City Observer- Volume 5 Issue 1- June 2019

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Volume 5 | Issue 1| June 2019







Volume 5 | Issue 1 | June 2019 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 Neha Krishnan Shruti Shankar Sunjana Thirumala Sridhar Vidhya Mohankumar



LAYOUT DESIGN Shruti Shankar 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.






Anu Karippal

Mennat-Allah Yehia Mourad

6 Editorial Neha Krishnan



32 Feature Article POWER AND PLACE IDENTITY IN GLOBAL CITIES Tejashrii Shankarraman


Learning from Cities 10 URBAN DESIGN LESSONS FROM DELFT Bhavna Thyagarajan




Anish Deenadayalan


172 Teaching Urban Design MAPPING QUALITY OF LIFE IN A PLANNED NEIGHBOURHOOD Devyani Gangopadhyay & Prathyusha Ravi

120 On Location THE RIVERFRONT AND THE REST OF US Shweta Sundar

160 Feature Article BRANDING POST-WAR BERLIN Vidushi Agarwal

194 Closing Scene Sarveswaran Ganapathy


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How do we experience the world? 20 years

and the amount of time spent on social media.

ago, the answer to that question would have

Well yes, I’m doing laundry now, aren’t I?

been straightforward – through sight, hearing,

I’m not beaming into the far distance on a

smell, and touch – things we are able to

Uruguayan Salt Flat.

interact with directly. Today, it seems a bit more complicated. We live in a world where the image is taken as fact and visuals are placed above all else. Besides the more obvious ways in which this affects news (and propaganda), it has had a disorienting effect on how we as individuals, experience the world.

Aside from personal experience, I find this reality-warping creep of the perfect visual most visible in the realm of art. An excellent podcast on NPR titled ‘Art in the age of Instagram’ examines this exact issue. Art in the context of the gallery as well as public pieces, especially installations, have become all about how good

I am speaking of the sort of ‘Instagram reality’

they look in pictures. The experience itself it

we live in today, that has taken over the

seems is no longer the point of the installation.

personal lives of people in every age group.

Yakoi Kusama for example, exploded into the

On the one hand, social media is a wonderful

limelight in 2017 despite having been an artist

tool to share – I learn so much about my

since the late 50s. Her work consists of brightly

friends and acquaintances, come across

coloured, easy-to-photograph, interactive

interesting news and titbits, and stay in the

installations that presented the perfect selfie

know about local events. On the other, I find

opportunity. Social media presented the

myself spending half my time at a vacation

perfect marketing tool; with a riot of colour and

or event trying to document said vacation.

imagery enough to generate a buzz millions of

And of course, the FOMO – fear of missing

dollars’ worth of marketing might not.

out – is all pervasive. I look through pictures of acquaintances walking through salt flats in Uruguay, and sigh as I stare at a pile of laundry I put off for far too long. My current experience does not warrant capturing.

As artists, architects and urban designers start to account for this phenomenon whilst designing, the nature of reality is beginning to change to suit the image. Prismatica is a wildly popular public installation, consisting

I wonder though, how much of their precious

of a series of spinning, internally lit, 7-foot-tall

time at this exotic locale went into taking the

prisms in public squares around the world,

picture. Experiences now seem to be designed

debuting in Montreal and travelling to New York

less to be experienced, and more to fit neatly

City and beyond. It is dare I say it – a bit dumb

inside a frame that may be used to sum up

in real life. To travel a considerable distance

an encounter. There are of course, countless

to watch these prisms is an underwhelming

articles and scientific studies that show a

experience – you spin them, try to get a picture

positive correlation between dissatisfaction

before they stop spinning, move out of other


people’s shots, and leave in less than 10

ownership of all pictures taken in the Vessel

minutes. There isn’t much else to be done.

until public backlash made them back down).

Large scale public spaces too are becoming

I do understand the draw of the image. It is

selfie-ready as capitalism inevitably finds a way

easy to believe (I saw it with my own eyes!),

to make use of free publicity. The Vessel, public space consisting of a rose gold ‘stairway to nowhere’, is the centrepiece of the new multimillion dollar development in Hudson Yards in New York. Unkindly described by critics as a pretzel-shawarma hybrid, it stands proud in some of the most expensive real estate in the world, screaming ‘2019’. It is very much of this time and place and is unapologetic about it. When it inevitably looks dated in 5 years, it will

easy to digest, and draws one’s attention away from all the craziness and uncertainty in the world for a brief minute. The general elections in India, election season in the States with the first ever Trump re-election rally in June, Brexit which still may or may not be happening; pollution; war; political intrigue! All too much? Someone just posted a picture of rainbow bioluminescent stingrays in Tuvalu. I’m going to go look at that instead.

have served its purpose – featuring in a million selfies all over the world. (As if to illustrate

Neha Krishnan

my point, Hudson Yards unilaterally declared

On behalf of the Editorial Team






Al Asmarat development, Cairo. Image credit: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters; Source: https://




Cairo is a city in constant expansion,

of their resettlement to social housing

creating a multitude of urban

projects designed by the state. My

complexities among its different

hypothesis is that NGOs are complicit in

actors and raising a plethora of questions about how they affect the design of the city and shape the lives of its citizens. In particular, I aim to understand the involvement of non-

aiding the state apparatus in furthering its narrative of the necessity for resettlement, and so helping the state implement its neo-liberal 2050 urban

governmental organisations (NGOs)

vision of transforming downtown historic

in the displacement of residents from

Cairo into an investment and financial

informal settlements, and the impact


Cairo’s urban extent in 1992

© Mapbox © OpenStreetMap Cairo has expanded at an average annual increase rate of 3.2% between 1992 and 2013. Image source: Atlas of urban expansion


This essay is the result of two years

discussions and conversations with the

of observational ethnography borne

various stakeholders involved.

out of my engagement in NGO work, participation in meetings that tackled questions regarding interventions in both Ezbet Khairallah, an informal settlement in central Cairo, and Al Asmarat, a social


housing project built on the city’s edge

With the influx of rural migration

where residents from Ezbet Khairallah

to Cairo in the mid-1970s, informal

and other informal areas are being

settlements began to appear, housing

resettled, and finally through informal

migrants and the urban working class

Cairo’s urban extent in 2013

© Mapbox © OpenStreetMap

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alike [15]. Places like Ezbet Khairallah began to take shape. The development of informal areas caused conflicts between the state and residents, who have struggled to gain access to basic services like water, electricity, and gas. Land titles and deeds however, have been elusive, inspite of residents receiving a court sentence stating that they had a right to own their land through purchase from the local governorate. The sentence has to this day not been implemented [8]. The Egyptian state attempted to provide a solution for the housing problem through its Social Housing Project (SHP) which was launched in the 1950s, finding areas such as El Salam City and the Othman Project for resettlement. These were located on the peripheries of Cairo thus failing to provide suitable living conditions [20]. SHPs continue to provide inadequate housing solutions, as seen in their most recent attempts in the Al Asmarat neighbourhood where residents from Ezbet Khairallah, AlDoweiqa, and Maspero Triangle are being resettled.


Al Asmarat is a social housing development project built at a cost of over EGP (Egyptian Pounds) 2 billion, financed through the ‘Tahya Misr Fund’

Informal expansion along the north and south axes of the Ring Road. Image source: Gouda, et al., 2016

Cairo skyline. Image: Luc Legay from Paris, France CC BY-SA 2.0; Source: https://

(translation: ‘Long Live Egypt’), created by the Sisi Regime in 2014, calling on citizens to donate for the rebuilding of Egypt [2]. One of the promises made

by the Egyptian State is to ‘eradicate unsafe slums by mid-2019’ [5] and so be able to fulfil its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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Working in Al Asmarat has been seen

Within this rhetoric, NGOs play the

as a golden opportunity by NGOs to

role of habituating new residents of Al

improve their relationship with the

Asmarat to ‘civilised’ life as interpreted

state and avail of larger funding and

by them and state officials. The

commissions. The state on its part

‘civilised’ subject is a product of the

welcomed all contributors willing to

imagination of the city and its subjects

further its project. This has been noted

within a distinctly colonial imagination

by Ferguson, cited in Rahman (2006)

of the modern subject, the worthiness

who observes how smaller NGOs

of these subjects and their usage of city

change their goals in order to maximise

spaces [11]. As the city is continuously

their funding [12]. This is evident in

made and remade through large urban

the president’s praise of NGOs as he

projects, subjects in turn are either

expressed his “appreciation for civil

deemed fit to participate and partake

society organisations that effectively

in these projects through disciplinary

contribute to social development

measures or be rejected and resettled

and deliver better living conditions to

on the city’s peripheries.

citizens” [9]. The rhetoric surrounding Ezbet Khairallah (and other informal areas) and Al Asmarat has been as follows: 1. Informal areas are physically unsafe and hotbeds of social ills. 2. Residents of informal neighbourhoods should be grateful for the amazing opportunity provided by the state. 3. People from informal areas need to

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE CENTRE OF CAIRO IF EVERYONE IS MOVING TO ITS PERIPHERIES? In 2008 the Egyptian government began advertising ‘Cairo 2050,’ its vision for transforming the heart of Cairo, along the line of other global mega-cities, into a financial and investment district of business parks, luxury hotels, and office towers, claiming a need to decrease

learn to be ‘better’ in order to be able

congestion and mitigate environmental

to live in the formal and ‘civilised’

strain on it. This essentially meant

neighbourhood of Al Asmarat without

that current residents of these areas,

ruining it.

especially those living in informal


settlements, needed to be moved elsewhere [17], creating a residential void in the centre. In the same year, the Informal Settlements Development Fund (ISDF) was established. One of its tasks was to identify and categorise unsafe areas in the centre based on four criteria: LEVEL 1: Informal settlements threatened by natural elements — those located on flood water passageways or under a mountain threatened by imminent landslides. These are usually demolished and residents relocated.

LEVEL 2: Areas where more than 50% of its buildings are either dilapidated or neglected. These too are usually demolished and their residents rehoused in the same area after it has been properly developed or relocated. LEVEL 3: Areas located adjacent to health hazards - under overhead transmission lines or adjacent to factories. These undergo appropriate redevelopment. LEVEL 4: Areas with issues of tenure security. These too are redeveloped by local authorities as they see fit [20].

Facing page top - Foster + Partners winning (2015) masterplan proposal for the Maspero Triangle District in downtown Cairo. Image credit: Foster+Partners. Source: norman-fosters-cairo-redevelopment-has-locals-asking-where-do-we-fit-in

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It is important to note that not only

from the chaotic outside world, in stark

is the working class being moved to

contrast to the habituation deemed

peripheries, but also the privileged and

necessary for those moving from

wealthy classes are being sold lifestyles

poorer neighbourhoods. A series of

in new satellite cities such as New

advertisements for Mountain View gated

Cairo, 6th of October city, and most prominently, the New Capital.

community show people turning into angry green hulks from dealing with the chaos of the city, and returning to their

These new cities are marketed as

calm selves once within the confines of

sanctuaries for the already ‘civilised’

the development’s gates.

Vision for Cairo’s New Capital, located 45 kilometres to the east of the city. Image credit: Cube Consultants/Urban Development Consortium. Source: Facing page top - View of government-demolished slum in the Maspero Triangle, 2018. Image credit: Khaled Desouki/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images; Source: https://www.nytimes. com/2018/11/05/opinion/cairo-heritage-development-maspero-.html Facing page bottom - The privileged and wealthy classes are also being marketed lives in new satellite cities such as New Cairo, 6th of October, and most prominently, the New Capital. Image credit: AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty. Source:

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Screenshots of television advertisements (2015) for Mountain View gated community depicting people turning into angry hulks in the chaotic city, being beckoned to escape and ‘chill out’ at Mountain View. Source: CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

Although most advertising and


news cycles target the New Capital,


the fervour of new cities and gated

Al Asmarat is located on the eastern

communities has travelled to other

periphery of Cairo and lies adjacent to

governorates such as New Dab’aa on

Masaken Al-Zilzal neighbourhood which

Egypt’s northern coast, where once

was built to house people affected

again the narrative of ‘uncivilised’

by a 1992 earthquake. Al Asmarat’s

Egyptians ruining the good work of

development occurred under heightened

the state is being reiterated. In 2017,

security through the presence of guards

the French Institute in Cairo held the

at the gates [10]. The state aimed at

‘Making the Sustainable City’ conference

achieving the resettlement in ‘record

where one of the speakers, involved in

time’ [9], even while elements of

the development works for New Dab’aa

everyday living were still missing. The

City, spoke proudly of the achievements

space was barren with no commercial

of the government in creating such an

services except those provided by

advanced city.

Armed Forces and ministry outlets.

Inside an apartment at Al Asmarat. Image credit: Ayat Al-Tawy; Source: http:// News/292339.aspx

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Children living in Al Asmarat. Image credit: Roger Anis; Source: en/2018/06/18/feature/politics/asmarat-the-states-model-housing-for-former-slum-residents/.

Residents were not allowed to bring in furniture, appliances, or anything other than a suitcase of their clothes during their resettlement [13]. Residents of Al Asmarat were also not allowed to operate commercial businesses within the compound, until the state uniformly painted all shops to give them a ‘civilised’ look before ‘being ruined by residents’ [10]. Although this level of visible security has since waned, periodic raids continue to occur with the aim of maintaining rules of formality, such as preventing people from opening CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

shops at home, setting up makeshift markets, or using tuktuks. To reach central Cairo, residents of Al Asmarat are dependent on government buses available at the development’s gates. Movement within the development is restricted to buses or an informal network of private cars owned by some residents. With the lack of sufficient transport modes connecting the development to the rest of the city, and within the compound itself, most

Ezbet Khairallah is located in the heart of Cairo. Its residents benefit from proximity to the ring road, access to a metro station (Al Zahraa), and also have their own network of microbuses and tuktuks. They also have easier access to public hospitals. On the other hand, residents relocated to Al Asmarat live on the periphery of Cairo with diminished access to public transport, and no access to makeshift transport options as it is frowned upon by the State. Access to public services such as hospitals is harder from Al Asmarat. Image source: Google Earth.

Tuktuks are a preferred mode of low cost transport throughout Cairo, but the State has banned their use within Al Asmarat with the aim of introducing what they perceive as rules of formality and ‘civilised’ behaviour. Image credit: Mai Shaheen; Source: http:// NewsContentP/1/190561/ Egypt/From-taxis-to-tuktuksCairos-most-popular-modesof.aspx

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Movement in Al Asmarat is limited to buses provided by the State. Image credit: Ayat Al-Tawy; Source: http:// News/292339.aspx.

people have lost access to the income generating opportunities that existed to them before relocation to Al Asmarat. No studies about the lifestyle and daily requirements of residents of informal settlements were carried out nor were these considerations taken into account during the design phase of Al Asmarat or other similar social housing projects. NGOs were brought in to handle this transition — those being resettled needed to be inured to their new surroundings, without the disorderliness of the past and reliance on makeshift solutions, and be made to fit into the state’s visualisation of ‘civilised space’. CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

THE WORK OF NGOS - SECURITISATION AND SOCIAL CONTROL IN AL ASMARAT Securitisation… is the spread of techniques by a multiplicity of actors and agencies that are aimed at ‘making the future secure and certain’. It is a spider’s web of prevention, inspection and policing that has attached itself to the routines of urban life and social interaction and that seeks to direct conduct towards ends that enhance public safety and commercial profit [14]. NGOs in Egypt have replaced the state by offering the informal housing populace basic services such as water, sanitation, education, and health

services. These communities in turn have come to expect these services from NGOs. In a community engagement meeting held at Ezbet Khairallah to discuss the possibility of implementing cultural and arts based activities, residents became agitated and the overwhelming refrain was that they were in need of basic infrastructure like good schools and hospitals. One resident said,

“Excuse my bluntness, but it is like you are going to someone who is hungry and thirsty and telling him, let’s paint!” The state has abdicated its responsibility of improving living conditions of residents in informal settlements. NGOs shoulder this burden, allocating funds they have received to various projects. Most NGOs work in a top down manner, rarely conducting needs assessments that are participatory in nature while designing their programs. No official data is available to determine the distribution of funding among the different NGOs. Yet, it is possible to surmise some of the prominent actors, among them, Misr El Kheir Foundation,

Dar Al-Orman Association, 57357 Hospital for Children’s Cancer, Ahl Masr Non-Profit Burn Hospital, and 500 500 Hospital for Cancer. It is evident from the examples cited, that there has been a growing trend among NGOs to focus on health related services and specialising in a single disease or medical problem. Civil society has thus become ‘deradicalised,’ from being rights based to charity based [4], ‘the realm of politics is reduced to sentimental humanitarianism’[3]. NGOs become accountable to their donors, whether private entities or the state, rather than the communities they intend to assist. In her critique of NGOs, Das as cited in Davis (2006) says, “Their constant effort is to subvert, disinform, and de-idealise people so as to keep away from class struggles. They adopt and propagate the practice of begging favours on sympathetic and humane grounds rather than making the oppressed conscious of their rights. As a matter of fact, these agencies and organisations systematically intervene to oppose any protests by the people to express their needs. Their effort is constantly to divert people’s attention from the larger political evils of imperialism to merely local issues and so confuse people in 22 23


differentiating enemies from friends” [4]. This is especially apparent in the state’s efforts to quash any form of dissent in general and in Al Asmarat in particular. Residents of Al Asmarat relocated from places like Ezbet Khairallah, Maspero Triangle, Manshiyet Nasser, Duweiga, all informal areas deemed hazardous, were given different arrangements based on the circumstances of their relocation. Residents of Ezbet Khairallah for instance, were given usufruct contracts but required to pay an additional 300EGP as monthly rent. Some families organised protests, an action that was met with fright techniques by the state, which issued eviction notices and arrested 12 residents for organising and participating in illegal protests — the 12 residents were sentenced to two years in prison. Some residents claimed that they were not aware of having to pay rent and that state employees demanded rent in backlog as well as payment for gas services. The main protest from residents was that there were no opportunities for income generation such as workshops or


other commerce, leaving them entirely dependent on the monthly state welfare of 340EGP. After deducting the 300EGP rent, they were left with only 40EGP to live on for the entire month [10]. Informal settlements and slum areas, where Al Asmarat residents originate from, are portrayed as hotbeds for crime, drug abuse and myriad other social ills. In the imagination of state apparatuses and project enthusiasts, with proper planning and establishment of controls, residents can be disciplined into inhabiting their new spaces civilly. Residents are expected to live in houses designed for nuclear families instead of their traditional arrangement of extended families. Residents of Al Asmarat are not allowed to have tuktuks, as they did in Ezbet Khairallah as tuktuks and their drivers are considered social ills incompatible with the perceived ‘civilised’ narrative [13]. The state representative for Al Asmarat very diligently lists all violations by residents such as opening of grocery shops inside houses, and gathering of women in the street which according him creates a problem of garbage [13].

This continuous narrative of the need for shedding of ‘uncivilised’ ways and habituation is supported by the media, which often covers state sponsored visits to Al Asmarat. One of these was made by an Egyptian ‘life coach expert’ from Canada who expressed “her happiness and pride in Asmarat, and the way of life in it, similar to any compound in the new areas” [6]. A headline that caught my attention in particular, was “What have the new residents done to the classy neighbourhood?”. The writer of this article wondered how the slum mentality, that does not fit in with the classy neighbourhood will be controlled [13]. It is clear that the state has increased its “securitisation of the city through a combination of warehousing and habituation or ‘rehabilitation’ to precarious low-wage labour combined

with a more general extension of surveillance justified in the name of security” [18]. These sentiments are now being echoed by the resettled residents themselves, who are fearful that aspects of ‘slum life’ meaning informality will reappear in Al Asmarat. It is important to note here how the rhetoric surrounding Al Asmarat is heavily monitored. Al Ahram, the government owned daily newspaper, published a story commenting on the negatives of Al Asmarat [1]. It covered issues concerning the residents, including their economic hardships vis a vis rent. A week later they published another story where it was important for them to state that for the sake of ‘objectivity,’ it was important that they also highlight the positives of Al Asmarat [7]. THE ROLE OF NGOS IN AIDING THE STATE’S NARRATIVE Before the 2011 uprising, a burgeoning number of NGOs operated in Egypt with no close supervision of the influx of money to them. With the uprising and

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the fear of foreign actors meddling in Egypt’s internal affairs, the Egyptian State tightened controls over NGO funding. NGOs receiving foreign funding now require security clearance to operate. The duration for clearance is a minimum of 3 months but often exceeds this time. NGOs are deterred from engaging in political activities except as directed by the state, such as gathering people for voting. One example is what happened during the latest referendum on amendments to the constitution. An employee at an NGO operating in Ezbet Khairallah informed me that they received direct orders to gather women beneficiaries and direct them to polling stations. Any meddling in political affairs not sanctioned by the state could lead to serious repercussions in licensing, dry up their limited funding, and of course deprive NGOs from participating in large state funded projects like Al Asmarat.

implementing state sponsored initiatives in a top-down rather than bottomup approach that takes into account the needs of the communities they serve. In most discussions with the Al Asmarat community, residents mention specifically their inability to maintain the cost of living and their inability to find work. Yet the government intends to auction off the use of the commercial spaces and shops in Al Asmarat. The inherent problem in such action is that it creates a power imbalance within the neighbourhood. Those with money will be able to enter the auction, while those without will continue to struggle for economic opportunities.

NGOs need to work within the state narrative, reiterating residents’ need for habituation, to continue receiving partnership in government commissioned projects. They end up

poverty as a deficiency in people rather than in the socio-political climate, and offers welfare services that should be provided by government. Poverty in this way becomes depoliticised.


NGOs defuse people’s demands in two ways. First, by shifting their priorities to non-political activities, missing possibilities such as political mobilisation that calls for government accountability. Second, by framing

Another concern with NGOs is the effects of fundraising on their decision making — such as the use of images showcasing deprivation and poverty for emotional effect. Beneficiaries are also required to constantly document their poverty in order to receive aid. Some NGOs allow CSR departments within funding organisations to use what some beneficiaries perceive as demeaning images for marketing efforts. These actions have caused many residents of Ezbet Khairallah for instance, to feel ashamed and indignant at being continuously framed as receivers of charity, thus ‘othering’ them and ‘confining them to their subjugation’ [19]. The ‘othering’ faced by those from informal areas affects them also in their relocation. In a community meeting at Al Asmarat that included a local NGO, representatives from the local government, and an international NGO, one attendee who resides in Al Moqattam neighbourhood situated 8 kilometres away, showed her discontent in having Al Asmarat located close by,

saying that she was afraid that this proximity would eventually devalue her own neighbourhood. RESISTANCE TO DISPLACEMENT AND THE GOVERNMENT’S RETALIATION “The character of a centaur [is] liberal at the top and paternalistic at the bottom, which presents a comely and caring visage toward the middle and upper classes and a fearsome and frowning mug toward the lower class” [18] Ezbet Khairallah’s history is problematic. The land is formally owned by the state and is subject to the Law on Protection of Monuments No.117 of 1983 that under the decision No.158 of 1981 states that the area may not be developed without referring to the Egyptian Tourism Authority as it includes several monuments. The area is also situated within the purview of the Maadi Company for Development and Reconstruction pursuant to the Presidential Decree No.1420 of 1974 and Presidential Decree No.1187 of 1972, to establish a residential city

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View of Ezbet Khairallah. Image source:


Children play among rubble in Ezbet Khairallah. Image source: http://saudigazette.

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on the land (The New Fustat City), a plan that is being thwarted by current residents. Efforts have been made through third party actors to map and title land to residents and long-time squatters but have been blocked by government due to their perception that the poor should not own such highly valuable land [16]. CONCLUSION This essay does not aim to romanticise living conditions within informal settlements nor pretend that they are without significant structural problems that need attention and change. However, it is noteworthy that these settlements also have their merits. They mitigate the effects of ‘formalisation’ on residents, such as incurring the cost of utility bills and taxes without adequate sources of income, and the loss of social capital that is usually the character of informal dwellings [21]. Informal housing has also been able to absorb the influx of local migrants and increase in population over the years [21]. It has been noted by researchers that it would be best to upgrade neighbourhoods with informal CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

housing, and have offered multiple ways to realise this — land titling, rent control, skills training programs and employment opportunities, affordable childcare facilities, and providing much needed primary infrastructure and services [21]. REFERENCES [1] Abdel Shafey, M. (2019) Fights and Thievery, Some Negatives in Al Asmarat. Ahram Online. [2] Al Masry Al Youm. (2018) Tahya Misr Fund provides housing for 250,000 citizens. Al Masry Al Youm. tahya-misr-fund-provides-housing-for-250000citizens-to-combat-slums/ [3] Das, Veena. state, Citizenship, and the Urban Poor. (2011). Citizenship Studies. [4] Davis, M. (2006) Planet of Slums. [5] Egypt Today Staff. (2018).Egypt to be Declared Slum Free Country by End of 2019. Egypt Today. Article/2/61300/Egypt-to-be-declared-slumfree-country-by-end-of [6] Hassan, A. (2019) Dalia El Shafei, Egyptian Expert in human development in Canada, visits Asmarat. Al Youm El Sabe’. https://www.youm7. com/story/2019/4/8/ [7] Helal, A. (2019). Some Negatives… the Positives Exceed in Al Asmarat. (2019). Ahram Online. [8] ‘Izbit Khayrallah. (2013). Tadamun. http:// XM9-mfZuLmI

[9] Leila, R. (2016) Defusing the Social Bomb. Al Ahram Weekly. News/16494.aspx [10] Mohie, M. (2018). Asmarat: The state’s model housing for former ‘slum’ residents. Mada. en/2018/06/18/feature/politics/asmarat-thestates-model-housing-for-former-slum-residents/ [11] Mourad, M. (2015) Traversing the Urban as a Woman in Nasr City and Aswan. http://dar. [12] Rahman, S. (2006). Development, Democracy and the NGO Sector. Journal of Developing Societies. 22, no. 2, pp. 451-473 [13] Sakr, H. (2018) Al Asmarat… What Did the New Residents Do to the Classy Neighborhood? Tahrir News. Story/905571/[14] Schuilenberg, M. (2015) The Securitization of Society: Crime, Risk, and Social Order. [15] Sims, D. (2013). The Arab Housing Paradox. The Cairo Review of Global Affairs. [16] Sims, D. (2016) Securing Land Tenure

in Egypt: Who Needs Registered Titles? Metropolitics. https://www.metropolitiques. eu/Securing-Land-Tenure-in-Egypt-Who-NeedsRegistered-Titles.html [17] Tarbush, N. (2012) ‘Cairo 2050: Urban Dream or Modernist Delusion?’ Journal of International Affairs 65, no. 2: 171-86. https:// [18] Wacquant, L. (2010) ‘Crafting the Neoliberal state: Workfare, Prisonfare, and Social Insecurity.’ Sociological Forum. 25, pp. 197-220 [19] Walsh, S., Bond, P., Desai, A. and Walsh, S. (2008). ‘Uncomfortable Collaborations’: Contesting Constructions of the ‘Poor’ in South Africa. Review of African Political Economy, 35(116), pp.255-279. [20] Zaazaa, A. (2019). Gentrification and forced urban modernization: Fears related to development trends in Cairo. Alternative Policy Solutions. commentary-post/forced-urban-modernizationcairo/ [21] Zayed, H. (2014) Mobilizing Dissent: Community Organizing For Informal Housing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Mennat-Allah Yehia Mourad achieved her MA (2015) in Gender and Women Studies with a focus on gender and urban issues. After graduating, she worked with an NGO in Ezbet Khairallah, and is now a Production Manager with a cultural centre located in the same neighbourhood. Menna has taken a particular interest in urban issues pertaining to Cairo, particularly those that touch on socio-economic dimensions from a rights-based perspective.

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Coca Cola London Eye. © Mace Group 2019

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With globalisation, cities across the world, regardless of their geographic predisposition can now build using similar materials, techniques and technology. This results in similar looking, towering building edifices in ‘alpha cities’ across the globe, from New York to London, Hong Kong, Singapore or Dubai. Glass clad towers have become omnipresent in the last few decades as cities continue to express their political and economic foothold through their architecture, with each building vying to be taller and/or more memorable than the other. In this global competition, skyscrapers are a particularly attractive symbol for cities. Owing to their sheer size and ability to accommodate large densities, they are a welcome solution to rapidly growing cities. However, another reason and an interesting use of these buildings lies in their height/ size being a potential for iconic, global representation and an indication of the city’s power. “Every ambitious city wants an architect to do for them what Jon Utzon’s Opera House did for Sydney, and Frank Gehry and the Guggenheim did for Bilbao.” [1] Central Business Districts of most cities rely on ‘Corporate Architecture’ to resound their global stature to the world. This triggers a paradoxical question within the identity crisis - when cities around the world begin to look alike, what then, makes one stand out from the rest? Secondly, how does a city of such global standing resonate with its own citizens?


London seems to have found an answer in iconography to both these questions currently plaguing global cities. For architecture in London particularly, there is the added dimension of its historically rich context. The city has been a seat of power for centuries and has constantly sought out an architectural expression

of this power. What we see is a shift over time of this power from religion, to the Monarchy and now to finance. The shift is such that one never really supersedes the other just that the world’s perception of “power” has changed, without diminishing the importance of its precedents.

The Olympic Velodrome a.k.a The Pringle.© Anthony Palmer

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It is possible that the long-standing British colloquialism led to the christening of the Elizabeth tower (earlier the Clock Tower) as ‘Big Ben’, and there are multiple theories of how the nickname came to be. The result of this nickname however, was unprecedented. It humanised a bell tower, converting simple stone and mortar into the people’s tower watching over the city and telling time with its hourly rings. The tower became a part of people’s lives, a part of the city and pivotal to the identity of London, so much that it features as the establishing shot of films set in London. [2] This trend has furthered with the London Eye (Observation wheel) and the Pringle (The Velodrome) amongst others, with the Eye becoming a frequent appearance in pop culture of late. In the case of the Pringle, a cycling centre for the 2012 Olympics, the name coined by Londoners came out of a resemblance to the famous chips brand - an afterthought that inherently enhanced a sense of belonging to an already public space. What we can understand from this is that the distinct

form of the building lends itself to be a certain emblem for the city. Architecture is tending towards a sculpted form that captivates the eye and there is a direct relation between this form and the public’s acceptance to it. In the private sector, the phenomenon of nicknames associated with distinct forms has snowballed into a marketing tactic, a clever ruse for the developer to infuse meaning into “Corporate Architecture”, which is otherwise a dull, straightforward spatial solution to business expectations. It can be argued that these are superficial gimmicks to make just another glass clad skyscraper seem enticing and do not address any real concerns of a monotonous urban fabric or the climatic implications of such building methods. Despite that, the reason why this is becoming increasingly popular in London’s urban scenario is its relatability. Imagine walking along the streets of your city and suddenly seeing a monumental version of a toy from your childhood or a tool from your mother’s kitchen - there’s an instant, indisputable connection like no other.

Facing page- Swiss Re Building better known as the Gherkin. Image Credit: Vidhya Mohankumar


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In light of these developments, the architectural theory surrounding buildings had to be recalibrated. [3] It was not just about how space was organised but also the meaning people associate to that space. The phenomenon of corporate vanity is seen as a symbolic asset. Per Olof Berg goes on to elaborate - “Furthermore, the emphasis on corporate surfaces can be seen as a purposeful adaptation to postmodern society with its emphasis on

appearance and mass communication. What counts today is as much the appearance of an organisation - and thus its credibility - as its performance.� While the striking form of the building becomes an asset to the developer, for architects, can the entire premise of a project rely on its reducibility into a daily object? For Norman Foster, who has many silhouettes of the London skyline to his credit, architecture has always been driven by ideas greater

The ground plane of the Gherkin. Image Credit: Vidhya Mohankumar CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

than the Vitruvian triad. His work is characterised by an artful integration of structure and services within the built, along with a poetic proclamation of form and material unlike any other. The “Gherkin” (30, St. Mary Axe Building) is a distinctive feat in its ability to have a diagrid node system for the facade - a result of Foster’s keen interest in viewing structure as an equally integral part of the ‘system’. The form in itself is derived from prevailing wind conditions and is a result of multiple iterations. The internal volumes are characterised by a series of light tunnels shifted by 5’ with each rising floor plate. This goes to show that the internal volumes are as intentionally articulated as its exterior facade. Here, the architect is akin to a juggler with multiple plates in the air - creating interesting spaces within the volume, making the entirety of the building sculpturally interesting and reinventing the usage of ‘corporate’ materials like glass and steel. Another contemporary, the “Cheesegrater” (Leadenhall building) derives its form from constraints very specific to the site and the City of London. The city’s towering developments are governed by the views

they offer of St. Paul’s cathedral and the Cheesegrater gets its form from an attempt to prevent obscuring these views. Designed by Richard Rogers, the design claims to make use of the constraints to deliver an interesting icon, which could otherwise easily become a boring building. The “Walkie-Talkie” by Rafael Viñoly makes clever use of planning regulations to maximise ‘lettable’ floor plates on the upper floors while simultaneously negotiating the form to give it the distinctive shape it has. However, it seems that in the attempt to add to the London skyline, the curvaceous facade now reflects enough heat to melt cars on neighbouring roads. At a height of 309.7 metres, The “Shard” by Renzo Piano is currently the tallest building in London. Situated right near a transport hub, the height of the building was justified as an opportunity to provide adequate infrastructure near transport nodes for manageable growth of the city by providing for its commuters. It works as a mixed use facility, hosting hotels, workspaces and restaurants in its 72 habitable floors. Ironic as it is, the building gets its name 38 39


The ensemble comprising the Walkie Talkie, Cheesegrater and the Gherkin as seen from the Shard. Image Credit: Vidhya Mohankumar CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

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The Shard. Image Credit: Vidhya Mohankumar


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from a statement made by English Heritage, a charity that manages many historic monuments of the city. The organisation felt the design would ‘tear through historic London like a shard of glass’, which led to the building’s current name. [4]

Beyond all these intentions, the fact that these towers resemble familiar objects establishes an immediate connection with urban citizens. However, while their unique forms tend to garner a lot of attention both during construction and after, this in no way negates the flaws of these buildings. They rely primarily

With investigation, it becomes clear that these buildings are a by-product of their limitations, aspirations and intentions, which the architects used to establish distinctive silhouettes as part of the skyline. There is also an attempt to humanise these buildings in multiple ways - public plazas are articulated at their feet to withdraw from the bulky mass of the tower into a relatable scale. The Leadenhall building uses its structural system as a means to break down the scale of the entire mass. Introduction of sky decks and green pockets are attempts to integrate nature with the corporate environment, an inherently challenging combination for which an elegant solution is yet to be seen. These buildings go beyond their form to try and initiate a dialogue with their inhabitants.


on active climate control, glass boxes are inherently inefficient in energy management and the excessive use of glass reflects heat into the immediate physical neighbourhood, increasing the heat island effect.

While the skyline is constantly being dotted with uniquely shaped structures, a deeper investigation into the buildings reveals that they are in no way exclusive in their intent. They are propagated

as the answer to a city previously weary to skyscrapers, owing to its unorganised and unstructured skyline. They are meant to be role models and to exemplify what ‘good’ design meant. [5] Whether they are indeed ‘good’ remains debatable and subjective. Yet, the distinctly shaped glass clad towers are here to stay for the immediate future, with the available technology and means to create a sustainable, meaningful connection to the city at large.

REFERENCES [1] Source: The Edifice Complex: How the Rich and Powerful Shape the World; Penguin, New York; 2005; Deyan Sudjic [2] Source: “Big Ben in Films and Popular Culture”. The Daily Telegraph - https://www. Accessed on 6 May 2019. [3] & [5] Source: The Politics of Design: Architecture, Tall Buildings and the Skyline of Central London; 2007; Igal Charney [4] Source: “History of the Shard, London Bridge”. - https://www.shardldn. com/construction-history-html/ Archived from the original on 13 July 2012. Retrieved 9 May 2019.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS Tejashrii Shankarraman is an architect by day and a writer by night. She has previously worked with architectureRED and is currently getting ready to pursue a Master’s degree in Architecture. For her, words are a means to clarify our thoughts and believes that our thoughts need to be caught to become actionable. She’s also a recent poet, trying to rhyme her way through life. You can find a collection of her thoughts caught on her blog at www.pensivepoint. When she’s not lost in the world of work or words, you can find her scrolling through dog videos on the internet.

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In the fast-paced world of cities, we find ourselves in constant motion, harbouring an unsatiated hurry to reach our next destination. I experience the speed of the city in its prime element when I return to Bangalore from my hometown in Kerala. A day in the small town of North Kerala starts serenely, with its inhabitants taking their own sweet time to go about the day. When I step foot in Bangalore, I feel, almost immediately, that I have a heavy burden to catch up with. I feel I was stuck in time during my jaunt away from the city, and in coming back - the entire city has moved on. The constant jostle, crossing of roads amidst speeding cars has a way of making you feel that you are forever lagging. Cities and their inherent modernity have provided for a variety of choices within our reach, but in providing a multitude of options, our angst has been inevitably heightened. In a relentlessly paced world where we inhale anxiety with every breath, there is something to be said for pausing, slowing down, and consciously

walking before running a marathon against life. Walking has a unique effect on the human brains. As one slows down, it entails longer time spent in seeing people, remembering faces, exchanging glances and sharing smiles – a phenomenon which commuting through the city in a car doesn’t allow. Such interactions over a long period of time instil a sense of bonding and community in a city, that otherwise can feel deeply alienating. Walking brings us closer to the secrets of the city. Cities are a labyrinthine, much like the human mind. A car ride will take you through the shortest main road and whatever one sees on the way will then define the perception and imagination of the city. However, the secrets lie in the labyrinthine, in the secret alleys of the city that will unfold only through walking through narrow roads and slowing down.

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I stopped ‘running’ and started walking a year and half ago. Amruthahalli, Bangalore.

Trees of Amruthahalli echo stories of love and faith; of lovers who carved their names wishing for a forever but broke each other’s heart. Trees are also where the abandoned Gods are left to die, an easy resting spot for tainted Gods that aren’t aesthetically pleasing for houses but cannot be thrown away lest they curse the inhabitants. The narrative of tree worship has made us exercise much authority and power over trees. And along with Gods, plastic, remains of


construction and every possible waste adorn these trees. A pervasive and integral element in the labyrinthine of streets are the numerous teashops, where neighbourhood uncles and aunties chat over a steaming cup of chai. At one such teashop, I had ventured to try the famous Mangalore bonda, but was hesitant thinking it might taste bad. Sensing my reluctance, the shop owner offered me one to taste

without purchase. As capitalism spreads its wings and Westside charges 999 on a Bombay Paisley dress so we don’t take the one rupee back, here’s a man running a kiosk, happy to offer me food

to taste for free. When did our lives turn so monetized that we began thinking of everything in terms of personal profit? Have our brains become banks we constantly overdraw from?

Trees and abandoned Gods.

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Tea shop, Amruthahalli.

Woman drawing Kolam.

While I have seen kolams drawn by women, when commuting in a vehicle - looking at the intricate patterns being drawn as you walk past it is a different experience. It made me think, why would the women pay so much attention to such detailed drawing when they are to be tread over by cars, cows and CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

people? I see patience and detachment in such practices; to dedicate oneself to something, knowing well that it will be smudged by cars, cows, rain and people. If not anything, Buddha resides in their minds and not under the peepal tree. All the stories are interlaced together in a way which makes you feel part of the

community. An old man gives broken

advising the customer, “I will give you

pieces of roti to dogs at 6.45 am every

a whole strip if you ask, but stop your

day. Stray dogs bark at the sight of an

medicine and start yoga to heal your

elite husky, almost seeming envious of

sickness!”. “Next time uncle!” comes the

the husky’s grooming. A gang of uncles


walk in unison, laughing and discussing their mutual obsession with cholesterol, sugar and their even bigger collective fear - their wives forcing them on walks to make them healthier. A middleaged couple, stroll along the streets, I imagine, attempting to compensating for all the lost time and lost love. Housewives squat on the roads, patiently and beautifully adorning their entrances with intricate kolams. Along another corner, a person is seen

All these little narratives merge to form one’s emotional map of the city, only to be brought out by walking. Gandhiji advocated an important message about time and patience through his use of the chakra, or spinning wheel. At the confluence of modernity and a prolonged sense of urgency, one has to seek out the moments to slow down; to watch the needle pass through the cloth, one after the other.

consoling a migrant labourer from Nepal who has hurt his leg, and deeply misses

Enjoying time is something the world

his family. At the local medical store, the

seems to forget, in our hurry to get

pharmacist uncle offers a strip of tablets

somewhere and one way we can bring

even when known and local customers

it back is to slow down... and enjoy the

have forgotten their wallet, while gently

walk !

All images courtesy of the author.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Anu Karippal is a researcher at ATREE, Bangalore. She did her Master’s in Development from Azim Premji University and Bachelor’s in Political Science and Economics from St. Stephen’s College. She is intrigued by anthropology studies and the mundane. She practices photography, dance and writes poetry.

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What is it about food that lures you out to markets, to streets, to people, to the city? It is the sheer temptation, the enticement of senses, the energy and dynamics, the urge to discover and experience the city through its foodscapes. ‘Food’ has multiple meanings for cities. It ranges from being a fundamental right of urban masses, to an overall system operating on different scales and influencing trade, recreation, quality of life, economic dynamics and localised and regional interdependencies. Food has become more than a simple material product - it is a factor that affects city form leading to urbanrural intersections, economic vitality, cultural diversity and richness in experience. This article discusses the vital role food plays in creating vibrant urban spaces, as defined by theorists such as Jane Jacobs, Henri Lefebvre, Henry Shaftoe, William Whyte and others. It examines the link between

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social space, physical space, and

Indian cities, leading to de-localized and

food; and highlights the importance of

highly industrialized food production,

food-centred urban spaces in creating

and myriad choices available to all who

economically and socially sustainable

can pay. While modern food systems

cities. The article uses examples from

have brought in an economic revolution

Delhi and examines different typologies

in the food market, it has also led

of food spaces that have either evolved

to ‘fat cities’ and obesogenic urban

organically within the urban fabric over

environments. Traditional food systems

the years or are emerging as segregated

are prevalent at a small scale within the

areas of recreation. Food production and

local boundaries of a city but form an

consumption have become an integral

important part of a city’s cultural identity

part of the public realm and have the

and branding. Both these systems

potential to become centrepieces of

collectively account for the ‘experiential

place-making and neighbourhood

economy of any city’.

regeneration. Considering the emerging

Gastronomy is defined as the elevation of food preparation to a complex sensory experience that encompasses a spectrum of ingredients, preparation techniques and cooking styles.

concepts of gastro-tourism and ‘foodatainment’, the article touches upon wider prospects of food-led regeneration by scaling up through food policies and devising innovative ways of having food-centred spaces and activities such as food festivals and food walks. EXPLORING THE ROLE OF GASTRONOMICAL QUARTERS IN SHAPING URBAN SPACES Cities today show a mix of traditional as well as modern food systems. With

‘Gastronomical quarters’ are a

the liberalization of the economy, many

physical manifestation of this sensory

global franchises dot the food scene of

experience. The laws that govern


the senses – ‘Gastronomy’ - in their

distances, to car-dependent mall-based

physical form, govern the experience

food consumption.

and perception of a city. The tangible aspects of food systems and foodscapes are not only linked to the immediate physical space they occupy but can be directly linked to the overall socio-spatial activity in a city. These gastronomical


quarters can range from being walkable,

Gastronomical quarters in cities

mixed-use markets to a neighbourhood

demonstrate a range of social practices

hub with small blocks and permeable

in which food plays a substantial part.

Gastronomical quarters in a city can be seen as

Vernacular tradition and cultural identity

Catalyst for social interactions

An important element of place making forming a major part of sense of place

Experience economy of a city also contributing in image building

A contributor in regeneration or revitalization of any urban space

Sensescapes forming a crucial part of experience and memories

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They form a central part of everyday

place-promotion technique to foster

life with routine encounters and shared

regeneration, with parts of cities sold

experiences of public spaces that

on the basis of the food they offer,

include walking, browsing, shopping,

especially in case of ethnic foods.

eating, talking, and tourist visits. These food quarters become a place for interaction and thus urban social spaces by default rather than design. Gastronomy for place making and revitalization

Gastronomy for ecological sustainability Susan Parham in her book ‘Market Place: Food Quarters, Design and Urban Renewal in London’ says that ‘predominant food distribution and

Not all details are tangible while

consumption arrangements in urban

designing a public space. Some public

areas, dominated by supermarkets, have

places fail to garner the anticipated

a specific and largely negative influence

footfall even if well-designed – for

on urban sustainability’. Sustainability

example by being uninteresting or

is determined by the spatial form of the

devoid of place. Instead of abandoning

food quarters. A compact, walkable,

or redeveloping these spaces, a sense of

liveable food quarter will assist in

place can be brought back to them using

mitigating some unsustainable effects

food as a tool and catalyst for urban

of the way food relationships are played


out in urban space.

Gastronomy for economic regeneration

Gastronomical quarters for cognitive

The food sector is diverse, vibrant, and

mapping of city

provides a rich range of employment

Gastronomical quarters are elements of

opportunities and income generation.

reminiscence because they form a part

Returns are so high that even vernacular

of people’s social experiences in a city.

eateries have started developing as

They are one of the most camouflaged

new spaces of commercial hospitality.

elements yet have a large impact - this

‘Foodatainment’ is enlisted as a

explains why famous anchor eateries


become landmarks in an area and form

an experience economy becomes a

a memory of place.

trademark of that place, and the city.

Now and again, foodscapes act as


landmarks within landmarks. From Karim’s at Jama Masjid to Kachori at Hanuman Mandir, they have their own share of visitors and a sturdy presence.

OF DELHI When it comes to food, Delhi is a melting pot of the culinary traditions of

They contribute towards an authentic

generations of indigenous and foreign

experience with history not only in the

cultures. Every area of the city boasts

backdrop, but also manifested through

of foodscapes and food streets; alive

traditional cooking and eating. Such

with people, vibrant with conversations,

The only signage leading to a famous food street in Old Delhi. Image credit: Author

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charging the atmosphere with rising

the social spaces of markets, shops, and

aromas, and acting as a complete

malls, to the productive spaces of the

sensory experience. If you start digging

footpath, parks, and business districts.

into these foodscapes, you can truly

Three typo-morphologies have emerged

experience the city’s past, present, and future through culinary escapades.

in Delhi - the historical foodscape of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi, the emerging culture of food malls such

These gastronomical townscapes have

as Epicuria at Nehru Place and Satya

diverse urban form and morphology.

Niketan, and a neighbourhood food

They range from public spaces of the

street in one of the gentrified residential

street, square, and neighbourhoods to

pockets of Delhi. These areas represent

An excerpt from Khushwant Singh’s writing displayed at Karim’s, Old Delhi. Image credit: Intekhab Alam. CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

a subset of the urban fabric which exists in vast parts of Delhi. With a focus on the gastronomic possibilities of these gastronomical quarters, it becomes possible to observe the many roles food plays in urban life and the ways in which it has shapes the development of these people-centred, convivial urban spaces. Considering economic realities, cultural needs, and regeneration/revitalization opportunities ultimately helps to shape a sustainable, economically viable and socially inclusive urban response to degenerating areas in Delhi. CONCLUSION: THE MAKING OR BREAKING OF ‘THE GASTRONOMICAL CITY’ The urban design-based analysis above reveals that the different models of gastronomic quarters are instrumental in shaping of place, the neighbourhood and the city. It also shows that the presence of food brings diversity and activity to the spaces surrounding them, whether these be public space or controlled private enclaves. These quarters exhibit rich architectural and urban design features that reinforce their conviviality as food spaces. The

recent trend of using the sale and consumption of food as a vehicle for urban regeneration further enforces the benefits food brings to urban spaces. It also suggests that food can be central to revitalization strategy for derelict or disused districts. Besides its sociocultural, economic and environmental implications on a city, food quarters impact the urban form and are impacted by it. They can be understood through four urban design and planning parameters, which are: 1. Primary use Through evaluation of the three typologies of gastronomical quarters, it became clear that they can thrive in busy mixed-use market spaces as well as spine streets in residential neighbourhoods. These quarters can also be planned and designed as foodonly retail spaces. 2. Block sizes To ensure the walkability and permeability of cities, these blocks must be designed at a human scale. The smaller city blocks become, the more opportunity there is to create active food streets and corners. E.g. Chandni 58 59


The study looks at various food spaces some of which are a part of the rich cultural setting of the city, some are designed as segregated domains, while others have developed organically within the urban fabric. It analyses the spatial and social attributes of these food-centric spaces in terms of how they shape and influence those parts of the city.

Gastronomical quarters typology in Delhi





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Ped Shed diagram of Chandni Chowk showing landmark shops easily accessed by walking. Image credit: author


Chowk provides for small walkable distances which make it sustainable and accessible. 3. Mix of old and new Within one city, there needs to be a sufficient mixture of old and new. Gastronomical quarters found in the historic districts of a city offer dynamic streets and diverse neighbourhoods for food quarters to flourish. However, in recent times, the expansion of fast food, ready-meals, and car-dependant food spaces including malls, road pantries, and supermarkets are also dominating the food scene. 4. Concentration of people and activities A high concentration of people is needed not only to create as much variety and diversity as possible, but also to put eyes on the street and to create a safe and ‘visibly lively public street life’. Food attracts people, who in turn attract more people – it thus creates more opportunities for encounters, chance meetings and acts as a social platform for people to interact with each. As William Whyte also points out in his book ‘Social life of small urban spaces’ “If one needs to put a seed of activity in a place, add food to it”. 62 63


Gastronomical quarters of Delhi Satya Niketan is a neighbourhood located next to the South Campus of Delhi University. With a large influx of students, the area has transformed tremendously from a residential pocket to a mixed use with a large number of students living on rent. The area has gentrified to cater to the incoming rental accommodation demand. Socio-cultural significance • Caters largely to young population, with its affordable and easily accessible facilities. • With the local population moving out to make space for the incoming student population, the demography of the area is relatively heterogeneous highlighted in the cosmopolitan food choices available. Chandni Chowk area is the most earliest established of the sites functioning as a food quarter over a very long term, through a complex set of interior, exterior and transitional spaces. It differs from the simpler form of the food quarter which offers a simple sitting setup because here one sees fusion of food, old and new, and amalgamation of many cultures, people and cuisines together. Socio-cultural significance Food-related land uses have been located in the area of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi since a very long period. There is a treasure of recipes right from the time of Sultans of Delhi to the end of the great Mughal empire. Strong sense of place due to historic built fabric.

Intensity and nature of development • Mixed use gentrified neighbourhood • The lower floors mostly have small and affordable eating outlets with rental accommodation on upper floors. • A classic case of loft living with larger units on lower floors divided into smaller units on upper floors. Economic opportunities

• There are opportunities for everyone, from informal vendors to small eating outlets, cafés and food chains to flourish.

• Interdependencies among the bigger food units and smaller outlets, making co-existing profitable for everyone.

Intensity and nature of development • Historic core. • The area is predominantly fine grained with smaller block sizes, scale, high density and active edges. • Mixed use market typology. Economic opportunity • Caters to diverse economic groups in terms of both food production and consumption practises. • Supports both big flagship food outlets, smaller shops and informal street vendors. • A number of food outlets acting as anchor shops. • Opportunity for gastro tourism.

Intensity and nature of development

Epicuria is an example of the emerging typology of food malls that have enormous amount of internalised diversity with only one main primary use- food retail. The area surrounding the mall is predominantly used for office and commercial activities, with a metro station as the transport hub.

• The mall segregates itself from the commercial district and creates an island of activity and concentration.

Socio-cultural significance

• Situated right under the Nehru Place metro station, thus we connected to public transport and a district centre.

• Limited chances of interaction with surroundings. • Homogeneity in terms of income groups it caters to. • Dining opportunities consist largely of ‘cosmopolitan’, ‘chain’ and ‘not very local’

• The surrounding district with monotonous streets with limite activity.

Economic opportunities • Emerging ‘super block retail centre’ acts as a magnet for a certain economic classes and generation. • International brands taking up food retail sector. • It also acts as an employment creation sector.


REFERENCES Urban form • Compact development with food quarters at walkable distances. • A spine street acting as the people centred food hub. • The urban form of Satya Niketan effectively supports the livework-recreation model at walkable distances.

[1] Robert J. Harrington, ‘Defining Gastronomic Identity: The Impact of Environment and Culture on Prevailing Components, Texture and Flavors in Wine and Food’

Pros and cons


• Higher densities of people, cycles and cars in the same spine street leads to conflict in movement patters.


• Haphazard development and encroachment of road space for marketing. • Inclusive to all economic groups. Urban form • High levels of permeability, legibility and walkability. • Small blocks that give visual cues and help the walker to get through from one place to another. • Human-scaled with active frontages housing a robust and diverse range of land uses, many related to food. Pros and cons • Inclusive- mixing of different economic groups, age groups and genders. • Richness of experience. • Organized chaos. • Pedestrian movement and spillover areas of food joints conflict with each other. • Dust and noise pollution from vehicles hinder interaction possibilities. Urban form • Segregated and privatised enclave.


• Internalised flagship food courts, cafés and restaurant clusters are present within the mall.


• An inward facing, privately owned mall space with parking on the exterior and pedestrian space within. Pros and cons • Entertains a specific segment of people and creates food desert for others. • Creates vitality inside a controlled consumer environment ignoring the lack of quality urban space and city life surrounding its bleak perimeter.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Ishleen Kaur is a Research Associate with National Institute of Urban Affairs where she works towards making cities people friendly through urban design and planning, particularly for children. She is a gold-medallist with a Masters in Urban Regeneration from Jamia Milia Islamia University, New Delhi and a Bachelors in Architecture. In the past, she has worked with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in implementing the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana; the Society for Participatory Research in South East Asia (PRIA) creating responsive cities; as an architect in the Housing and Urban poverty alleviation wing of Delhi Development Authority (DDA); and has been an active volunteer in Centre for Contemporary Urbanism(CCU) since 2015. Her research interests include Urban policy implementation, urban planning and design, people-friendly cities, and livable cities. She is an avid traveler and foodie.

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THE THRESHOLD OF INAPPROPRIATE TOUCH An indicator for quality of public space?



What exactly is space? Oxford dictionary defines it as: “A continuous area or expanse which is free, available, or unoccupied.” The crucial words in this definition are ‘free’ and ‘available’. Space is perhaps better defined by its lack thereof. In an age of growing megalopolises, urban sprawl has spread wider and is denser than before. With an increasing number of people coexisting side by side, we are constantly struggling to carve out a piece of space for ourselves. Space takes on many roles in our lives. First and foremost, it is a resource - to live in, to work in, to house institutions in etc. Secondly, as most resources, it is a commodity, as demonstrated by the real-estate market. Thirdly, space is also a vehicle for legitimacy. Ownership i.e. having an exclusive claim to a space, right of occupation, right of access often defines our status as legitimate citizens.

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But all this is applicable to privately

Mumbai as an example. The trains are

occupied space. There is also the realm

often referred to as the arteries of the

of public space.

city. They pump the city’s lifeblood, its people and keep it alive. The trains,

Much of our lives are lived outside our homes, in schools, at work, in commute etc. The space which we use as a ‘common space’, which is accessible to all, is the public space. Since medieval

along with the various sea-fronts and beaches are some of Mumbai’s most frequented public spaces. Accessed by one and all and running almost all day long, a completely empty train is

times, city centres have been dense

an urban legend in this city. According

hubs starved of space and today’s cities

to the preparatory studies conducted

are no exception. Nowhere is it more

by Municipal Corporation of Greater

apparent than in the domain of public

Mumbai (MCGM) 7 million passengers

space. As the value of space as a

travel by the local trains per day. During

commodity rises, the publicly available

peak hours, on an average, each train

space shrinks. As more and more people

carries approximately 4,500 passengers,

exhaust the limited capacity of our

as opposed to the prescribed capacity of

public spaces, our experience of these

1,750 passengers. [1]

spaces also changes dramatically. A local train coach can be a very When you are living in a city like Mumbai, you are constantly navigating scores of people. Every movement becomes an exercise of dodging

claustrophobic space. Carrying scores more passengers than it should, at peak hours the coach can feel downright suffocating. During peak commute

and ducking as you steer yourself

hours in the morning and evening, the

to your intended destination. In a

allotted seating space for three people

city as congested as Mumbai, the

is occupied by four. People are forced

encroachments are more than the mere

to stand closely together in a way

physical ones. In a public space, your

which usually ends up with someone

personal space is constantly encroached

pressed up against you. With people

upon by lights, sounds, smell and even

talking, hawkers selling their wares

touch. Take the famed local train of

noisily, railway announcements blaring


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through the cacophony, advertisements and the noisy train itself, there is no space for quiet. With such crowded compartments, no visuals from outside can be seen. In addition, a cacophony of smells; of perfume, food, sweat etc. constantly assault your senses. The lack of space is viscerally felt by all of our senses. Similar scenarios can be seen in many different places. A crowded Juhu beach on a Sunday evening is hardly any different. The procession for Ganesh Visarjan is just as claustrophobic. In different Indian cities, the context may change but the situation remains the same. The notion of personal space in a public space might sound contradictory at first. However, even in public space, one is entitled to a safe environment which is considerate of the sanctity of our personal space. The touch is one of our primary senses and one which often conveys more than the rest combined. What we see, hear, smell or taste may not be as it seems. However, one can seldom misunderstand touch. Whether caring or hateful, whether affectionate or angry; the touch is mostly truthful. There is CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

very little room for lies and deceit. Even as we learn to identify the emotions behind various touches, we learn about their appropriateness. While the sights, sounds, smells or tastes can be either pleasant or unpleasant; with touch it’s a different story. The touch is an intimate sense. Something we touch is at least within an arm’s reach and therefore far more intimate than scenery we can see or music which inadvertently floats through the window. The touch is intimate for another reason. Touch is an integral part of our closest relations. Our most intense emotions are expressed through touch. This very sense is overloaded on a crowded journey in a local train. With people propped against you, pushing and shoving to climb in or get down, all the usual standards of personal space are suspended. Usually such a touch, such blatant encroachment on our personal space would be deemed inappropriate. However, as the resources of the city are overburdened, this becomes a ‘normal dystopia’. The threshold of inappropriate touch is redefined. How do we begin to define the standards of quality public space then? What guidelines or planning measures can 70 71


help alleviate such chaos? According to the Livability Standards issued by India’s Ministry of Urban Development, the criteria for public space are 1. Per capita availability of Green Space (core) 2. Per capita availability of Public and Recreational Space (core) [2] While these indexes measure the public space quantitatively, it does nothing to measure such space qualitatively. All the allocated ‘Green Space’ or ‘Recreational space’ may not be accessible either. For example, in the scenario of Mumbai, Sanjay Gandhi National Park is the biggest green space available to its citizens. However, large areas of the park are not accessible to the public as it is a protected forest. Similarly, privately owned sports and recreational institutions often have restricted entry and cannot be accessed by all the citizens. Thus, the accessible open space per capita might be drastically lesser than these criteria suggest. The criteria for public transport are numerous. They are as follows 1. Geographical coverage of public transport (core) CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

2. Mode share of public transport (core) 3. Percentage of road network with dedicated bicycle tracks (core) 4. Mode share of non-motorized transport (core) 5. Availability of paid parking spaces (core) 6. Percentage coverage of footpaths – wider than 1.2m (core) 7. Availability of public transport (supporting) 8. Percentage of interchanges with bicycle parking facilities (supporting) 9. Availability of Passenger Information System (supporting) 10. Extent of signal synchronization (supporting) 11. Percentage of traffic intersections with pedestrian crossing facilities (supporting) 12. Extent to which universal accessibility is incorporated in public rights-of-way (supporting) While these indicators place emphasis on the mode share of public transport as a core indicator, it places the availability of public transport as a supporting indicator. Similar to the criteria for public space, the criteria for public transport

are purely quantitative. A method for a

Despite such massive infrastructure

qualitative analysis is not included.

upgrade, our experience of the public realm hasn’t changed drastically.

The key idea for consideration is accessibility and quality of public space. In the last few years, Mumbai has made attempts to resolve the problem

Perhaps the quantitative approach is at fault. Evaluating our public space in terms of the user experience is the key to better public spaces. When we stop

of congestion by expanding the modes

looking at cities as mere ‘engines of

of commute available to the citizens.

economic growth’ and start looking at

Metro rail was introduced in the city and

them as the crucible of human lives,

is currently under massive expansion.

may be then we will have a public realm

Numerous pedestrian skywalks have

where the threshold of invasion of

been constructed in the city. Along

personal space is not ignored.

with the Western Express Highway (a highway connecting the western suburbs to the island city) and Bandra – Worli Sea Link, Eastern Express Highway, Eastern Freeway, Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link Road and Santacruz Chembur Link road were constructed. A coastal highway is currently proposed and under consideration. There are also proposals for redevelopment of Dockland.

REFERENCES [1] Group SCE India, 2013, MCGM’s Preparatory Studies (Part 2A) for the Development Plan 2014-2034 [2] Smart Cities Mission, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, Government of India, 2017, Liveability Standards, accessed May 17, 2019, uploadfiles/files/LiveabilityStandards.pdf

All image credits: Sameep Deshpande

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Apoorva Deshpande is an architect and a co-founder of the firm ‘Studio Gestalt’, based in Pune and Mumbai. Their practice is oriented towards heritage conservation and research, urban studies as well as commercial projects. Recently, she was part of the curatorial team for a book called “Chronicles of the Raste Family of Mehunpura”. Previously she has worked with different architectural firms in Mumbai. Her other interests include literature and Hindustani classical music.

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Any mention of The Netherlands always evokes images of Amsterdam, with its canals, bicycles and busy tourist streets. But here we’re going to look at a smaller and lesser known city in The Netherlands – Delft. There’s an old saying that God made the world, but the Dutch made Holland. With its narrow streets, canals, bridges, windmills and the famous Delft blue pottery, Delft is quintessentially Holland. Steeped in culture and history, Delft is a significant little city that served as the unofficial capital of The Netherlands in 1581. It is also one of the few cities that to date retains its old city charm. Home to the world-renowned Technical University of Delft AKA TU Delft, it plays host to plenty of international students who bring bits of their home to add to its already thriving and diverse culture. Delft is a city that plays a balancing act between the new and the old. It is a city that boasts of historic buildings dating back in time but is also one where experiments with new construction are plenty. It is a city teeming with life, of locals and internationals and of the old and the young. It is a city of contrasts.

Aerial View of the city of Delft. Image credit: Author

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Listed here are 10 things that Delft as a city does differently to make things work for it.



It comes as no surprise when we say that we are losing global biodiversity at a fast rate. In the Netherlands alone, biodiversity dropped from about 40% in 1990 to about 15% in 2000 [1]. But what is surprising is that there is more nature and biodiversity in cities than most people expect. As it turns out the highs and lows and crevices created in buildings, and variations in microclimate due to the shadows of buildings provide the perfect opportunity for a variety of flora and fauna to flourish in cities. The Delft Municipality has taken multiple measures to ensure the development of Delft as a green, sustainable city with the objective to increase the biodiversity of the city. It is quite common in Delft to see canals with

soft edges and green roofs, and the City takes great measures to introduce green parks and open spaces throughout the city. The streets of the inner city of Delft although narrow, are lined with trees and flowers. This not only attracts many birds, butterflies, bees and ducks, but also creates a vibrant street. The city of Delft is also planned in such a way that it is surrounded by two large-scale natural landscapes that are multifunctional and attract biodiversity. In the summer months, bird nests and duck nests can be found in abundance lined along the small spaces below bridges and in the crevices of buildings. Although Delft is moving in the right direction to bring more biodiversity to the city, there is still a long way to go in bringing about a balanced ratio between the greenery and buildings and paving.

Streets lined with trees and flowers. Image Credit: Sathya Ranjani Rangarajan.


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Ducks create nests in the corners of the canals. Image credit: Marie Portfields.




The moment one steps out of their private space such as their home, work place etc. they are immediately in the public realm. Considering that everyone, irrespective of age, sex, ethnicity, background or status use public spaces, the design of these spaces must be given importance. No place in Delft is more than a 10-minute walk from a park/playground or another form of public space. There are a variety of public spaces that cater to the needs of everyone, including dog owners. Delft is a city that has plenty of parks and

skate parks, a dog park, gardens and public squares. The City also utilizes the availability of large quantities of water to create interesting places for people to hang out. Creating inclusive public spaces is a challenging task, especially in a city with a large international population but Delft manages to do this effortlessly. It provides different kinds of spaces for different groups to gather and to experience the public realm.

Skate park in Delft. Image credit: Wikimedia.

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Delft is a city that gives great importance to its pedestrian and bike traffic. In 1979, Delft was the third city in the Netherlands that decided to upgrade its existing bicycle infrastructure. The plan that was developed then looked at connecting all the missing links in the existing bicycle infrastructure to cut down travel time and to make getting from one point to another easier and hassle free. Delft now boasts of 2 tunnels accessible only by bikes, many bridges built mainly for pedestrians and cyclists and uninterrupted bicycle paths throughout the city.

Uninterrupted bicycle paths. Image credit: Mindy on Tour CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

Apart from the cycling culture that is famous throughout the Netherlands, Delft also has zones that are accessed only by pedestrians. The inner-city square is vehicle free and so are some of the streets. This encourages people to come out, use their streets to play and sit out, and makes the city less congested with traffic. The city infrastructure is planned in such a way that you are not more than a 5-minute walk from a public transport route and are always near other essential amenities such as supermarkets, pharmacies etc.

Newly constructed bicycle bridge. Image credit: Modacity life

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Delft is a small city. It is one of those cities where you bump into the same people every day, ride the train with the same faces, and wave across the aisle to your friend from the supermarket. But it is also a city with a large international population, and many efforts have been taken to foster a sense of community within the people of Delft. Many of the small communities within the city have taken the initiative to set up small community activities. The residents of Wippolder, a neighbourhood in the heart of Delft have set up their own kitchen

garden. ProefTuin, an experimental urban garden, was a crowd funded initiative that was started in 2015. Delft MaMa, an organization that was started to help international women who relocate settle in, brought these women together to help create a ceramic wall mural in one of the parks of Delft. This not only helped the women acclimatize themselves to their new environment and bring in a sense of belonging, but it was also a step towards beautifying the city’s public space.

Ceramic wall mural by Women relocated to Delft from over the world. Image credit: Delft MaMa. CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

Delftse ProefTuin – A community kitchen garden. Image credit: Groenkracht.



Delft has a vibrant street life. The city is designed to allow for the citizens to be comfortable enough to reclaim the streets. The fun and unique thing about the people of Delft is they see opportunity in everything. “No lawn space? Oh, that’s alright, I can set up my barbecue by the road”. See a sunny spot by the road at the edge of a canal? “Let’s bring out our fishing poles and foldable chairs”. The people of Delft take their public life so seriously that there are multiple occasions throughout the year where they make the streets into a huge party. Visit Delft on Kings day or

New Years’ Eve and you’d see the whole city take to the roads with music and fanfare. The city has done its share in contributing towards this lively environment. They organize street markets twice every week, with food, fresh produce, clothes and much more. Most people do not realize the importance of placing street furniture in optimal spots. Delft has plenty of great spots where you can catch the rays of sun, places to sit by the canal and some even extending right into the canal. 82 83


Saturday antique street market. Image credit:



The Delft city centre, for the most part, dates back to the 16th century. It is home to many beautiful buildings built in the Renaissance style of architecture. The City of Delft has taken great measures to preserve its inner city, with buildings that adhere to strict rules so CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

as not to disrupt architectural unity. Parts of the old city wall have also been preserved and these now serve as excellent picnic spots. The dilemma arises when new buildings and structures are commissioned.

How can these buildings co-exist with the perfectly preserved buildings of historic Delft while also adding a touch of modernity? In 2015, the new train station of Delft was inaugurated to much

fanfare. This building while embracing all modern construction techniques and material was also designed keeping in mind the character of Delft and the combination of past and future.

Aerial view of the New Delft train station. Image credit:

Ceiling of The Delft train station with an old map of Delft. Image credit: mecanoo-s-new-station-hall-in-delft-opens-to-the-public

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If you ever find yourself lost in the city of Delft, always find the large, tall, leaning church tower. It helps you orient yourself. According to Kevin Lynch, landmarks are external points of orientation, usually an easily identifiable physical object in the urban landscape [2]. Delft is littered with many such objects and it becomes rather easy to orient yourself in the urban landscape. It isn’t just the old heritage buildings like the old church or

the old city gate that contribute towards this -- there are also newer sculptures and urban art placed along the way that become identifiable landmarks. You can direct someone to your house by saying “Find the blue heart and take a right turn immediately after”. These landmarks also help provide a specific character to Delft and set it apart from the rest of the many cities in The Netherlands.

The gates of the Old City walls of Delft. Image credit: CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

Continuous storefronts. Image credit : Claudio Papapietro for the Wall Street Journal

Iconic Blue Heart of Delft. Image Credit:

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The Netherlands is known for its beautiful canals and its incredible water management system. Delft, true to its character of being quintessentially Holland is also a city with many canals and lots of water. But what is not known about Delft is that not only do they know how to manage water, but they also know how to design and use water in creative ways. The canals of Delft are not just beautiful to see from afar but are also beautiful to sail through. On any nice summer day, the boat traffic is probably more than the vehicular traffic. You will see many families out on their boats enjoying the sun out on the waters. What is also popular in Delft is the water park - this special design allows users to experience all the joys of a playground but in the water!

The citizens of Delft are also known to have a flair for adventure. Every year an obstacle race, also known as the Survival Strijd is organized and water plays a very important role in this obstacle course. You wade through water, run across wooden planks placed on water, climb up to a bridge from a pond of water and much more! Its great to see that the people of Delft have not only learnt to live with water but have also embraced it and enjoy the opportunities that their beautiful canals offer them.

Facing page top: Survival Strijd. Image credit: Author Facing page bottom: Stand Up paddle in the canals of inner-city Delft. Image credits:


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Delft is known for the presence of the

relationships with the city at physical,

Technical University (TU). TU Delft has

social, cultural and economic levels”

been an economic motor for the city

[3]. The campus has been developed

in the past by attracting talent and

in such a way that it integrates into the

generating thousands of jobs. The TU

cityscape, and also matches in spatial

Delft Campus strategy represents the

quality with the inner city of Delft.

argument that “today’s universities have

The Campus is so well ingrained into

the opportunity to establish specific

the fabric of the city that as a visitor

TU Delft Campus’ redesigned urban landscape. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.


you would probably enter the campus

urban landscape. This redevelopment is

without really realizing that you were.

a step towards creating a living campus

The university is more an extension

with a focus on creating high quality

of the city itself and aids in attracting

public spaces. To further develop TU

knowledge workers and businesses to the city of Delft.

Delft into a living campus, the created urban landscape must be supported by other facilities such as restaurants, shops, medical facilities etc. Sports

In fact, to further this cause, the TU Delft

and culture could also be used more

campus was recently redesigned into an

effective to help create more hot spots.

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Delft is a medium sized city in the western part of The Netherlands. A 16th century city, Delft is primarily known for its typically Dutch canals in the old city centre, Its historic structures and Delft blue pottery. But in recent years Delft has begun to reinvent itself. The city is trying to re-brand around 4 core values: History, Innovation, Creativity and Technology. It has undertaken some extremely challenging projects including the construction of its new railway network that is completely underground.

These projects allow Delft to evolve and take on a new role as its citizens and importance on the global stage are constantly shifting. The thing with cities and their design is that they are living organisms and they keep twisting and turning into new forms. It is always good to acknowledge the impermanence of our cities and to allow for change. Dare to dream of a future for your city.

Aerial view of new construction happening in Delft. Image credit: CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

Delft is a city that is evolving, and while going through this process it is also a city trying to keep in touch with his historic roots. It is always important to reflect on the decisions in the planning and design of the city that have been made. A city that learns from its past only evolves into a much better version of itself for the future. Delft is an intrinsically complicated city with multiple different layers. It is a city that has a lot to offer its visitors. REFERENCES [1] Halting Biodiversity Loss in The Netherlands, 2010, Prepared by Netherlands Environment assessment agency [2] Lynch, Kevin. 1960. The image of the city. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press [3] Heurkens, Erwin & Daamen, Tom A. & den Heijer, Alexandra. 2015. City Tour Delft: The Making of a Knowledge City.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bhavna Thyagarajan is an Architect & Landscape Architect with a bachelor’s degree in Architecture and a master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from TU Delft, The Netherlands. Bhavna has a keen interest in placemaking and people centered Urban Design. She has worked in Placemaking Plus, Amsterdam, one of the leading Placemaking firms in Europe. Bhavna loves exploring cities and enjoys doing this by foot, hoping to experience the local street life.

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PEOPLE AT THE HEART OF LONDON Exploring the city’s human-centered places



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London, the megacity that makes you feel like you are meandering through a group of villages, charming and endearing and yet it offers you the best of any metropolis. This photo essay aims to showcase London’s human centred streets and places that together make it a vibrant city. The extensive and well designed pedestrian network encourages its residents to pour out into the streets and traverse the city by foot. The mÊlange of historic and modern buildings provides great visual variety for passers-by while the green urban punctures lend themselves to a plethora of outdoor activities. The city consciously focuses on the creation of people centric spaces in varying scales ranging from its streets to its plazas, markets, docks and waterside bays. In the age of alarming urbanization, London showcases the best of development, design and quality of life that continues to draw people to it.


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ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER Anish is an entrepreneur whose interests lie in using technology to transform global economies towards a sustainable future. He co-founded, an online social platform that was rated one of the top 25 hottest startups by CNBC in 2014. He currently works at Freshworks, a Chennai based company that acquired Frilp. Anish is a photo enthusiast who uses photography as a tool for exploring different ecosystems both natural and man-made.

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The first time I realised the powerful role that public art can play in a city was after moving to Pittsburgh, United States in 2013. Until then, having largely lived in Sultanate of Oman, I had not encountered much public art of note and had not thought much about the subject. However, after encountering both small and large-scale examples of public urban art in Pittsburgh, I found myself compelled to consider it from both an aesthetic and functional perspective - and so began documenting it. I had recently acquired my first smart phone and was using it anyway to record this new chapter of my life in a new city and country, the phone camera functioning as a visual journal. I saw the taking of these pictures as my personal way of engaging with a city that I was to live in for the next year and half, helping make the alien familiar and accessible.


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Pittsburgh’s public urban art was among the sights that I often found myself photographing. One of the first examples I photographed was a silverstenciled turquoise wall located in my neighbourhood. I recall pausing in my walk to admire it, observing how it distinctly stood out on its own while simultaneously infusing the street with colour and character. Afterward, wherever I went in Pittsburgh and elsewhere in the States, I began to keep an eye out for public art. Until then, if I had at all thought about public urban art, I had always perceived it as a form of vandalism, something subversive and dangerously challenging the rules which strictly kept a city in order. I then found it interesting to discover that in many instances the city municipality itself had commissioned examples of street art to adorn the walls. I started to understand how various iterations of public art brought art out into the streets, liberating it from confines of white cube art gallery spaces and instead situating it in the public realm where everybody had the right to easily access and enjoy it. While striking wall murals dominated the public artscape in Pittsburgh, I recall CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

seeing two instances of large-scale art in Pittsburgh’s city centre which further made me think about the broad spectrum of public art in the city. The first of the works that I encountered were the acclaimed American sculptor, Louise Bourgeois’ large black stone eye sculptures, which served both as both as visually arresting pieces as well as benches which people could sit upon in a tree-covered square. The other work incidentally faced the eye-sculptures: it was a faux magnolia tree garden which had been constructed upon the site of a former adult store. Given that it was magnolia season at the time when I found the work, I couldn’t stop photographing the interplay between the faux and real, the lines between them stunningly blurred. Encountering these two examples of public art made me appreciate how powerfully they disrupted the visual urban monotony, rendering the urban space as a lively one fertile with possibilities, rather than inert and dull. My life journey saw me moving to India in 2014, where I was to call its capital, New Delhi home for two years. One of the reasons I had been able to both discover and appreciate the public art

in Pittsburgh had been because I was able to freely walk around and engage with the city’s public space. However, I found myself being much more circumscribed and circumspect while attempting to do the same in Delhi. It soon became apparent that Delhi’s public space was not designed to be walker-friendly, as physically exemplified by the crumbling, almost non-existent sidewalks. Even where the sidewalks did exist, I found myself relegated to the margins, allowing the men to pass by and dominate the already limited space. I no longer walked for pleasure, simply for the purpose of getting from point A to B. Delhi’s infamous reputation for women’s safety meant that I was even more reluctant to walk on my own after sunset, resulting in an overall dramatically reduced engagement with the city.

lanes and homes honeycombed with hip boutiques, cafés, and stores. It also significantly happened to be one of the first Delhi neighbourhoods in which St+art India Foundation conducted their first major street art intervention in early 2014. The wall murals still appeared almost new when I encountered them in the autumn of 2014. Apart from expanding my knowledge about Indian and international street artists who had participated in the project, I also enjoyed witnessing the intersection of street art and Indian urban spaces. The latter’s specific topography gave an entirely new visual and cultural context to the street art. Sometime later, I then visited Lodhi Colony, where once more its distinctive architecture and walls provided an incredible backdrop for bold, vibrant murals, the work seemingly organically emerging from the surfaces.

Yet, there existed islands of spaces in the city that I realised I could both enjoy walking in and interacting with, simply for the sheer pleasure of it. Was it a coincidence then that both these spaces happened to be street art clusters? A former village now part of Delhi’s sprawling urban conurbation, Shahpur Jat was a dizzying maze of

I had visited Delhi many times before, but I had never lived there until I arrived in 2014 – and whatever I experienced while living there so far made me see it as a hostile space discouraging participation. Discovering Shahpur Jat and Lodhi Colony meant that I was not only discovering a refreshingly new facet of Delhi but also, more importantly, one 112 113



which made me feel safe and included. One of the fundamental reasons why I felt the way I did in those areas, was in part due to their residents and the welcoming sense of ownership they radiated regarding the space and its art. By knowing that the space was attracting people interested in photographing and engaging with it, they ensured that people felt comfortable doing so without disturbing or subjecting them to questioning, which could often border on harassment. As a woman, it was especially a relief to find myself in such a space. I have now been living in Bangalore since 2017, where on the whole, I feel a lot safer roaming around and engaging with the city as compared to Delhi. Apart from photographing its trees, markets, and streets, I have found myself also searching for its public art. For, unlike Delhi, where I could find the art concentrated in specific neighbourhoods as well as dotting various locations in the city, it has become more of a game of hide and seek to locate the art in Bangalore. I have accidentally stumbled upon TONA’s art peeking at me from rusting gates near the MG Road Metro 114 115


Station on Church Street or on a wall in Residency road. Leena Kejriwal’s bold black stencils of a little girl as part of her ‘Missing Girls’ project leap out from the walls in stark and powerful simplicity. ‘Mohan Kaun’ stenciled on various walls across Bangalore was part of an art collective’s intervention to save from destruction a dilapidated heritage building in the heart of old Bangalore. Anpu Varkey’s giant bronzed full moon graces the wall of a building in my neighbourhood, thanks to a St+art Foundation initiative in the city. Nidhin Kundathil and Manoj Pandey’s unique public art and literary initiative, StickLit consists of posters featuring literary quotes in various sites across the city. As someone who has moved to three different cities in the last six years, I have realised that walking around and exploring the city after arriving there plays a significant role in influencing my relationship with it. If I wish to make a place home, I must accept and embrace it for what it is – and for me, that process entails making and encoding


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memories within the city space. My encounters with public art in these three cities have therefore greatly impacted as in how I relate and integrate within the city. It also powerfully reinforces my right as a woman to freely access the city’s public space, re-claiming it for my own.

All image courtesy of the author.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Priyanka Sacheti is a writer based in Bangalore, India. Having grown up in Oman and educated in United Kingdom, her work has appeared in LitHub, Hyperallergic, Scroll, Art Slant, and The Guardian and more. She is presently an editor at Mashallah News. Her literary work has appeared in various literary journals and anthologies. She’s currently working on a poetry collection. She tweets @priyankasacheti1 and explores her writing and photography on Instagram at @anatlasofallthatisee.


Animal shelter pods - Design prototypes and sketches.

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Sabarmati riverfront near Sardar Bridge.

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The Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project (SRFDP) in Ahmedabad, hailed by certain quarters as one of the most successful and innovative urban design projects in India, is widely propagated by the central government as a model to be emulated. KPMG, the international financial institution, included SRFDP in its list of ‘100 Most Innovative Projects’ in the field of urban regeneration (2012) for making liveable and sustainable cities. Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) received the HUDCO National Award 2012 for innovative infrastructure development. Based on the ‘success’ of the Sabarmati model, state authorities across the country are launching their own riverfront development projects and, to the fear of many, attempting to replicate the SRFDP archetype. The Gomti in Lucknow, Yamuna in Delhi, Hindon in Noida, Mula Mutha rivers in Pune, Brahmaputra in Guwahati, Godavari in Nashik, Tunga in Shivamogga, Musi in Hyderabad, Sarayu in Faizabad, and Mithi in Mumbai are some examples out of several more on their way to becoming a reality. Why this sudden feverish pitch with regard to developing riverfronts? Rivers flowed their undisturbed, natural courses before the first human settlements emerged some 300,000 years ago. As nomads settled on river banks to meet their waterrelated needs, they were provided plentifully in a harmonious relationship. But through centuries the self-sustaining and self-cleaning nature of rivers was over-exploited by rapidly evolving cities to discard their waste. Floodplains were slowly engulfed and misused, both organically and by design. A saturation point has been reached, and most urban rivers CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

in India are today described as ‘dirty and derelict’. The current development trend seems to be emerging from this fundamental switch in our relationship with the river, from that of dependency to them becoming an inconvenient liability. Enter riverfront development; a solution claiming to revitalise rivers, making them ’reusable’ by exploiting their economic potential, using attractive phrases as ‘inclusive development,’ ‘connecting the river to the city and its people,’ and ‘environmental improvement,’ while failing to address the fundamental needs of the river itself. This holds true for many international examples as well. WHAT IS THE SABARMATI RIVERFRONT DEVELOPMENT MODEL? The primary objectives of the Sabarmati riverfront were ‘creating a public realm along the river, cleaning the river, and rehabilitating those affected by the project’. The SRFDP model typifies the current trend of riverfront projects in India, where ‘improving the river’ loosely translates to concretising floodplains, installing sewer interceptors, artificial replenishment by channeling water from other river systems, erecting concrete embankments to ‘pinch’ and hold river

water, and reclaiming land from the river bed to build roads and a range of create high value residential and commercial real estate in the city centre. In reality, the Sabarmati riverfront presents a worrying contradiction between the goals set at its inception and its current ground reality, and has received a barrage of criticism with no dearth of well-informed and well-researched articles and papers enumerating its various shortcomings. Most urban development projects in India are such, a shimmering foreground with a well-disguised background story, often marred with a wide range of socio-economic, environmental, and governance issues. Why then does the SRFDP continue to be promoted as an ideal? This is because the Sabarmati model is more than just the design of a riverfront; a modus operandi has been deployed to stress the dire need for such a project, make it acceptable by the public and hence smoothen its realisation. Some of the arguments proffered include: 1. The general acceptance of the ‘death’ of the Sabarmati River: The argument

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provided here is that human activity for long polluted the river making it unusable and that the development project has managed to revitalise the seasonal river by replenishing it by diverting waters from the Narmada River Canal. In reality this has caused drought-like situations in many villages dependent on the CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

canal waters. The Sabarmati within Ahmedabad is now a perennially stagnant lake. Streamlining the river’s width has reduced its carrying capacity and increased the city’s risk from flooding. Ultimately, this has led to low ground water recharge, a drop in the base flow of the river, decreased oxygen levels of the river

Sabarmati riverfront to an outsider and the actual state of the river. Image credit: Google Maps.

and finally, an obliteration of its aquatic life. There is a thin line between exploiting the potential of a natural resource and abusing it. Development projects in India almost always cross over to the latter easily and without much resistance. With Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati development model being

touted as a pioneer by the central government, other cities are in a hurry to climb aboard before this ship sails and citizens begin to rise up in defiance against such projects and demand protection of their rivers. 2. The Sabarmati model has managed to turn the abuse of human rights into acceptable collateral damage: 124 125


The national and international recognition received by a project that has managed to displace 120,000 families and rehabilitate only 10,000 suggests a general acceptance of systematic discrimination against the urban poor for the cause of ‘development’. 3. Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) are now the preferred de facto mode for urban development: SPVs are independent, private entities established to fulfil a particular project, free from many of the bureaucratic and procedural requirements that bind government bodies. Since ‘administrative delays’ such as public consultations and stakeholder approvals were obvious concerns of the state government, a SPV was established for the SRFDP to circumvent such formalities, leading to reduced financial transparency and accountability of the project. Today, every riverfront development project in the country is being spearheaded by a SPV. 4. The SRFDP aims to showcase itself as a self-financing model by proposing to sell 21% of the reclaimed land, thus giving


precedence to market and private interests above all other stakeholders. The riverfront continues to attract and entertain investment from private players in attempts to recover Rs. 1,200 crore of public money spent on the project. 5. The SRFDP is a poster child for the currently trending ‘Smart City’ vision of the central government. For its part, the government’s definition of Smart City is reflected in the abnormally clean and plastic visualisations of riverfront projects across the country replete with intimidating skylines, improbable greenery, and western landscapes, all of which hold great appeal to real estate speculators. The current central government has a history of such notorious development projects like the Statue of Unity built on the Narmada River in Gujarat and the Shivaji Statue planned off the coast of Mumbai. On the one hand are the numerous petitions by environmentalists and activists to halt such projects due to their insensitivity to the urban poor and the immense harm they cause to the environment, on the other hand is

Top - Amaravati Smart City. Image credit: http://www. Bottom - Kahn’s riverfront development in Indore Smart City. Image credit: UNCRD

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the combined force of political will, and eagerness of the real estate and private sector to tap into these sure-shot gold mines. In these circumstances, it has been tough for the former to prevail. There is an obvious lack of awareness among the general public about the dark side of urban development. The dearth of consultations and feedback from a range of stakeholders is primarily due to the lack of political will, and the advent of visual communication has turned the meagre consultations that have been held into monologues without a systematic and accessible feedback mechanism. Equating the success of the SRFDP by the footfall it receives, and describing it through impossibly beautiful and romantic imagery instead of facts, captivates the masses to such an extent that the more important aspects of the project are conveniently left out of discussion. At the Dialogue on Urban Rivers conference held in April 2018 in Pune, the project architect Dr. Bimal Patel justified the realisation of the project by stating ‘this project happened because lakhs of people wanted it’. Who wouldn’t want a beautiful riverfront view and an evening walk along the river in the heart CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

PROJECT SPECIFICATIONS Location: Design & realization: Client:

Project team:


Site area: Construction cost:

Ahmedabad, India 1998- Present Sabarmati Riverfront Development Corporation Limited HCP Design & Project Management Pvt. Ltd, Ahmedabad Parks, promenades, streets, urban forest, markets, sports areas, housing, commercial zones, cultural, trade and social amenities 202.79 hectares 1152 crore Rupees (US$170 million) by June 2014

of their city? People want open spaces with natural elements such as water bodies and trees, where they can come together as community. It is the task of the urban designer to interpret these desires and create a holistic design that benefits the river as well as the people dependent on it, who often have little or no idea of the toll of such development on the larger environment or those populations displaced by the project.

The Sabarmati riverfront development project - View towards Dudheshvar Bridge. Image credit: Vidhya Mohankumar

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MY RIVERFRONT AND I Inspite of all of its failings, the vision of the riverfront, during the day and night, never fails to leave the visitor with a feeling of awe and wonder. To the visitor, the Sabarmati riverfront is the epitome of what an Indian city can aspire to achieve. I write this piece as a daily user of the riverfront; I chose my current apartment in Ahmedabad because of its proximity to the riverfront.

The river and I go way back. I cannot imagine Ahmedabad without the Sabarmati riverfront, and only now have I understood first-hand the impact an urban design project can have on its user. I experience the riverfront on my daily runs, before sunrise and after sunset. The sunrise greets early morning fitness enthusiasts who enjoy a peaceful walk by the river in either solitude or the company of their spouses. Students

Garbage accumulation at the Sabarmati riverfront. Image credit: Author CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

sneak in a few extra hours of study here before exams, others some time with friends before college or work. The riverfront is left alone during the peak hours of the day, not due to a lack of enthusiastic visitors, but because the its design is simply not conducive to sweltering Ahmedabad afternoons. Sundown brings families and the elderly out to the riverfront promenades for a post-dinner stroll before retiring for the day. The riverfront has proven a paradise for lovers, young and old, to indulge in public displays of affection (except on Valentine’s Day when they are chased away by the police). Recreational activities like bicycle rides, zip-lining across the river, and sampling the newly opened food outlets attract Amdavadis from both sides of the river. The riverfront is seemingly one of the few places in the city where religious tensions appear non-existent, an important factor in a city whose history has been marred with multiple incidents of religious violence. Regular public events organised at the riverfront parks utilise the ample open space generated by the project. Yet to me, the essence of the riverfront lies in the human activity and interaction I witness along it on an ordinary day. At the same time, I

am conflicted by the vast expanses of concrete radiating heat during peak summers, the lack of shaded spaces and tree cover, and the stench rising from the stagnant river on non-windy days. Then again, these doubts are swiftly replaced by, ‘at least, this is better than no riverfront at all’. The vibrant character of this urban open space in the heart of the city is the main selling point of this project. However, it would be irresponsible to base its success solely on use. Like most Indian cities, Ahmedabad too is starved for open space. It is predicted that the city’s green cover will dip from the current 24% to just 3% by 2030.

Various studies reinforce the positive effects of nature on personal mental health and psyche, and the Sabarmati Riverfront Development project provides large expanses of open space and 130 131


water, and a range of popular outdoor activities bundled into one neat package for consumption. But does this justify its numerous shortcomings? Projects such as the

whole story; as it is the darker side of development that demands greater attention, action, and the collective voice of resistance. REFERENCES 1. Bhatkal, Tanvi, William Avis, and Susan Nicolai. 2015. “Towards a better life? A cautionary tale of progress in Ahmedabad.” Development Progress. 2. Chauhan, Ekta. 2017. “How Sabarmati

SRFDP will never be contested by

Riverfront Project Has Transformed

citizens if they receive only the rosy

Ahmedabad Into A Tourism Hub.”

side of the picture. In fact, not a single ongoing riverfront project in India would be criticised nor deemed a failure if judged solely by the criteria used for the Sabarmati riverfront. Had a truly

Swarajyamag, 9 November. https:// how-sabarmati-riverfront-project-hastransformed-ahmedabad-into-a-tourism-hub 3. Counterview. 2018. “Highly polluted in downstream, Sabarmati riverfront cannot

transparent public consultation of

be considered a model: Pune urban rivers

multiple design possibilities been held,

dialogue told.” Counterview, 18 May.

Amdavadis might not have chosen the current option. Case in point, when the Vadodara Municipal Corporation attempted to replicate the Sabarmati model, it was forced to cancel the highly-polluted-in-downstream-sabarmati. html 4. Dave, Kapil. 2018. “Sabarmati riverfront not to get Narmada water from 2019end?” Times of India, 19 April. https://

proposal and return to the drawing

board due to demands for ecologically


sensitive alternatives by the city’s residents. The question is whether individual pleasure should trump the greater common good? So the next time an urban development project looks too good to be true, do try to learn the CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

to-get-narmada-water-from-2019-end/ articleshow/63823575.cms 5. Dharmadhikary, Shripad. 2018. “Concrete riverfronts or ecological rejuvenation?” India Together, 2 May. http://www.indiatogether. org/concrete-riverfronts-or-ecologicalrejuvenation-environment

6. D’Monte, Darryl. 2011. “Sabarmati’s Sorrow.” Frontline, 11 January. 7. Dutta, Venkatesh. 2018. “The demise of rivers.” Down to Earth, 15 March. https:// 8. Kaushik, Himanshu, and Parth Shastri. 2016. “Ahmedabad will have only 3% green cover by 2030: Study.” Times of India, 30 March. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.

12. Mohta, Payal. 2019. “‘A three-generation project’: riverside development divides Indian city.” The Guardian, 19 January. jan/16/a-three-generation-project-riversidedevelopment-divides-indian-city 13. Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti. 2019. Press release: Disastrous condition of the Sabarmati River. 27 March. 14. Patel, Sejal, Richard Sliuzas, and


Navdeep Mathur. 2015. “The risk of


impoverishment in urban development-


induced displacement and resettlement in

9. Mazoomdaar, Jay. 2014. “Cleaning up the Ganga, Yamuna: Why Modi must forget Sabarmati model.” Firstpost, 9 June. 10. Mehta, Vanya. 2014. “The untold story behind the Sabarmati riverfront.” Two Circles, 29 April. http://twocircles.

Ahmedabad.” Environment and Urbanization 27. pdf/10.1177/0956247815569128 15. Pradhan, Amruta. 2014. “Do we really need Gujarat’s Sabarmati model?” Print. 16. Rao, Mohan S. 2012. “Sabarmati Riverfront Development- An Alternate Perspective.” Landscape. 17. Srivastava, Anant. 2017. “Rivers and


Riverfront Developments in India - All you


need to know.” Ballorbox India, 26 April.

11. Shah, Kirtee. 2013. “The Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project: Great. But much needs to change.” 18. The Wire. 2019. “Investigation shows Sabarmati is brimming with stagnant water.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Shweta Sundar is an architect with People in Centre, Ahmedabad. Her thematic areas of work include post-disaster housing reconstruction and social housing for the urban poor. She is an avid marathoner and cyclist. Shweta has an interest in equitable transport design and planning for the daily cycle-commuting population and enthusiastically propagates cycling to work. She firmly believes that urban development should be deeply rooted in the context and its people. She may be contacted at

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A spatial infrastructure plan for Gandhi Bazaar street market in Bengaluru BRINDA SASTRY


The ‘Spatial Infrastructure Plan for Gandhi Bazaar Main Road and Street Market’ is a sub-component of the “Sustainable Supply Chains for Perishables into Cities - Green Logistics Project” commissioned by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in August 2017. The project has two components i) the spatial plan and ii) a market management strategy (yet to be completed). The community engagement activities discussed here contributed to the spatial plan recommendations over a period of fifteen months. GANDHI BAZAAR MAIN ROAD AND STREET MARKET – A SHARED COMMONS The Indian street market (bazaar) is not just a place for buying and selling, but also a public space that assimilates culture and traditions, and nurtures them over time. Here, through casual interactions, shoppers and traders become acquaintances and even forge long term social bonds. At festival times, the market place is inundated with material for worship and celebration, representing varied local traditions and cultural practices, and attracting diverse communities. As incubators of socio-cultural practices, Indian markets are “shared commons.” They hold value beyond the understanding of the market as infrastructure or as a transactional space. This is what Gandhi Bazaar is today. A bazaar, with a distinct social and cultural identity, that is, a shared urban commons!

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“A vibrant, public place, with distinct social and cultural identity, Gandhi Bazaar street market is a shared urban commons for diverse user groups. This character needs to be enhanced in a sustainable and inclusive way” CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

Gandhi Bazaar Main Road is located in the planned residential neighbourhood of Basavanagudi, laid out in 1894 in South Bengaluru. It is lined with retail shops, restaurants, banks, offices and other commercial uses, while the area adjoining it is dotted with temples and cultural institutions, religious mutts, community halls, and several educational institutions. Historically, Basavanagudi was home to many artists, writers and politicians, and legendary personalities and Gandhi Bazaar served as a meeting point them. Here, informal vending of fruits, flowers, vegetables and other non-perishables started about 80 years ago, and over time it matured into a full-fledged street market, supporting both formal and informal retail. Shops selling traditional puja items, sarees and accessories for celebrating festivals are an attraction to people from all walks of life. It is a onestop shopping place for all home needs. As an active social place where several festivals and cultural events are staged, and many historic markers are present, it is etched in the collective memory of old time residents of Bengaluru as a quintessentially traditional market.

In the supply chain of perishables into the city of Bengaluru, this market is a significant link as it serves as a ‘point of sale’ of fresh produce, among many others. Hence, as part of GIZ’s Green Logistics Project, the Gandhi Bazaar Main Road (and its street market) was chosen as an ideal case to demonstrate how a spatial infrastructure plan and management strategy can strengthen and sustain the bazaar in the supply chain of perishables.

The historic informal street market on Gandhi Bazaar Main Road plays a significant role as a “point of sale” in the networked relationships of the green logistics supply chain that brings produce from farms to consumers in Bengaluru.

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The street houses the 75 year old iconic restaurant, Vidhyarthi Bhavan, which is frequented by tourists and many eminent personalities from across the country.


and defines political loyalties. Distrust

Gandhi Bazaar is a natural market

between the street vendors and local

for informal vending, and a source of livelihood for almost 150 street vendors on a regular basis and an additional 100 temporary vendors at times of religious festivals. Strong dependencies between various actors, such as auto drivers, regular patrons, formal retailers, and informal street vendors, create networks which are long-term relationships.

authorities, fuelled by competing political affiliations, and has nurtured a divisive environment. A complicit understanding and negotiation prevails between street vendors, formal retailers, customers, and the policing authorities. Not registered formally, the street vendors pay bribes to police officials to secure their spaces. In 2012, a drive to remove illegal encroachments affected

However, their spatial proximity gives

their businesses and, though they have

rise to conflicts and competition, which

returned, they have a constant fear of

creates opportunities for power brokers

future eviction.


Many problems plague the users of this street. The lack of proper infrastructure and amenities; abuse of the age old street trees; conflicts between pedestrians, vehicles, retailers,

and street vendors; and unhygienic conditions due to improper disposal of garbage, are some aspects that make the shopping experience inconvenient and unpleasant.

Poor infrastructure, narrow footpaths and garbage dumped in the vicinity.

Vehicular traffic in conflict with pedestrians and street vending activity.

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A spatial design solution, along with management strategies and capacity building, is necessary to address the problems for all user groups. The challenge has been to understand the dynamics of their social and spatial networks - the negotiations and shared values - and manage conflicts between them in a sustainable and inclusive way. AIM OF THE PROJECT The aim of the spatial infrastructure plan for Gandhi Bazaar Main Road and the market was to enhance it as a vibrant and inclusive social space, while making it financially viable,


safe, accessible, clean, green and comfortable for all. The intent was to develop an urban design framework that is inclusive, gender sensitive, flexible, and anticipatory of future changes. The implementation of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act enacted by the Parliament of India in 2014, is expected to bring some degree of formalization in managing the street vendors’ activities and providing secure tenure. This plan was intended to demonstrate how other markets can create similar frameworks suited to their unique context. The project approach adopted was wholly people centric.



Site documentation Street level plan depicting existing physical infrastructure, street activities, traffic and transport, public amenities, safety, hygiene, and street landscape in Gandhi Bazaar. Documentation and analysis were conducted to determine factors to be considered for the spatial reorganization.


Profiling stakeholders for

• Elected representatives -

disseminating information

Corporators, members of the

Various stakeholders of the street

Parliament, Legislative Assembly

market were listed out as: Primary stakeholders • Street vendors • Shopkeepers, property owners, business renters, employees • Consumers - residents, shoppers,

and Legislative Council Secondary stakeholders • Pourakarmikas/ street cleaners • Transport/ delivery persons/ labourers • Storage facility providers

visitors, tourists, senior citizens,

• Auto/ cab drivers

children, women

• Rag pickers

• Local government officials and contractors

• Street beggars • Other support service providers 140 141



Disseminating information

To create an approachable environment for participation an inclusive planning format was adopted where universal accessibility was key. Leaflets announcing the event in English and Kannada, registration form, and colour coded name tags with project logo.



Soliciting feedback on issues, opportunities and ideas Via 3 public workshops involving (1) street vendors and shop keepers, (2) residents and (3) shop owners; key officials participated in discussing issues and concerns involving the possible development.

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CONSULTATIONS WITH OTHER AGENCIES Meetings with officials from the local public agencies including transportation, electricity, water and sanitation, traffic police, horticulture, urban land and transport, solid waste management, and health were conducted to discuss future proposals and issues affecting Gandhi Bazaar Main Road. An international transport consultant shared best


practice ideas for traffic movement, parking and pedestrianization. Representatives of local NGOs were invited under the Chair of the DULT Commissioner to discuss possible approaches to the spatial plan for Gandhi Bazaar. Discussions with the local Corporator, MLA, MLC and RWA representatives also helped provide inputs into what could be improved in the street.

OUTCOMES LEADING TO DESIGN IMPERATIVES In attempting to provide better infrastructure facilities and amenities, achieve socio-economic inclusivity, and introduce sustainable practices in Gandhi Bazaar, it was essential to determine components that were negotiable and non-negotiable and those that could afford formalization. The public comments and the studies of the place reinforced the stance that the diversity, informality, and historicity

of the place contributed to the people’s shared values, while several issues had to be addressed. It was understood that attempts to formalize any practice should not compromise on these values and should strengthen the adaptability and imageability of the place. This understanding led to the formulation of a set of design imperatives that would guide both spatial and non-spatial design decisions and management practices.

Strengths, opportunities, threats and issues. Facing page - A collaborative approach for an inclusive design.

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Values and assets of Gandhi Bazaar.

Process for determining design imperatives.


PROPOSING THREE DESIGN SCENARIOS AND CHOOSING A PREFERRED SCENARIO A two-day Open House event and exhibition was conducted at Tagore Park in Gandhi Bazaar in March 2018 to display and discuss the proposed scenarios, and to solicit public inputs to arrive at a preferred scenario. Announcements for the event were made through press media, social media and email groups at a city level. Cultural activities such as a street play, a heritage and food walk, a tree walk, a talk on the history of the place, a violin

recital, and a Kannada folk rock music concert were integrated into the two day agenda to generate interest and attract people. Also, the intent was to re-create an ambience that was reminiscent of the old times when Gandhi Bazaar was a venue for many cultural events, frequented by legendary personalities in literature and the arts. About 400 people attended the event over the two days. The event was presided by the Municipal Corporation’s South Zone Joint Commissioner and President of the local Traders Association, among other dignitaries.

Newspaper announcement for the Open House and Exhibition event.

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Participants filled a questionnaire

design scenarios. Hence, a separate

designed to evaluate the scenarios

workshop was proposed to continue the

based on the design imperatives

discussions. Feedback and approval

outlined earlier. For those who were unable to read could mark their preference on “before and after� visuals illustrating each proposed scenario by placing a sticker dot against it. People also wrote their comments on a panel displayed at the end of the exhibition.

on the design proposals were sought from key non-government players and government officials, and other concerned agencies to collaboratively arrive at design decisions that would benefit the local users. Specifically,

The street vendor community did not

discussions took place with the Traffic

fill the feedback forms as they were

Police officials on the possibilities of

unsure on the consequences of the

pedestrianization of Gandhi Bazaar.

Music performance at the open house event. CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

Participants view displays at the Open House and exhibition event in Tagore Park.

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Among the three scenarios presented Scenario 01 – Full Pedestrianization was favoured by 46 % of the participants in the workshop, the Split pedestrianization (Scenario 03) ranked next and the oneway traffic proposal (Scenario 02) was the least favoured with a vote share of 21%. A few participants (8%) also felt that the existing conditions were good enough and no major changes were required in the street design. FORMING THE VISION, URBAN DESIGN STRATEGY AND RECOMMENDED PEDESTRIANISATION PLAN The design team refined the preferred scenario to develop a concept plan to pedestrianize Gandhi Bazaar Main Road, accompanied by a vision and an urban design strategy. Representatives of the Street Vendors Federation organized two meetings with the street vendors. Intense discussions took place, leading to arguments, as two factions of vendors were unable to reach a consensus on a preferred proposal. Besides, the retailers who joined these discussions also opposed the proposed pedestrianization plan, arguing that restricting vehicular movement would hinder their business.


Subsequently, an immersion visit to Imphal in Manipur to study the management practices at Ima Kiethel, a 500 year old market exclusively managed by women was organized by GIZ. Five representatives of the street

vendor community participated in this and their interactions with local officials and street vendor leaders provided an understanding of the workings of a pedestrian friendly public market. A bigger learning was that unless

they united formally, they would not be able to lobby with the concerned authorities for their rights. They shared their experience with the other street vendors on their return. At two consequent meetings, in an attempt

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to build consensus, the team made every effort to draw and illustrate the pedestrianization plan so that the tradeoffs were clear. Images of best practices of pedestrianized retail streets were also shared.

owners, however, still had concerns that it would affect their business. Subsequently, about 150 street vendors united to unanimously sign a petition to form an association, which they have yet to formally register.

After much deliberation, a majority of the street vendors’ groups and their representatives agreed to the pedestrianisation proposal with the

The recommended plan, with detailed design drawings, was prepared to demonstrate the implementation of the proposed urban design strategy and the pedestrianization of Gandhi Bazaar Main Road and street market after consideration of the street vendors and retail owners.

condition that adequate parking would be provided at the street intersections, where feasible, so that access to their stalls was not hampered. A few retail

Street vendors of Gandhi Bazaar interact with leaders of the vendors association of Ima Kiethel market in Imphal, Manipur. CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

Recommended design for Gandhi Bazaar street.

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IMPLEMENTATION MODALITIES, DESIGN GUIDELINES, AND NEXT STEPS A detailed project report with costs for implementation and a Terms of Reference document was prepared as an end product of this project. Short term, medium term, and longterm actions were proposed for plan implementation, which include building partnerships with the local groups to implement inclusive management practices for the street market. The Commissioner of DULT organized meetings with the Bengaluru City Commissioner, the Additional Chief Secretary of the Urban Development Department of Government of Karnataka, and the Traffic Police to discuss the Recommended Plan and the report. The Commissioner also participated in a walk through the street market and interacted with the retailers, street vendors and the consultant team to assess the implications of pedestrianization. The design team also coordinated with Environment Support Group (ESG) to prepare the management strategy. Saahas, a non-profit organization, Recommended plan for Gandhi Bazaar street. CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

Discussions at the public consultation on market management strategies

worked with the street vendors to build awareness and instituted a mechanism of segregating waste. They provided waste bins to the street vendors and also organized a medical camp. A public consultation was organized in November 2018 to discuss the market management strategy for Gandhi Bazaar and to understand the implications of the recommended design and the Street

Vendors policy. Design guidelines were formulated to implement the urban design strategy. LESSONS FOR FUTURE ACTION The spatial infrastructure plan for the design of Gandhi Bazaar, present opportunities to realize the larger goals of a city’s Master Plan through a strategic framework. They demonstrate how social and political 154 155


Before and after visualization of design recommendations at Gandhi Circle

A sample illustration of design guidelines for implementing the recommended plan CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

inclusion processes can facilitate democratic governance at the microlevel. This project has shown that public involvement conducted at each stage of the project can influence and shape the outcomes to give us implementable design solutions. However, it has also thrown light on some limitations. Changes in the government, both political and bureaucratic, have stalled the implementation of this project. The following are some learnings that may provide useful directions for future action. 1. In engaging with a diverse set of users, trade-offs for each group involved must be well articulated so that the buy-in for the recommended proposal is secure. The display, videos, images, sketches and models helped the various stakeholders to engage with the project proposals and understand the advantages and drawbacks. Varied tools such as feedback forms, discussion sessions, and one-to-one interactions were crucial in enabling the stakeholders to make informed decisions. 2. To ensure deliberative engagement of the stakeholders and to build consensus, capacity building is important, especially, among

underprivileged groups. The exposure trips to Imphal’s Ima Kiethel market helped build confidence and encouraged self-organization and cooperative action among the Gandhi Bazaar street vendors who were politically divided at one time. 3. Small actions, particularly those where the primary stakeholder is involved, help in quick wins. They also instil a sense of ownership in the proposed activity. This was seen in the efforts by Saahas to hold a medical camp and engage street vendors in waste segregation. 4. Collaborations with various groups such as the government bodies, private sector, non-government and voluntary groups, and private property owners help in realizing collective action. 5. Political buy-in can be garnered through transparency in process and consistent involvement of local leaders. However, when political leadership changes, the commitment of the local community and stakeholders is the only fall-back option that can help support the project. In the case of Gandhi Bazaar, the residents were proactive, and they helped to propagate the idea of 156 157


pedestrianization. 6. Projects of this nature are good opportunities for new models of design governance where self-organisation and tactile design solutions, such as open street day or a cultural event, can bring better outcomes and impact on ground, reducing reliance on top-down governance structures.

REFERENCE: mayaPRAXIS and Brinda Sastry, Detailed Project Report for the Spatial Design of Gandhi Bazaar Street Market and Gandhi Bazaar Main Road - Green Logistics Project, Volumes 1 to 5, Version 1.1 [Unpublished Reports]. Bengaluru: Deutsche Gesellschaft fßr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH; 2019. CLIENTS: The Government of Karnataka’s Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) and Department of Horticulture (DoH), and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP henceforth called City Corporation), Bengaluru.


SPATIAL PLAN CONSULTANTS: Collaboration of teams led by Vijay Narnapatti, principal architect at mayaPRAXIS; Brinda Sastry, urban designer; and Rathnakar Reddy, civil engineer at Infra Support Engineering Consultants Pvt. Ltd. OTHER COLLABORATORS: Leo Saldanha and his team from Environment Support Group (ESG) who led the market management strategy; Saahas, a non-government organization who worked on solid waste management; members of various Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs), street vendors’ associations, and business / traders associations; and other nongovernment actors. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The public participatory process could not have taken place without the efforts of Dimple Mittal, (Architect and Partner at mayaPRAXIS); Anirudh Govind (architect); Aarti Chanodia (urban designer); Pooja Mukundhan (urban designer); Shreya Arora (architect); Swetha Rao Dhananka and Mallesha K.R. (Sociologists from ESG); Vinay Sreenivasa and Lekha K.G. (Alternative Law Forum) who represented the Federation of Street Vendors Union in Bengaluru District; Lavanya (Infra Support Engineering Consultants Pvt. Ltd.); Nagakarthik (videographer); volunteers from Dayanand Sagar College of Architecture and BGS School of Architecture, Bengaluru; team members from DULT and GIZ; government officers from various departments; and ward and assembly level elected representatives, among many others. All images, maps and drawings are courtesy the spatial plan consultants and partners.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Brinda Sastry, the project team leader, is a practicing urban designer and planner, and adjunct faculty at the RV College of Architecture, Bengaluru.

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BRANDING POST-WAR BERLIN What Berlin has done to make itself attractive to key stakeholders


Berlin Wall Image credit: Tony Webster on Wikimedia Commons ( wiki/File:Berlin_Wall_(15305565944).jpg ) used under CCBY 2.0

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“Why has so much organized effort been put into the representation, visualisation, communication and marketing of urban change in post-Wall Berlin?” [1] To understand the marketing of Berlin, it is necessary to investigate the consequences of the city’s history on its present. Also important is an understanding of the methods adopted to overcome those consequences, and the factors that had to be considered along way. While the fall of the Berlin Wall was an important historical event, the overall history of the city has also been turbulent. Berlin has gone from being completely destroyed after World War II, to the division of the city and the country, the building of the Wall that separated east from west and finally the fall of the Wall and the unification of the two halves of the city. A reconstruction of the collective identity of Berlin’s citizens was one of the most integral consequences and challenges of the post-Wall Berlin -- the conversion into a capitalist city from a socialist city and the unification of the broken city into a unified capital were another. The negative image of the city had to be broken down and converted into a new and positive one. There was a search for attractiveness on global stage for Berlin [1]. Establishing the city as the capital of the country and stabilising its status nationally and globally was very important, which meant that the city had to be made desirable for investors, visitors, as well as inhabitants. The above factors lead to the need for the representation, visualisation, communication and marketing of Berlin, also known as the place marketing of the city.



Place marketing practices, through their

Place marketing is one of those adopted

framing of the city’s past, their staging

methods to overcome the consequences and challenges posed by the unification of the city.

‘Place marketing refers to the various ways in which public and private agencies – local authorities and local entrepreneurs, often working collaboratively – strive to ‘sell’ the image of a particular geographically-defined place, usually a town or city, so as to make it attractive to economic enterprises, to tourists and even to inhabitants of that place’ [1].

of the present and their projected visualizations of particular urban futures, play a role in the construction process of collective identity and memory [1]. In Berlin, the terms used by public officials, place marketing professionals and the media after 1989 were Stadtmarketing or Hauptstadtmarketing, i.e. (capital) city marketing [1]. EFFORTS MADE BY BERLIN FOR ENTERPRISES, TOURISTS AND INHABITANTS For Enterprises The arrival of investors, especially foreign investors has always been planned for in Berlin since the fall of the Wall. Due to de-industrialisation, unemployment and limited public finance, there was an economic crisis and it was critical to attract major investors, to improve the economic health of the city [2]. Berlin had to be showcased in a positive light highlighting the success stories of earlier investments, and this is where the role

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of visualisation, communication and marketing or simply Place Marketing came into play. As said by Le Galès, 2002, p. 202 cited in Colomb, 2012 place marketing also can be called a part of the capitalist urbanisation in many places and such is the case of Berlin. Processes such as globalisation combined with industrialisation further aggravated the need for place marketing by increasing the economic competition between cities at a global level.


Although there was an approach to develop a sustainable and environmentally sensitive city, at the same time, a great deal of importance was also given to economic growth, resulting in the creation of big investor attractions like Potsdamer Platz and reshaping of Alexanderplatz and FriedrichstraĂ&#x;e. Presently, large foreign investments have occupied almost all of the prime locations in the city.

Potsdamer Platz is one the most significant examples. It was a former square and a conflicted legal case since 1990. Now it has several landmark buildings and is a huge success story with a mix of uses, but the decision for the construction on the site was primarily done to attract foreign investors like Sony. Potsdamer Platz has become a symbol for New Berlin, which was the primary motive behind its establishment. Furthermore, the

place has also been attractive to visitors because of the selection of the famous architects — Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, Rafael Moneo, Helmut Jahn, to create some iconic structures. This selection and their association have helped build the image of the place and resulted in the creation of modern, aesthetic and iconic landmarks for the area [Figure 1].

Figure 1: Iconic structures at Potsdamer Platz Image credit: Author, 2017

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Figure 2: City Models Exhibition. Image credit: Author, 2017

Berlin City Models is another initiative launched by the Senate Department for Urban Development and Housing, a permanent exhibition showcasing the physical city models of Berlin in different scales across different time periods [Figure 2]. The exhibition is housed in a former office, which is now a listed building helping in its image making. Through ‘What does Berlin look like today, and what might it look like tomorrow?’ [4], investors with an interest in specific locations in the city could understand the site and its surrounding context, not only of the past but more importantly, of the future, giving them a sense of security over their investments. CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

For Tourists To attract tourists to the city, Berlin had to adopt urban tourism in combination with marketing strategies. There have been a number of ways in which tourists or visitors have been attracted to the city through visualisation, communication and marketing of urban change, whether it included learning about the city’s historical past, witnessing the remains of it’s historical past, looking at the city’s on-going developments or even in some ways getting an opportunity to witness the desired future of the city. The Berlin Wall was one of the biggest attractions in the divided city and that is why even after the fall of the Wall, it

Figure 3: East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall Image credit: Author, 2017

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has still been used as a major attraction in various ways. For example, sections of the wall are showcased right outside the entrance to Potsdamer Platz plaza [Figure 4]. The Wall sections also form an element of advertising —aimed at invoking curiosity in tourists and emphasising both the geographic and historic importance of the place. The East Side Gallery of the Berlin wall is another example, the longest retained section of the wall that currently remains [Figure 3]. It is the largest open-air gallery in the world and has paintings on it by renowned artists from all over the world, making it the biggest attraction in the city and proving it to be another success in the place marketing of the city. Programs such as ‘Showplace Berlin’ were launched in 1996, which transformed construction sites into tourist destinations through guided tours and visits. Eventually this went onto become a huge landmark in Berlin’s marketing. ‘Info-Box’ was one such initiative which was launched near the site of Potsdamer Platz, becoming a huge success and giving rise to a new concept called ‘Construction Site Tourism’. These programs included CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

not just tours and visits – they were combined with cultural events throughout. Then in 1999, another, bigger program called ‘Berlin Open City’ was launched, in which the whole city was open for exhibition along specific routes and showcased all major urban developments in the city. For Inhabitants It is important to realise that the much talked-about construction site tourism has been beneficial for visitors but also for residents, as opening the building sites to the public has allowed the local population to glimpse behind the fences of otherwise enclosed areas. It could be argued that this has contributed to improving the legibility of an area under transformation and making residents feel less estranged by the massive urban redevelopment projects taking place in their city [2]. Also, the Showplace Berlin experience may have given some Berliners ‘a sense of control over the rapidly changing political, economic, social, and material contexts of the city’ [1]. The use of culture and media — music, theatre, performing art, literature in all aspects has been a major factor as well.

Figure 4: Retained section of the Berlin Wall Image credit: Author, 2017

Figure 5: Gleisdreieckpark Image credit: Author, 2017

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Figure 6: Schönefelder Südgelände. Image credit: Author, 2017

These help to build a certain image of the city as mentioned above and also enable residents to relate better to their city and urban spaces. Another major example, which has helped in the social integration of the inhabitants is the establishment of memorials at important historic sites. A good example is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe that navigates the city’s difficult past with sensitivity and makes it relevant and important to the city’s present. CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

The city has also marketed itself to be a model of sustainability for its residents. Restoring former brownfield and industrial sites into urban green spaces has been successfully taking place. Gleisdreieckpark [Figure 5] and Schönefelder Südgelände [Figure 6] which have been built on old railway sites, the former being enclosed by housing on both sides, provide a mix of uses and amenities to serve a variety of people.


economy [5] and re-brand itself as a global city attractive to investors, visitors and residents alike.

The fall of the Berlin Wall lead to economic and political changes that not only made it critical to attract new investment, but also raised the importance of reshaping the city’s cultural and social identity for residents and visitors to remain attracted and attached to the city.


Although the methods used to achieve these goals in Berlin were inspired by marketing techniques from across the world, the strategies adopted responded to very Berlin-specific issues. All efforts into marketing in the city originated from its history and responded specifically to its desired future.

[3] Colomb, C. (2015). DIY urbanism’ in Berlin: Dilemmas and conflicts in the mobilization of ‘temporary uses’ of urban space in local economic development, pp. 1-31.

Berlin thus used place marketing strategically, to incorporate the symbolism of its past into the quality of place and products of its cultural

[1] Colomb, C. (2012) Staging the New Berlin: Place Marketing and the Politics of Urban Reinvention Post-1989. Routledge, London. [2] Häussermann, H. and Colomb, C. (2003) The New Berlin: Marketing the City of Dreams, in Cities and Visitors: Regulating People, Markets, and City Space, 200-218, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford, UK.

[4] The Senate Department for Urban Development and Housing, n.d. ‘City Models of Berlin’. Available at: http:// stadtmodelle/en/ausstellung.shtml, (Accessed: December 4, 2018) [5] Scott, Allen. (1997). The Cultural Economy of Cities. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Vidushi Agarwal is an architect and urban designer with recent work experience as an urban design consultant. She qualified as an architect in India and graduated with a master’s degree in urban design and international planning from The University of Manchester, United Kingdom. She is an urban enthusiast who enjoys researching and writing about places, cities and buildings. Her main areas of interest are urban regeneration, sustainable urban development and heritage conservation. In addition to working as a designer, she aims to be a part of major urban research projects in the future.

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The 4th year Urban Design Studio at SRM SEAD, Chennai, conducted in the first half of 2018, attempted to measure the quality of life for residents within two planned neighbourhoods - KK Nagar and partly Ashok Nagar, both located in south-western Chennai. While previous studios focused on the ‘unplanned’ city - where issues of traffic, noise pollution, pedestrianisation and others, were examined and solved. In the absence of fundamental urban infrastructure, studio projects strived at arriving towards urban design solutions that provided these local constraints. As a counterpoint, our studio chose to experience and study the performance of planned neighbourhood within the larger context of an organically evolved city. Students conducted surveys among residents of KK Nagar and Ashok Nagar on: • Residents’ perception of their neighbourhood and sense of belonging • Levels of comfort, safety, and satisfaction • Physical qualities of their neighbourhood This study helped students understand residents aspirations, needs and wants, and the characteristics that create a distinct identity for these neighbourhoods in the urban fabric.

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SETTING THE CONTEXT- MODERNIST NEIGHBOURHOODS In newly independent and democratic India, the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) was entrusted with planning and building new neighbourhoods across Indian cities. The CPWD was beholden to the influential urban design and architectural precedents set by Edward Lutyens, Herbert Baker, and most importantly Le Corbusier - and Clarence Perry’s concept of the ‘neighbourhood unit’ informed the design planning of many modernist neighbourhoods schemes that were built during this period. The CPWD built several housing societies for government employees in Delhi where flat sizes corresponded to the ranks of officers. A typical neighbourhood would consist of “a school at the centre of the development, a market in the corner. The blocks of housing are organised around large open areas that served as parks and for parking cars.” [1] In the case of KK Nagar, prospective residents were not predetermined; their backgrounds - caste, class, occupations, were diverse. Hence CPWD planners might have been heedful of equity and democracy in their design schemes. CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

Context mapping. Image credit: Batch of 2014, SRM SEAD

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Parks were allocated in the geometric centre of every neighbourhood to encourage congregation and mingling an evidently modern expression. Parks were a foreign idea to traditional Indian neighbourhoods and came with the English sensibilities of social life, before eventually becoming an urban fixture of post-colonial Indian cities. KK NAGAR - ORIGIN AND PLANNING Planned neighbourhoods were initiated in the 1970s by then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, late Kalaignar Karunanidhi. Under the Tamil Nadu Housing Board (TNHB) several eponymously named KK Nagar(s) were built in cities such as Madurai, Trichy and Chennai, of which the latter is popularly considered the most successful. Land parcels within these areas were sold as plots while apartment buildings were developed by the state housing board. These large scale neighbourhood developments of TNHB with full infrastructure acted as a catalyst for private developments for residential use around [2].

300 x 300m, systematically lined with avenue trees. The studio surveys confirmed that this scale has enabled residents - men, women, and children, to explore and understand the extents of their neighbourhood intimately. SURVEY METHODOLOGY The neighbourhood is made up of 5161 plots. Students prepared a structured questionnaire and conducted on site interviews of 500 residents. Responses were recorded on Google forms to enable students to enable quantification and tabulation. The maps presented illustrate the responses of residents from their respective sectors. The students were able to collect such a large number of interviews since the streets were filled with people during most times of the day and were quite willing to spend a few minutes answering questions. Almost all those interviewed were pedestrians, providing some important clues regarding the quality of life in the neighbourhood. SURVEY RESULTS

KK Nagar is a primarily residential area planned on a gridiron street network to create twelve squarish sectors of roughly CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

Making and forming a community Older residents of the area regarded their neighbours as family, and looked

Students with the children of the neighbourhood. Image credit: Batch of 2014, SRM SEAD

out for and helped each other in the early days when there were hardly any houses and population sparse. KS Rajalakshmi, aged 86, recalls that, “In earlier days, auto rickshaw drivers would hardly be willing to drop us to KK Nagar because it was considered too far and they might not get a customer to ride back to the city. So, we would always

travel outside KK Nagar in groups.� Interviews suggest that successive generations of families that have lived in KK Nagar from its inception continue to be close friends even though they may no longer reside in the area. Despite the densification of the neighbourhood, new residents have found ways to become a part of the community. Newer residents 176 177


have chosen the move to KK Nagar primarily due to availability of quality schools, parks, and streets. Schools in the area insist that their students reside within a 2 kilometre radius, and most children of the neighbourhood walk or cycle. Making friends and acquaintances here seems easier as one tends to be a part of smaller social circles. Social infrastructure The TNHB planners of KK Nagar were clearly influenced by the international planning ideologies and neighbourhood planning principles of Clarence Perry and Clarence Stein. Further, within India they had the precedence of projects built in Delhi by the CPWD. Except for the provision of markets, the planners contextualised the key features of the neighbourhood - parks, playgrounds, schools, and income-based housing. Parks were considered a fashionable urban feature back in the day. KK Nagar has an admirable network of parks, each serving a special purpose within the neighbourhood. “When we moved to KK Nagar from Mylapore, I used to take my kids to the park here as they missed visiting the beach,� says 78 CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

People Survey. Image credit: Batch of 2014, SRM SEAD

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year old Natarajan. The sector parks provide excellent community spaces, and play a key role in the social life of residents even today. The largest, Sivan Park, attracts residents from not only all the sectors but also from surrounding areas. It is regarded as an important landmark in the locality and 40% of the respondents associated KK Nagar with it. “Summer vacations were spent playing cricket in the sector park. We could walk into any of the houses around to be served water while playing,� says 35 year old Siddharth, a former resident, highlighting the how the parks form a significant part of the public imagination of the area. Another aspect that contributes to the success of this neighbourhood is the presence of well-established schools. There are about 60 nursery, primary, and secondary schools in the area. These are supplemented by a network of ancillary services such as daycare centres, fine art schools, tuition centres and coaching classes. As a result, summer camps, stationery shops and eateries have mushroomed. Hundreds of teachers and schoolchildren can be seen walking or cycling together in groups to reach their schools. Students CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

Drawing showing the network of parks. Image credit: Batch of 2014, SRM SEAD

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in school uniforms are commonly spotted loitering in the evenings outside neighbourhood bakeries or printing shops. Surveys showed that 19% of the respondents associated KK Nagar with quality schooling, and 45% respondents claimed that they moved to the area due the proximity between home and school. Further, the availability and easy accessibility to public transport facilities has proven to be advantageous to the neighbourhood. Even its interior areas are well connected by a public bus network. Water supply and sewerage systems have been able to cope with the increase in the number of residents over the years. The area also has an efficient solid waste management system where segregation of waste is carried both at household and neighbourhood levels. Sense of community With the surge in social media, interpersonal relationships are increasingly being made in virtual worlds rather than in the real world. Such social behaviour impacts physical and mental health, and open, common areas in both residential and commercial neighbourhoods play a crucial role in personal well-being. CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

Drawing tabulating the sense of community among 330 respondents from different sectors. Image credit: Batch of 2014, SRM SEAD

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Through their survey, students tested the effectiveness of the provision of an extensive park infrastructure in the study area. The surveys revealed that 59% of respondents interacted effortlessly with each other on a daily basis, and some multiple times a day. 24% respondents interacted informally with their neighbours every other day, while only 17% interacted less frequently. Residents maintained intimate social relationships. For instance, 54% of elderly respondents claimed that they felt free to pluck flowers from their neighbour’s gardens, 61% respondents said that they would readily encourage their children to eat at or spend time in their neighbour’s homes, 58% said that they would drop their work to help their neighbours in case of an emergency. This strong social bond among residents is a positive indication and most likely the result of effective planning for sufficient formal and informal spaces for gathering and interaction within KK Nagar. Sense of belonging Living cities are where people are able to have rich, interactive experiences, that create a treasure of memories,


Drawing tabulating the sense of belonging among 330 respondents from different sectors. Image credit: Batch of 2014, SRM SEAD

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and help develop a sense of identity and belonging to place [3]. Sense of identity is developed by association with the physical form of a neighbourhood while a sense of belonging comes from developing social relationships with fellow residents. This creation of identity and ownership may even result in community participation in maintaining an amicable environment by residents themselves. The students’ survey found that 30% respondents associated themselves with the entire KK Nagar area, 25% felt they could identify with their own sector, 12% with their own street, and 12% with their own house indicating that the imagined territory of belongingness of the residents clearly extends beyond the bound of their house or street. Housing scenario today About 75% of the built-up form in the survey area comprises of residential buildings. The physical surveys revealed four distinct housing typologies. 1. Massing housing developed by TNHB, of which only 3% remains in its original form 2. Privately developed individual homes 3. Wall-to-wall housing blocks and CITY OBSERVER | June 2019

Housing board 3%

Wall to wall houses 23%

Apartments 39%

Individual houses 35%

Drawing showing housing typologies prevalent in the survey area. Image credit: Batch of 2014, SRM SEAD.

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Housing typologies prevalent in the survey area. Image credit: Batch of 2014, SRM SEAD.

4. Apartments blocks built by private,

on the peripheries of the neighbourhood.

real estate developers, make up 39%

The original parks remain untouched,

of the residential built form.

and given the reduction in setbacks and open areas within plots, residents

It is evident that the neighbourhood

are ever more dependent on them for

has densified over time. 23% of the

leisure and fitness.

buildings in the area were built in the last 10 years. The new buildings are taller, and have narrower setbacks and smaller gardens compared to the older houses. The number of individual houses has also decreased, as apartment living

The TNHB developed housing was allotted according to buyer’s income (classified as lower, middle, and high income groups). This approach

has become preferred. Some plots have

allowed for residents from all socio-

changed their land use from residential

economic backgrounds to inhabit the

to mixed-residential use, while others

neighbourhood and partake of its public

from residential to commercial mostly

amenities and social infrastructure.


Satisfaction levels of residents

to these satisfaction levels. The

The study assumed that satisfaction

physical dimensions (300x300m)

levels of residents and users of

of each sector provides an optimum

the neighbourhood establishes the

scale for pedestrian movement, and

success or failure of its design and

hence enables residents to explore and

planning. 80% respondents claimed

experience their own and surrounding

that they were very satisfied with their

sectors. Almost all residents were

neighbourhood and that KK Nagar had

thoroughly familiar with the ‘plan’ of

all the amenities required in a good

the neighbourhood shown to them

residential area. Interestingly, 46%

and were able to navigate through it

respondents claimed that they were

easily. A well-designed hierarchy of

satisfied to the extent that they did

road widths - primary roads with broad

not want any further physical change

widths are retained at the peripheries

in their neighbourhood. The students

while streets towards the centres of the

further probed into the physical and

sectors have narrower widths. This has

infrastructure aspects that contributed

helped maintain privacy for residents

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Drawing tabulating level of community participation among 330 respondents from different sectors. Image credit: Batch of 2014, SRM SEAD

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while making the inner streets more socially active. Children were found to be playing freely on most inner sector streets. Recently, the primary roads were equipped with three meter wide pedestrian pathways and bicycle tracks. Avenue trees were planted on either side of the road at the onset of the project. Even today most streets in the locality are extremely well shaded and comfortable to use during hot afternoons. CONCLUSION The results of the physical surveys and interviews conducted by the students concluded that simple and adequate social and environmental infrastructure can go a long way in inculcating a sense of community and belonging and in turn a high level of satisfaction of life among inhabitants of a planned neighbourhood. Measuring KK Nagar and Ashok Nagar


through the eyes of residents provided the students a unique understanding what parameters make an urban area successful. REFERENCE: [1] A Concise History of Modern Architecture in India, 2002, Jon Lang [2] Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority, 2015; Volume 3, Chapter 1 [3] Life Between Buildings, 1971, Jan Gehl

ABOUT THE AUTHORS Devyani Gangopadhayay is an Architect with undergraduate degree from Bengal Engineering College, Kolkata, and a post graduate degree in Planning from Anna University, Chennai. She completed her Doctoral Research from CEPT University, Ahmedabad. Devyani is an academician with keen interest in urban development. She continues her research by exploring the urban forms and patterns, urban interventions and their impact on social life of the people. She has published a number of research papers. As an academician her interests include Urban Design, Sustainable Urban and Rural Development, Design Pedagogy. she can be reached at Prathyusha Ravi is a young researcher enthusiastic about cities, people and culture. She received the SahapediaUNESCO Fellowship for documenting the making of Tanjore Dolls. She obtained the INTACH Research Scholarship to study the Sthapatis and Shilpis of Chettinad. Prathyusha completed her under graduate studies in architecture from Anna University and finished her post graduation in Architectural and Settlement Conservation from CEPT University. She has written papers on heritage conservation, indigenous knowledge systems and urban studies. She is currently trying to find a balance between her academic pursuits and architectural practice.

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