Revival of Public Realm : A Strategy to transform Indian Cities

Enabling Private sector to invest into urban commons to stir Livable cities. One of our public space improvement programs in Malad, Mumbai.

Legendary Urbanist Enrique Penalosa once said “Quality of life distribution is more important than income distribution”. We must invest in infrastructure that creates better quality of life for all citizens of the city. For example, 55% of the city of Mumbai walks as their primary mode of transit. Imagine the impact on daily life of citizens if the city invested into better public spaces and walkability.

While the master plans & vision plans are much needed .The idea that action should only be taken after all the solutions have been found is a sure recipe for paralysis. Tactics like placemaking / DIY urbanism is an important idea for such livability goals of a city. This cannot be achieved with a top down approach. We need to create frameworks so that we can realize this at the block / neighbourhood level whether in partnership with the local communities or businesses .Tactical Urbanism is a complimentary tool to a master planning process and quickly ensures liveability in your neighbourhood.

Building a Coalition for a better city

The space of city building & urban development is a much contested space with tense relationships between different actors like civil society, community, private sector & government. While this can be a sign of a well-functioning democracy; In India it really has reached a level which is highly unhealthy for the entire system. The placemaking approach to improving public realm is fundamentally built on a wide-ranging diverse collaboration between various stakeholders like creative groups, businesses , citizens, experts and academic groups in the city who are coming together to implement an action oriented project .

It emphasizes the point that it is in everyone’s interest to invest into the public realm to improve a place whether one is from the private sector, government, civil society or a local citizen. From our experience , The private sector patrons understand the importance of investing into the commons.
We have already started a movement of Privately owned Public spaces in India. Imagine the fabulous opportunities if we got the Market forces invest into what is often thought to be non-market interests in coalition with the large community – We could transform our Neighborhoods block by block.


Above: Case study of our Placemaking Program

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About the Author

Prathima Manohar is the Founder of the Urbanism think do-tank “The Urban Vision . Prathima holds a bachelors degree in Architecture. She was awarded Stanford University’s prestigious Draper Hills Fellowship bestowed to rising international stars who work on issues related to Democracy and Development in 2011. She has been a Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center Fellow where she studied ICT for Good Governance, Gov 2.0 as well as entrepreneurship, Adaptive Leadership and Strategic Planning. She consults on urban design & urban policy related subjects with architecture and large development firms. As an urbanist, she has worked on projects and researched on issues such as placemaking , affordable housing, participatory planning and green cities. She has been a contributing columnist on architecture, urban development and design with India’s Leading News daily – The Times of India. She has been a contributing TV Journalist with France24 and TF1 where she did news reports and several documentaries on Indian economy, Developmental and Cultural issues. She has also written for the opinion pages of the International Herald Tribune , The Wall Street Journal and has reviewed for the Architecture Record. In 2017 , She was listed as top 50 Most Impactful Global Social Innovators at World CSR Day. She was awarded by the iGen Design Forum 2016 as the top 50 Next Generation Architects driving innovations in Indian Urbanscape . She was among Global Honourees of 2009 CONSIUSA’s “Young Leaders Program” which reconizes emerging leaders under the age of 40, who have distinguished themselves and have demonstrated leadership qualities and potential in various careers