Berlin Urbanism Innovations: 2016 Leaders Program Summary
18 January 2017 9:24 AM | No Comments
Our Annual Study program on city transformation ideas and urbanism was held in creative Berlin.Read More
Reviving the city by transforming the public spaces
14 August 2016 10:35 AM | No Comments
The streets, squares, and public spaces form the vital element in any neighbourhood & city. They are the single most important component that add to the liveability of the city. We have been using the tactics of Placemaking a used to enhance the civic places...Read More
In the News
02 February 2012 7:32 AM | No Comments
Media coverage , News on The Urban Vision as well as some commentary and opinion columns from The Urban Vision teamRead More
- Berlin Urbanism Innovations: 2016 Leaders Program Summary
Expert Diary : Commentators
Name: Pallavi Shrivastava
Bio: Pallavi Shrivastava is an architectural designer with a keen interest in human ecology and sustainability in the built environment. She currently lives in Mumbai and works as a Country Manager for a Singapore Design Consultancy firm and pursues her academic research interest on sustainable and equitable urban development. She currently serves as the Mumbai Correspondent for World Architecture News. Pallavi holds a Masters degree in design from Arizona State University and has worked on several notable design projects both in India and USA. She is an Evidence Based Design Accreditation Certified Professional (EDAC) and is also an USGBC LEED Green Associate.
Posts by Pallavi:
My recent visit to Leopold Café at Colaba Causeway brought back a few uncomfortable memories from the past; of that fateful day when Mumbai was seized and attacked by terrorists. It was 26 November 2008, which was soon labelled as 26/11 under the burden of sensationalism by the earnest media where one’s own identity is seen through the western lens even in times of tragedy. The American branding had become more essential to the media than the gruesome events that unfolded
I sat in the café, sipping my iced tea and reminiscing about the good old college days of being broke and still trying new hang-outs. Soon, I was consumed by the memories of the past when Leopold café was attacked leaving 10 people dead right here. It has been 3 years and it made me wonder looking at those bullet marks in the walls, if, with time, we ourselves blur our wounds or wounds themselves dissolve. And how much of it matters of physical traces in built spaces.
Leopold Café reopened shortly after the destructive night of the attack. Owners Fahrang & Farzad Jehani defiantly had stated: “We would never let terrorists win.” The first customer after the reopening ordered a pint of beer for himself and a Coke for his six-year-old son, and said Leopold’s reopening was a sign ‘Bombay is getting back to normal’.
By maintaining those bullet marks on the walls, the owners have attempted to retain that part of the history and curiously many visitors and foreign tourists take a tour and document it through images. In that sense, it may be a continuous reminder of the past.
The Café stills reeks every bit of its colonial belonging from inside and out. Fluted columns, old cream-coloured slow-whirring fans, dark brown partially worn out furniture, arched windows and semi-wood panelling on the upper walls. Its clientele has always been a good mix of foreign tourists, college students and street shoppers. It is always buzzing with activities, is almost never empty and has retained the influx of people to same extent as before the attacks took place.
The much talked-about fabricated impression of Mumbai’s resilience is media generated; people get on and continue with lives often because they may not have luxury of choices. Negative events leave scars on one’s mind and mostly carry traces of it for a long time. But what about the physical scars such events leave to the built environment? By merely fixing the broken surfaces, painting it and giving it a new appearance like nothing ever happened, can we overcome the past? As Salman Rushdie asks in his book Shame: “I too face the problem of history; what to retain, what to dump, how to hold on to what memory insists on relinquishing, how to deal with change?”
Urban planning is a logical initial stride towards an organized development of a city or a commercial hub. In doing so, larger governing body looks after the development process and more often than not, follows a yardstick of regulations, forms and codes. This would work well in an environment where dynamic forces are negligible. But dynamic forces do exist, migration issues, pandemics, employment and economics predispositions, cultural mutinies and social confrontations. All these are primers and catalysts which work towards the way we organize or interrupt ourselves in a recognizable pattern in an urban setting.
Such patterns are always available and it only presents the fact that planned approach has its limitations in our organic approach towards life and living. Allow me to give you an example. An urban place, striving really hard to combat basic disease, basic sanitation in the vicinity which is inaccessible due to lack of good infrastructure and heavy migrant influx, has built a fancy state of the art commercial retail establishment. Would such a mall work? Another example is to build a fancy futuristic commercial premise with only escalators as means of climbing the floors. This would work well if the generation living is adaptable and youthful. I have noticed older and aging generation in India is not comfortable using escalators since it was not a regular feature in the buildings in their times of adaptability. They excuse themselves from the family and take the elevator or staircase and meet them at a final floor of the destination and split while returning too.
Governing bodies can use strategies and authorities to seek some order and organize people in certain desirable pattern to achieve the final vision. Such attempts, if they neglect the status in quo and conditions on how vibrantly people on their own adapt themselves or adapt the space to suit their needs and requirements is a very critical factor to be considered. And this adapting happens all the time and this is more and more visible in places of retail establishments. The generation which is not able to afford high price tags go to fancy places only to browse and go to street markets or bazaars to find similar looking things or cheaper imitations to meet the pricing they can afford.
Organizational attempts to give urban space some sense of homogeneity is an ambitious premise since the population that inhabits it, is rarely homogeneous. They are varied with background, cultures, beliefs, history, personal traits and quirks, desires, future aspirations and own sketchy framework to achieve them. Migrants to USA from India and China rarely adapt to food habits available and offered. Asian markets, Indian spices and vegetables become a sought after category after initial exuberance of salads, sandwiches, fries and so on. This illustrates that there is a force working towards making strikingly different food joints and supporting peripherals to meet the migrant inhabitants. Speaking in Indian context, aspiration of a migrant father from a rural environment, now working in a service oriented industry in a city will be different from a young girl moved from a small town to a big city to peruse and pursue a dream in the city. They both will be working towards urban forces like means of commuting, public transport, cultural adapting, work environment, food habits, socializing habits, aspirations and adapted methods to go about all of them.
In a nutshell, by assuming readily that statistics and data are perfect and planners and designers should use these calculations and parameters that will allow them to come up with some meaningful viable structured solution is a weak and temporary one. In short, the vision imparted from college curriculum through standardized methodology of planning minus the ethnographic study of current forces that are impacting and might impact may have limitations. Strategy which relies mainly on power relationships based on top-down approach can overlook critical dynamic variables of diversity, uncertainty, resisting forces and individual capability to adapt in their own understood way. More and more social and urban theorists, interventionists and design critics see the failure of what the “plan” and “design” can guarantee and what form it eventually takes and settles for.