Urban Design

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.
Understanding the needs of the city, for a sensitive contextual redevelopment.
The crux of the project was to create a free, democratic, inclusive design for Shakti Mills to redefine its identity in the urban fabric.
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. 


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.


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 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.


Revitalization of Abandoned Quarry, Chennai

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The industrial revolution provided us with the engineering and power necessary to make profound economic and social change. However, with this unprecedented growth and new found prosperity, an abuse of natural resources and our environment initiated a trajectory of unforeseeable consequences. Today, we are leaving our historically wasteful and turbulent manufacturing economy in favor of a seemingly more stable and mainstream digitally driven era. With this, we are seeing the massive areas of disrupted land that once stood to represent the height of innovation and success appearing as abandoned wastelands all over the world. With the quest to redevelop these areas lies the opportunity to re-imagine the definition of public space and green infrastructure.

This thesis takes a critical eye to previous and current design strategies of industrial landscapes and identifies new typologies relevant within this construct. Using a Gravel quarry with abandoned area as its site, this thesis proposes a master plan to reclaim, restore, and reuse the quarry as an alluring recreational green space for the surrounding community. In seeking a redefinition of the urban park, this thesis argues that a new type of cultural parkland is needed that envelope structures, that conversed and ground that responds to 21st century living.

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Ecological evolution of the Quarry
Site Segmentation
Careful analysis of Site conditions was carried out to assess its potential.

This proposal uses a series of architectural interventions to respond to sites visual character and fill the recreational needs of the community. How can a forward looking architecture acknowledge a surrounding context defined by its past? This thesis aims to capture the knowledge of previous violent enterprise, physical industrial remnants, topographic qualities of a Quarried landscape, and the character of the surrounding community in order to fuse architecture with its industrial surroundings. Through this entwined relationship of architecture and its surrounding landscape the project is able to provide unique amenities that embrace the quarry’s industrial heritage. The proposal sees what has been abandoned not as waste, but as an opportunity to redefine the cultural park in order to create dynamic and engaging spaces.

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Zoomed in segment of the plan (Refer attached document for better viewing)


“The modern park is no longer seen as a quiet rural green, but as a sparkling and overcharged urban crossroads” – AdriaanGeuze


Creating the Urban Landscape of tomorrow

The evolution of industries in the last quarter of the 21st century has been characterised by the abandonment of industrial areas. This trend is ongoing and is pushing rapidly toward urban areas. With this, cities are confronting change by reprogramming these postindustrial spaces, and people are changing their aesthetic sensibilities and attitudes toward natural and man-made environments.

By redefining these sites as public green space, we can capture the unique qualities and benefits of their industrial past to provide green infrastructure that hosts new architectural opportunities and amenities for its surrounding community. The recreational services provided by these sites will have both environmental and social benefits. The parks of tomorrow will become the basis of a thriving metropolitan culture. Parks implemented in these post-industrial areas will allow for shared experiences that give rise to mutual respect in the community and act as landmarks within our cities that represent growth and prosperity the way their previous industrial nature once did.

This thesis accepts the challenge that lies in incorporating natural processes into architectural interventions and looks to the land itself to identify design opportunities. The form and content of the pavilions and constructed landscape is developed through historical traces, local associations, indigenous plants, and regional materials in order to provide a new form of public space, while simultaneously embracing the identity of the monumental landscape defined by man.

Periswamy says, “My thesis is a conversation…. Not a silent one but a celebration of the gorgeous laid down mass – THE QUARRY”

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This publication is a collaboration between Hashtag Urbanism and Nikhil Sriram Periaswamy, based on his Undergraduate Design Thesis, “Revitalisation of Abandoned Quarry, Chennai.”, compiled in the document below. (Zoom in to the document to view the beautiful detailing of the spaces.)


Institution – MEASI Academy of Architecture, Chennai.

Review Members – Prof. Priya Sasidharan, Prof. Sachidanandam, Ar. Aravind Rangan (Aravind Varuna Associates)
Thesis Guide – Ar. S.F. Salma.

Noteworthy mention – Winner, NIASA (National Institute of Advanced Studies in Architecture) Thesis Awards South Zone, Top shortlisted entry in ArchiPrix International 2017, Shortlisted- ISARCH Awards.

Nikhil Sriram Periaswamy is currently pursuing his Master in Architecture in Chennai and graduated Bachelors in Architecture from MEASI Academy of Architecture, Chennai. He is currently involved in testing various methodologies in urban systems to understand and create “Liveable” urban spaces, and a series of art compositions called GEOMETRY which is at the publication state.


Living or Surviving? Design for Migrant Workers in Qatar

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‘Why do we build cities? What happens when a city is built with the aim of merely being an image of modernity? What is ‘instant urbanism’ are there lessons we can learn from it?’

Qatar, the world’s wealthiest nation, whose wealth is sourced by oil and natural gas, is on its journey from becoming a ‘Carbon based economy’ to a ‘Knowledge based economy’. Consequently, all this money is constantly being converted to infrastructure within the city at a mind boggling rate, allowing the entire city to be developed within a short span of 30 years or so. This sudden, unnatural growth of the city is termed ‘instant urbanism’ or ‘petro-urbanism’.

Doha has witnessed a massive growth, solely fuelled by the labour of migrant workers.

With a local population of just 278,000, who exactly is building the country? The total population of Qatar is about 2 million (75% male and 25% female). The nationals are a minority in their own country. The staggering 1.8 million consists of expatriates from all over the world of which around 80% are migrant laborers from South Asian and African countries (esp. India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Philippines). There is undoubtedly a socio-cultural segregation in the country due to these diverse cultures and economic differences.

Population Ratio in Qatar

Architecture and urban planning in the country, unfortunately, accentuate this socio-cultural segregation. What is built are fragmented urban structures with three main characteristics: extensive mega-projects, high-rise agglomerations and continuous urban sprawl. (Andrew Gardener; How the City Grows: Urban Growth and Challenges to Sustainable Development in Doha, Qatar) Increasingly, large geographical portions of the urban landscape are encompassed in singular planned ventures. This leads to large scale mono-functional spaces which hardly relate to each other. There is an Education City, a Sports City, a Creative City, a Leisure City (the Pearl Qatar), Labour cities. This is a kind of literalism where the qualities of good urban spaces are clustered into zones. Interaction between these “cities” is limited. There is a lack of cohesion between these vast urban areas.  Zones, partitions, walls, enclaves, and compounds are familiar aspects of the city.

Zones, partitions, walls, enclaves, and compounds are familiar aspects of the city.
Floodlights blaze at a nearby stadium, while lights are off at a labour camp. Source: Amnesty International
The city is built by them; not for them!

Many skyscrapers in the city lie empty or with just a few floors occupied, stadiums are empty but with floodlights on all night, a 325- bedded hospital just serves about 50 patients a day. Money can build buildings but can it build communities? A city without people or life is akin to a body with no soul.

This kind of fragmented urban development produces interstitial and backstage spaces of a strikingly different character. Just a few miles away from the city in the Industrial Area are labour camps in which 6-10 people live in 30sqm rooms; very often with poor sanitation and poor airconditioning – in desert where the temperature may go up to 45-50 degrees centigrade. This is where 60% of the population lives. It’s those who live here who built those skyscrapers and stadiums. How ironic!

There is no real need for skyscrapers in the city at all – but they give the city the perception of urban grandeur and perception is everything. Here you’ll find the biggest of everything; the costliest of everything; the most exclusive of all.

These kind of singular function spaces drain the element of surprise from the city. You don’t walk to the bus stop and buy some fruits on the way. When you go to shop; there is no place to pray. You get exactly what you came for. 

This is not true just for Doha though. The most popular form of residential housing, world-wide, is the gated community (Setha Low). This is exclusivity in terms of people who can afford to live there. This creates dead edges and introverted communities in cities. Richard Sennet (Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics) says that edges in a city may be either borders or boundaries. Boundaries are limits or edges which separate one territory from another and borders are zones of interactive edge between territories. Are we building borders or boundaries in our cities?

Boundaries are hard and create dead edges. Borders are permeable and become alive place of exchange between communities. – Richard Sennet

‘It’s an urbanist’s dream to create a space that is intense, mixed, complex and flexible. If it’s the sort of place we want to make, it’s not the sort of space most cities are building.’ says Richard Sennet.

There seems to be something inherently wrong with the term ‘exclusivity’. While it seems to be a nice word to use in a developer’s ad, making urban spaces ‘exclusive’ to certain people or certain functions kill the life of a city. You invariably become a person either living within the gates or outside it.

“The evolution of urban space in Doha must face a turning point that will lead to new spatial transformations that will shape a built environment reflecting its inhabitants rather than being an imposed urban shell containing them.”

Source: Urban Evolution Of The City Of Doha: An Investigation Into The Impact Of Economic Transformations On Urban Structures’

Can architecture play a role in diminishing socio-cultural boundaries? How can architecture be used for integration? How can a settlement relate to the rest of the city in healthier way- inspite of strongly prevailing social stigmas? Can a settlement with flexible capacities be designed? A settlement with rigid infrastructure; allowing organic growth that adapts to the needs of the transient labour population? 

An attempt to answer these questions is the Undergraduate Design Thesis of Ar. Shwetha Muthu, compiled in the document below.

[This article is a collaboration between Hashtag Urbanism and Ar.Shwetha Muthu, based on her Undergraduate Design Thesis, “Living or Surviving-Design for Migrant Workers in Qatar”]

7 Steps to Better Transit in Chennai

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Waiting at the bus stop for my daily commute has resigned me to a certain fate,  I always get bored, restlessly shuffling from one leg to the other in a rather quizzical imitation of some below- average bhangra. There’s never the right bus when I need it and after an infuriatingly long period of waiting, suddenly, in an almost evil twist of fate, there’s not just one, but two, no wait, THREE buses screeching to a halt, one after the other!

As someone who surrenders a good three hours to bus travel every day, I have more than my fair share of qualms to pick with the city’s transit network. Yet, I will grudgingly admit to the fact that Chennai is actually home to one of the most extensive bus transit systems, with the highest occupancy ratio in the country. [1]

In short, while the Bus transit network seems to work in terms of numbers, it is nowhere near attracting new users into its fold. Designers at Hashtag Urbanism try to crack this paradox, with a time-based-design proposal in seven simple steps.

1. Whats the bottomline?

Chennai’s transit system is way out of balance. The hierarchy in our public transit system in terms of capacity and extent was intended to begin with the railway network, followed by the bus network, and motorized feeder systems like share autos for providing connectivity to inner roads. But the suburban rail networks and the MRTS didn’t succeed as expected, mainly due to operational isolation from other modes of transport. What has ensued is a wasteful overlap of individual transit lines with buses and trains both running parallel along the same routes.

Overloaded bus trasni
Graphic showing the over-saturation of the Bus Transit Network.

The imbalance in the overall transit network, the qualitative defects in the existing bus service, and the external pressure due to the increasing vehicular population with limited road space in the city has created a huge strain on the bus system. Existing operational issues and incompetency in service has fueled the preference for private transport by cars and motorbikes that have grown tenfold.

Graphic showing the reasons for the Strain on the Bus Network

Bottomline: Conventional solutions that aim at increasing infrastructure like additional flyovers, road widths, bus fleets might, just might, increase its efficiency a bit. But in the long run, public transit still continues to repel people. What we need is a change in outlook- one that rethinks efficiency.

 2. Rethink efficiency- Time as experience :

We measure efficiency of a system through two factors – money and time. A transit system that gets you where you want in the shortest time without burning a hole in your pocket is, by default, efficient. Time as a tangible section of transit has a significant part in achieving efficiency. However, the intangible value it holds with the user experience and interaction is of much greater significance. Every commuter, dependant on a public transport has more than one segment involved in the journey. Is TIME the key to changing the perception of people towards public transport? How do you break down transit time?

Graphic showing the three time zones: Walking Time, Waiting Time, Travelling Time.

Simply put, time spent is experienced gained. Enriching the quality of experience in individual segments of time transforms the overall bus experience, thus changing the perception of people towards bus transit.

3. Decode the Context :

Chennai, as a city of diverse contexts, demands for a unique response for every scenario. Every time segment that contributes to travel has a different face at different points in the city. An experiential analysis of time is crucial in identifying the qualitative defects of the system and in designing for the needs of the people at every level. [Sample Graphic below]

Phto analysis
Photo analysis showing how the contextual issues could be understood

 4. Design for TIME – The three Zones:

Concentrating design efforts solely in improving user experience in three time zones gives a more streamlined design that achieves the end objective of attracting more users.

Design Zones
Graphic showing how design could be concentrated in these three Zones
Walking Time:

The inefficiency in connectivity and lack of excitement in user’s interaction are the thrust areas of design. Share autos should be recognised as valid feeder systems, occupying equivalent share of the road space, a source for last mile connectivity.  Pedestrian friendly streets, along with a public cycle sharing network can bridge the gap between the transit point and destination.

Waiting Time:

Bus shelters have the potential to become important social nodes within their neighborhoods, responding to the character of each context. Placemaking as a design methodology should be applied to every bus shelter to transform them into focal points of a community, with active street edges catering to diverse users.

Travelling Time:

‘Right of way’ for buses, improving user interface and reliability by the provision of a more interactive and informative system using route maps, sign boards. These conveniences can transform a mere bus experience into an overall city experience for users, irrespective of one’s familiarity with the city.

Sketches showing Design Interventions for three Time Zones

5. BE BOLD. BE VISIBLE – Identity through Hierarchy:

Transit Stops need to attract people. Bus Shelters need a strong identity; a visual ‘shoutout’, if you will, that marks its place in the urban context, and instinctively pulls people towards it.

Architectural design could be the tool to giving an inseparable identity to the bus system within the overall transit network. By just looking at the shelter, one should be able to comprehend the services it offers and buses that service the route.

Bus stop grades 2.gif
Graphic showing the Standards that would be provided at each Grade of Bus Shelter

The bus system should be revamped by introducing three different grades of bus shelters – Grade A,B,C, each defined by a hierarchical set of standards and infrastructure. Parameters like Volumes of the bus station, Catchment area, Contextual importance, Intermodal Connectivity, Frequency of buses, and Importance of route would determine the order of hierarchy.

Grade map.jpg
Map showing the possible locations of different grades of Bus Stops

Grade A: Major transit nodes in the city and Depots – Guindy, Koyambedu, Broadway, Tambaram, Ambattur,etc.
Grade B: Important bus stops within the city – Mylapore, Vadapalani, Gemini Signal, Gandhi Mandapam Stop, etc.
Grade C: Neighborhood stops – Adayar Signal, MRC Nagar, Blue star.

6. Design of the Shelter:

Creativity + Cost efficiency + Immunity. The bus station is the interface between the people and the system and its architecture is the medium that makes the intangible tangible. A careful selection of parameters that govern its design and unique architectural identity, to stand out within the overpowering urban fabric is paramount to its success.

They need to to be ‘jaw-dropping-awesome’, and yet be economical enough to break the bureaucratic chains that bind urban design in our country. Not to mention the constant threat of vandalism and political/movie posters that mar all urban infrastructure in our cities.

 In other words, creativity + cost efficiency + immunity

Guindy shelter breakdown
Details of Bus Shelter Design.

7. Embrace the Smartphone revolution:

Smart(phone) Urban Transit. The most important urban transport innovation is the Smartphone. We step out of our houses only after consulting Google maps and the likes for the best travel route, remaining glued to it till the end of the journey [More on that here]. Success of cab companies like Ola and Uber is largely based on the advantage that you solve your travel needs just by pushing few buttons on your smartphone. Public transit needs to enter into the foray of smartphone navigation, to boost its ridership.

Valuable data on where people want to go, how they travel, what’s slowing them down, and how the network is operating can be deciphered from user-generated data, courtesy the smartphone. A unified mobility app has enormous potential to eliminate barriers between modes, use existing infrastructure more efficiently, and bring the entire transport network to the smartphone. [1]

Finding real-time Bus routes made easy on m-Indicator

The need of the hour is a mobile app like Mumbai’s ‘m-Indicator’, with which we can look up real-time transit information and options instantly, wherever we are, track the exact location of the next bus or train and plan our journey accordingly.

In Conclusion, a time-based design would transform the overall bus experience and people’s perception towards public transit, slowing becoming the preferred choice of travel. Time spent in transit is then no longer a burden. It’s a gift.



  1. The Most Important Transportation Innovation of the Decade Is the Smartphone

[This article is the compilation of the joint research and design by Sanjana John, Bala Nagendran M, Chandrasekaran S and Preetika Balasubramanian for University of Westminster Trophy, NASA 2014]