the Higher Education Academy, UK (FHEA) and is an Associate member (ACIAT) of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technology.

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