Stories

Ignored-Framed: Revitalising Mumbai Mills

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imagesIgnored- framed is about the forgotten textile mills of Mumbai, that became disused and non-functional after the Great Bombay Mill Strikes of the 1980s. Occupying more than 6 acres in the heart if the city, Shakti Mills was allowed to degenerate for more than 35 years, a span of time that devolved it into a house for informal activities like the taxi wallas drawing water front he underground baoris (wells) to clean their cars, to other morning errands of the surrounding community, and other illicit drug activities that questioned the very image and position of the important mill within the city. The government as a result covered every possible entrance to the mill compound, leaving 6 acres of land dysfunctional, completely vacant- a dead spot in the city.

Context and Methodology of Design:
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This design attempts to counter the capitalism driven redevelopment of other textile mills in the area.
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Understanding the needs of the city, for a sensitive contextual redevelopment.
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The crux of the project was to create a free, democratic, inclusive design for Shakti Mills to redefine its identity in the urban fabric.
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Various democratic uses of the Mill compound

While other textile mills in Mumbai have undergone a capitalistic re-development to suit the commercial needs of the city and the real-estate developer, this design strives to stay away from such models. A critical analysis of the area and mapping of the tactical responses of the city to the mills was done to understand the needs of the people and the existing urban mesh around Shakti Mills. A stand was taken to derive new Development Control Rules, specific to the nature of the mills, making it possible to target micro issues along with the macro-response of the mills to the city.

The design process was initiated by forming a geometrical orientation between the built and the unbuilt to scale and align with the existing Shakti Mill compound wall. Architectural built design was planned in phases to let the mills grow along with the growth and evolution of the city’s needs.

Frameworks and Masterplan:

The masterplanning of the mills compound saw the division of the built into three bays – Access, Serving and the Served. Access became a common passage which would connect all the spaces. Serving became the service bay with service cores and supported the sunk slab. The Serving Space facilitated multiple functional take overs in the Served space. 

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View of the Mill compound showing the relationship between built and the unbuilt.

Each built housed “Kiosk like structures” on its ground floor making it possible to create an interaction of the built with its un-built. This would make it possible for the streets to be vibrant throughout, satisfying “eyes on the street” criteria. Where as the above floors could be given out for consumption space for functional takeovers like Shops, Houses, Restaurants, Music and Film Studios, Corporate offices, Workshops, Co-working spaces etc. These would evolve in coherence to the existing prevalent functions of the Mills. The existing facade was animated with a continuous walking passage that acted as an interface with the urban edge of the Mills, initaing the user to the central open space with a platform for multiple events of the city to take place.These events could be then be supported by event based kiosks on the right. Above these kiosks is an entrepreneurial co-working space and workshops.


Conclusion:

The compound wall of the Mill was retained as a collective memory of the people who commute through the place daily., with new programmatic inserts that prompted the creation of a new geometry and therefore, a hybrid identity, amalgamating the past and the present identities of the textile Mill.

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Institution: Rachana Sansad’s Academy of Architecture, Mumbai

Thesis guide: Ar. Rohit Shinkre, Ar. Swati Choskhi

Review Members: Ar. Mandar Parab


Aditya

 

Aditya Mandlik, a recent graduate from Rachana Sansad’s Academy of Architecture, believes in “utopia” making him passionately work towards it. Intrigued by Cities, he is a realist within the envelope of a dreamer, and hopes to make a difference to the urban fabric of Mumbai.

 


Women in Urban Space

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Poverty is experienced differently according to gender, age, caste, class and ethnicity and within households. Poverty pushes you across geographical boundaries and the societal frames set by the same factors in order to survive.

More often than others women tend to fall victim to the Burden from these discriminatory power relations in the society. The working women from the lower economic section of the city today are those who have set about to tackle this problem on their own by their own means. They could be migrants, victims of displacement caused by developmental projects or survivors of natural disasters or simply looking for work.

They work as housemaids, sweepers, petty hawkers and largely vendors who now fall under the informal sector of workers in the big cities. The concerns of informal economy workers and particularly women workers can be easily overlooked in the process of policy making and even urban planning. The urban space these women occupy and function in, are not theirs and therefore are shortchanged by urban planners and various government officials who do not completely comprehend their significance in the neighbourhood or the city as a whole.

An Indian city without these women is somehow rendered, devoid of life and colour in my imagination.

A photo series of working women from the streets and neighbourhoods of different cities, by Krithika Sriram. 

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A niche in the Wall, Bangalore.

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On the streets of Jodpur
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Inside the Jodhpur Fort
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On the verandah, Ahmedabad.
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Quiet afternoons at a temple in Bangalore.

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Early morning Markets, Ahmedabad.
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On the tourist beat in Jodhpur.

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Gulab Gang, Darjeling
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Along the Mada Streets of Mylapore.
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Along the Beach Road, Chennai.
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Braving the rains, Port Blair, Andamans

Millennials and the Chennai Vardah Cyclone

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We are the so called millennial generation. We like to feel special, we have earned a lot of resentment against our generation—the notion that “we’re a spoiled, entitled legion of precious snowflakes who expect prizes just for showing up, pout when we’re insufficiently petted, and never go anywhere without slathering on creamy layers of self-esteem.”

We seem to want/need instant gratification and possess a disturbing penchant for capturing instant moments, frozen in time, in the numerous selfies that flood the picture galleries on our phones.

Sounds familiar?

But to sum it all up, we are a generation that seems to think we can get what we want, WHEN we want it. Instant gratification. Now. Right Now. NOW!

But are we so consumed by the present that we are unable to sustain the momentum to last into the future?

We are the generation that has started countless things but not finished them. These days, it’s funny; we snicker, when we come across a meme that talks of broken New Year resolutions. But it’s scary to think that has come to define our entire generation.

What does all this have to do with Chennai, Cyclone Vardah and Trees, you ask? Everything.

While enough has been said about the recent loss of trees in Chennai due to Cyclone Vardah, and the initial enthusiasm and zeal to plant trees is noteworthy, it is the subsequent discipline, upkeep and sense of duty in continuing the movement, which will have lasting impact on restoring Chennai’s tree cover.

While we may piggyback on the efforts of previous generations to initiate planting of trees in Chennai, it is the Millennials who are going to have to sustain it, continue it, and fight for it in the future.

Watch this space to know how. Watch out for our city’s Millennials.

#chennai #cyclonevardah #trees #planttrees #hashtagurbanism#millennialmovement #jointhemovement

Graphic by Keerthana Udaykumar.

9 Cycling Routes to explore Chennai!

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Cities are inevitably judged by the efficiency and inclusiveness of their transportation systems and networks, them being vital veins for the city’s functioning. It is, therefore, no surprise that the Transportation sector has progressed immensely over the past few decades, so much so that the pioneering two-wheeled human-powered transport system – the cycle – has little, sometimes no space on the roads any longer. To this inescapable conundrum, Chennai is no exception.

From vital transportation to fitness and recreation, cycling is a greener and cleaner option for all needs – and of late, the latter aspect has been on the rise in the city. And why not? There is a certain wonderment experienced when you get onto that saddle and pedal yourself forward – the joy of your leg muscles’ pull as forward you’re pushed; the wind in your hair and a song in your heart – there is a certain wonderment when you get onto that saddle and explore the city and all the joys it has to offer. But then, there’s a catch – inside the city, cycling is almost fatal; you’re bullied by the motorised vehicles, the unfriendly lorries and mean horn-blasting cars. To experience the joy of cycling, we are forced to escape to the outskirts, or to the really early morning hours or late nights.

Travelling is a way of experiencing new things, of exploring new places and feeling new things; it broadens the mind and makes some peace. And travelling by a cycle only makes the whole experience even more fulfilling. The trick is, it’s just fast enough to keep you moving ahead, and just slow enough to let you savour and enjoy each moment, each scene you cross – the birds on that tree, the lone pink flower in a sea of green, the smiling old shop lady who hands you bottle of water while you try to catch your breath, “Where are you cycling from? All the way from there?!” That’s something you do not, and CAN NOT, get from any motorized vehicle- bikes are too fast, cars too closed, flights too detached, and walking, well, unless you have a lot of time on your hands.

So in case you’re not already on your cycle, here are a few routes around Chennai to get you started! As a general rule, all routes mentioned here are safe for cyclists at the following timings;

04.30 am to 07.30 am
10.00 pm to 12.00 pm (Main roads only. Front and back cycle lights, helmets mandatory.)

CYCLING ROUTES
A. Beginner Routes – Below 20 km

Route 1 – Koyambedu – Anna tower park – Koyambedu

Short and easy, a route in the centre of the city – if you want to add a challenge ride up the Koyambedu flyover and cruise down. A stop at Anna tower park is great in the mornings, walk a circuit or two to stretch the muscles before getting onto the saddle again. The avenues of Anna Nagar are mostly residential streets so less traffic can be expected.

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Cycle to the park, and spend some time at the famous skating ring there!

Total distance 10 km. Duration (max.) 1 hour

Route 2 – Madhya Kailash – Besant nagar beach – Madhya Kailash

Who doesn’t love the beach in the mornings – the fresh breeze and gorgeous sunrise. The roads are hard and neat, speed cycling is great, especially tree-lined Besant Avenue close to Theosophical society.

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Watch the sunrise at Besant Nagar Beach, and relax on the beach before cycling back!

Total Distance: 10.1km. Duration (max.) 1h 30 mins

Route 3 – Madhya Kailash – Pallikarnai – Madhya Kailash

OMR is every cyclist’s dream – wide and pleasant to ride. Cycling along the Pallikarnai marsh is a beautiful sight in the morning, you can spot flocks of birds in amidst the greenery. There are small gazebos off the main road where one can sit and take in the beautiful scenery.

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Spot some beautiful migratory birds at Pallikaranai, Chennai’s Freshwater Marshland.

Total distance 21 km. Duration (max.) 1h 30 min



Intermediate Routes – 20-30 km

Route 1 – Anna university – Marina beach – Anna University

Right along the main roads, it is advisable to get on the saddle real early to avoid 8 am traffic. Also, this is one of the best night-cycling routes in the city – well-lit streets and good safety for the night rider. Marina beach is a treat in itself – mornings mean beautiful sunrise and fresh air; nights mean a mid-ride ice-cream at the beach!

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Count the arches on Napier’s Bridge on the way to Marina Beach!

Total distance 22.4 km. Duration (max.) 1 h 45 min

Route 2 – OMR to ECR loop

OMR is another great night-cycling option owing to the bright streetlights and around-the-clock police patrol. The connection from OMR to ECR at Shollinganallur junction is a great spot to cross a wide and clean Buckingham canal – you can stop at the corner of the bridge for a break from pedalling. Another add-on is a brief detour through any of the side streets on the ECR to an isolated and silent beach.

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Cycling down Chennai’s incredible coastline along the ECR-OMR stretch.

Total distance 29 km. Duration (max.) 2h 15 mins

Route 3– Velachery MRTS – Ottiambakkam quarry – Velachery MRTS

After Perumbakkam, the route is mostly through winding tarred village roads, so peaceful and silent in the morning hours. Ottiambakkam stone quarry is an abandoned quarry which has accumulated rain water over the years and forms a beautiful pond – swim with caution, though. You can take a brief 15-minute hike to the top and spot eagles or other birds, and experience a panoramic view of the city far beyond.

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Riding your cycle all the way to Ottiyambakam Quarry is well worth the view in the end!

Total distance 30 km. Duration (max.) 2 hours 30 mins



Expert Routes – 30+ km

Route 1 – Porur junction – Chembarambakkam lake – Porur junction

Small winding tar roads through small towns lead to one of the biggest lakes in the city – Chembarambakkam lake. One uphill and you’re onto the small path just adjacent the large blue water mass. Great for those who love solitude and water. During the return, you can take a short fun detour to Decathlon, every sports-shoppers paradise.

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Cycle around the Chembarambakkam lake’s cycle friendly perimeter

Total distance 32 km. Duration (max.) 3 hours

Route 2 – Padi flyover – Puzhal lake – Padi flyover

From Padi flyover, taking the city route in the morning is better due to less vehicles. Puzhal lake is another beautiful morning spot – during summer the lake is dry enough to walk on some parts of it, mind the sinking mud spots though. During monsoon, the lake is full and if you have the knack of it, you can ask fishermen to lend their canoes to you for a few `bucks. The National highway route back has good ups and downs to train your calves and is mostly free at all times of the day.

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Total distance 35 km. Duration (max.) 3 hours

Route 3 – Padi flyover – Sholavaram lake – Padi flyover

A little farther down from Puzhal is this out-of-the-way Sholavaram lake. When the lake is dry, its full of green grass presenting a whole other beautiful scene. Expect to be completely on your own here, very few people wander inside from the main road.

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Total Distance 48 km. Duration (max.) 3h 30 mins hours


* All distances measured are nearly accurate

* All ride durations are approximate and are inclusive of an average 15 mins break/stop at the destination mentioned.


[This article is by Abinaya Kalyanasundaram, Co-Founder of Saddle Addicts, a Chennai based Cycling group, in collaboration with Hashtag Urbanism. Check them out here!]

The Shuttered-Busy Shop fronts

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The “shuttered busy shop front” – doesn’t it seem ironic?

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A local resident reading Newspaper in front of a closed Shop @Tiruvanmiyur

How can a shuttered shop be active? Early in the morning last week, when I went for a jog, I noticed these shuttered yet busy shop fronts, crowded with the people from adjoining tea shops, random residents spending time on the road from, the early morning school goers, the random chit chatters, etc,. The shop fronts with nothing but raised plinths and a few steps are actively used, even when the shops are closed. I look at these small elements in the streets as a tool that facilitates a healthy social life within the people of specific area, engaging and encouraging them to BE on streets, interact with each other and share the commons.

In the rapidly modernizing city, these threshold spaces are fast being enclosed by boundaries and walls, curtailing the relationship between the elements of streets and people. The increasing privatization of public space is a recurring theme on Hashtag Urbanism, and here’s a photo essay that captures the pressing need for the commons to stay common. 

City and its Stories

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Every city has a plethora of stories waiting to be told – Undiscovered trails and untold tales of a million people that highlight forgotten nuances of city life. From the tea-kadais of George Town to the filter kappi kadai in the midst of Mylapore, the bajji stalls in the Marina to the biriyani kadai loyalists in Triplicane, early morning sweepers to the garbage handlers in Perungudi – they all have a story to tell. These stories are evidence of a complex relationship between people and place, and ultimately contribute to the “identity” of a city. Each person perceives the city differently and forms one’s own narrative, uniquely shaped by cultural, human contexts and the social milieu.  Urban narratives reveal the character of the city, and most importantly, make us feel like we belong.

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The streets of Chennai are witness to myriad stories that get played out everyday.

Now, wait a minute, this is not another romanticized version of city life, and its chaotic charm. Here, I want to go beyond just recording these narratives. I seek to decipher the spatial contexts that give rise to such narratives– urban contexts that frame the stories and influence how we place ourselves in it. The quality of these urban contexts affects the quality of our experience as well.

The architecture of a city, the built form is no longer just a backdrop to our lives. It has metamorphed to be a unique generator of our experiences. A lot of memories of our childhood, of our life are uniquely shaped by the “place” of its happening. We tend to associate memories with a place. Place memories are born of the emotional bond between a person and a place, it is what makes a place meaningful to us.

This leads me to the question –what’ in a place makes it worth remembering? Why is it that memories of some places are recalled with a smile, while some leave a distasteful aftertaste in our mouths? What tips the balance?

Spatial memories, especially in a city, are crucial is shaping the image or mindset one has towards the city. Memories are subjective just as individual mindsets are, triggered by the initial experiences of the place. So, the initial experience of the place- the sights, sounds, the serendipitous encounters with people, the context that sets the tone and opportunity- determines the memory we take from it. We go on to fill the space with those memories and a place, defined by our reminiscences, is born. Experience of a context shapes the memories.

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From the fishermen on the beach to the scrap dealers in the city dumpyards, they are all part of image of the city.

Our city is changing fast, caught a conflict between the ephemeral and the permanent. The ephermerality of everyday rituals, interactions with people, events in places, fleeting moments in time make up urban life. Architecture and design in a city should be conducive to the realization of such experiences that mould memories of city life. Architecture should respond to the ever changing urbanism of the city and not just be a mark of permanence of the designer of the political regime that sanctions it. Public buildings have the potential to be the face of the city and reflect the mindset of the society. They could be inclusive, user-oriented and democratic or could be biased, unfriendly and not susceptive to any kind of change.

We need to make a conscious choice to create architecture that respects the city it is in, and responds to the collective memories of the people. Only then is it worth remembering.

 

  • All photos by Siddarth PT.