Urbanism

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.

 


Map of the Week- Perungudi Dumpyard

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Perungudi, a densely populated suburb along the IT corridor of Chennai, houses one of the two major garbage landfills in the city. Perungudi gets around 3,000 tons of waste per day, from seven of fifteen zones in the city. When Perungudi was carelessly chosen as a dump site way back in 1987, the government gave scant regard to the ecologically sensitive marshland of Pallikarnai-a hot spot for biodiversity that was situated right next to it. Ever since, the marshland has shrunk in size and the sewage treatment facility that is located nearby only makes matters worse for the flora and fauna of Pallikarnai.[1] 

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Map of the Perungudi Garbage Dumpyard and Pallikarnai Marshland

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Transformation of Perungudi and Pallikarnai marsh over the past 15 years. Watch how the Marsh is slowly eaten away by Urban Development on its fringes.

 

References:
1. Transparent Chennai: Solid Waste Management in the City


Every city needs to be explored, mapped and drawn! Hashtag Urbanism presents “Map your City”– an Open-source Archive of maps of Chennai done over the years by students and professionals of Architecture. To contribute, send your maps to hashtagurbanism@gmail.com. Be a part of this movement! Let’s map our cities!


Map of the Week- Chennai’s Hidden Waste

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Graphic Map showing state of Solid Waste management in Chennai. Where does your waste go?

Apart from 5000T/day of waste transported outside the city, 1250T fall out of the system and remain uncollected inside Chennai. This solid waste is unceremoniously dumped inside the 3 riverbodies of Chennai- Cooum River, Adayar River, and Buckingham canal. Cooum River flows through the commercial and industrial areas of Chennai, collecting 750MT of solid waste every day. The river banks of Cooum are home to 16000 encroachments and slums that bear the brunt of the city’s negligence towards Cooum.


Every city needs to be explored, mapped and drawn! Hashtag Urbanism presents “Map your City”– an Open-source Archive of maps of Chennai done over the years by students and professionals of Architecture. To contribute, send your maps to hashtagurbanism@gmail.com. Be a part of this movement! Let’s map our cities!


Swa-oorja : Envisioning a Zero Waste Pune.

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indiaOur relationship with waste in today’s time and age, is from what we consume to the dustbin, rarely do we choose to know what happens to it after the ‘kachrawala’ collects it from our house. The blame for this lies with the boon of globalisation and urbanisation, wherein specialised systems are put in place, tending to man’s every beck and call. The downside of this though, is that these systems are rarely thought of in a holistic manner, one system is rarely intertwined with another, thus leading to discrepancies in functioning as a well organised and symbiotic network.

The most striking example of this is the case of waste management. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) has to be managed by technologies and methods that enable keeping our cities clean, prevent pollution and protect the environment and at the same time minimize the cost through recovery of resources and energy. As per CPCB report 2012-13 municipal areas in the country generate 1,43,760 metric tonnes per day of Municipal solid waste, of which only 91,152 TPD waste is collected and 25,884 TPD treated. The MSW, therefore, dumped in low lying urban areas is a whopping 1,07,876 TPD, which needs 2,12,752 cubic meter space every day and 776 hectare of precious land per year.

 

Would waste management be a better system if it was thought of in a holistic way, wherein the waste we generate be used in a more productive fashion instead of taking up valuable space and causing serious environmental hazards?

 

Architectural Concern:

In Pune, the Pune Municipal Corporation is in charge of the collection and management of waste. Currently, all of Pune’s waste is dumped in a massive landfill on the outskirts called Uruli Devachi. This has not stopped in spite of repeated protests and adverse health effects of the residents of the nearby town. Waste picker collectives like Swach are doing their part to contribute, but it is not enough. People have to start taking individual responsibility for their waste.

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The need of the hour is to educate people and generate awareness about creating less waste. This project aims at developing a city level network of decentralised waste to energy power plants in each of the 16 administrative wards of Pune city that would also serve as context specific social space to make the service infrastructure accessible to the urban fabric and sensitise people toward the aim of generating less waste by incentivising responsibility toward waste.

Concept Development :

Swa-oorja (Swa: Self, Oorja: Energy) has the capacity to power 18,500 homes at an average in Pune per ward per day. This system will generate employment and revenue along with reducing reliance on the conventional hydro-electric system of power generation. It is scalable and hence is adaptable to various contexts and sizes, right from a housing society to a whole city. The programmatic challenge was to find the ‘sweet’ spot between industry, education and recreation, and the instinctive design response was to deconstruct the assembly line, which allows permeability of social functions without compromising on efficiency. Demystifying the industrial infrastructure was important, so as to design an architecture that addresses both its processing and social functions, and it is perceived as a social space first, before an industrial one.

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Waste to Energy- Biomethanation over Incineration
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The programmatic challenge was to find the ‘sweet’ spot between industry, education and recreation,

 

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Demystifying the industrial infrastructure was important, to design an architecture that addresses both its processing and social functions, and be perceived as a social space first, before an industrial one.

 

Context and site study:

Kothrud ward was selected for a model for this system, as its population density to waste generation ratio is relatively high (6.7 sq.m per person). Kothrud also holds the record for the fastest growing suburb in Asia, transitively generating a massive amount of residential and commercial waste. The ward generates around 50 Tonnes per day(TPD) of MSW out of which approximately 40 TPD is organic waste. After studying the fabric of the ward, it was deuced that Kothrud had negligible public park space. Hence the power plant would double up as a public park. A former landfill site on an arterial road was chosen, which has a history as a landfill before it was banned in 1990’s, and is presently being used as a waste transfer station and office for Swach, the ragpicker’s collective. The site area is 27 acres with the road on the southern end, a hill to the north, and residential buildings on the east and west, along with a slum, that houses the swach employees to the southwest.

 

Design Development:

Site specific design decisions include water harvesting, two way vehicular circulation, deriving an axis from an existing temple. The role of the architect in this case is more as a designer of systems. The site has been developed as an overlay of various programmatic systems which translate themselves in geometries, them being:

  1. Plane: The surface on which the social activities take place.
  2. Organic line: Circulation on the ground, traced by the instinctive movement of people on the site, and the topography.
  3. Point: A grid of 20m x 20m has been laid on the site, with the grid points translating themselves into buildings, and the workflow tracing the gridlines.
  4. Process Line: The line tracing the grid, which the processes and services follow, and also translates itself into a pedestrian bridge, for visitors to access the processes without interrupting the workflow.

 

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Design Development: Overlaying the Industrial and the Social

 

Programming the Plant:

The programme is divided into three parts, the power plant, which includes the waste to energy plant, processing units for dry waste, and an administration that includes a visitors centre and employee area. The social programme is designed as supporting functions to the power plant and include a  shop for selling artisanal items made from waste, a cafeteria, a library and workshops that can be used to for a variety of purposes, ranging from studios for artists to hosting exhibitions. An art gallery has also been included, to encourage art. The third part is the permeable edge, on the southern end of the site, adjacent to the road, which relies on site specific design interventions, including a marketplace to replace the haphazard hawkers on Paud road, a community centre with public toilets and open space that the slum dwellers can use constructively. Adaptive reuse of the existing waste transfer station into an industrial jungle gym for children to play in. The existing Swach office has been used as a Nursery for toddlers and a cycle rent stand, while the office has been shifted to be a part of the administrative building.

 

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The programme is divided into three parts, the power plant, which includes the waste to energy plant, processing units for dry waste, and an administration that includes a visitors centre and employee area.
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Section across the site connected by the production line.
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Dry waste processing Centre
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Wet Waste processing Centre

 

 

Architectural language and material expression:

The prismatic form has been translated as a prototypical modular system of steel trusses, one module being 10m wide by 12m long, made from scrap metal. This module is repeated according to the usage of the building, with functions requiring less space made up of lesser modules and so on. Fly ash bricks are used for the walls, plastic bottles have been used as roof tiles and gutters, Bottle bricks have been used to make the seating, and reused oil drums have been used as lighting.

The aesthetic of the project has been designed to communicate a certain level of relate-ability, with the building form being reduced to platonic solids, prisms, spheres and cylinders, with the interpenetration between them make for the architectural language.

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Conclusion:

‘Architects have to become designers of eco-systems. Not just beautiful facades and buildings, but systems of economy and ecology, wherein we channel the flow not only of people, but also the flow of resources through our cities and buildings’ – Bjarke Ingles.

This quote sums up the concern for the project and the approach taken toward the thesis. Systems of living have to thought about in a holistic way, and the role of the architect in today’s time is a designer of these systems, since he has the foresight to perceive systems. Swa-oorja is an attempt at such a system, and it is designed to highlight and address waste management and power generation as cogs of the same wheel of sustainable living.

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Swa-oorja : Envisioning a Zero Waste Pune.

 


This publication is a collaboration between Hashtag Urbanism and Nishant Pai, based on his Undergraduate Design Thesis, “Swa-oorja : Envisioning a Zero Waste Pune.”, compiled in the document below.


Institution: VIT’s Padmabhushan Vasantdada Patil College of Architecture, Pune.

Thesis guide: Ar Vijaya Srinivasan.

Review Members: Ar. Nachiket Patwardhan, Ar. Vijaya Shrinivasan, Ar. Prasanna Desai, Ar. Narendra Dengle, Ar. Shekhar Garud, Ar Pinkish Shah

Noteworthy Mention: Shortlisted for NIASA (National Institute of Advanced Studies in Architecture) Thesis Awards West Zone

Nishant PaiNishant Pai, currently working as a Researcher in Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies (KRVIA), is an architect and closet graphic designer and artist. His research takes him to the informal settlements of the Mumbai Metropolitan region to develop a guideline for architects and planners to deal with informality in an inclusive manner.

He recently kick started a platform for curating art and design, StART Collective. Follow the page for more updates!


 

 

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
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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.


 

Eatsup- Food and the City

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Hailing from a small town in Kerala, being  a  passionate foodie , my first fond memories of a city are the huge malls, pizzas and sizzlers which were once (until about 10 years ago) exclusive to only the metropolitan Indian cities. In fact I would always look forward to visiting my cousins who lived in the city, for my yearly pizza. It was not until I moved to Chennai for my undergraduate studies, five years ago that I could truly explore a city in terms of the multiple culinary dimensions that it has to offer.

Food is as much a part of culture as architecture is. But what is fascinating about food and cities today is that the cities today have become truly global offering us a taste of multiple cultures through a wide array of culinary experiences. For example, while Chennai stays true to its own South Indian Filter coffee and Idly, Vada Sambar, the spicy streets of Sow carpet (in North Chennai) are sure to impress one with the true north Indian flavours.

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This quest for what a city could offer in terms of food led me to explore the same through my undergraduate architecture design thesis. My exploration of gastronomy began with a study of the culinary world today. Visiting culinary schools, getting a sneak peek of the workings of kitchens of five star restaurants, enjoying cooking sessions while making new friends at food studios, being a part of food walks where in one could explore the city through its cuisines, learning about how food start ups work, sharing my food experiences through social media food groups, I realized how cities today offer much more than just multiple dining experiences. Food today is no longer a mere means for sustenance, it is an art, a hobby, a profession, above all a kaleidoscope of experiences that people crave for!

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Food offers a kaleidoscope of experiences that people crave for.

 

Creating a Food Public Space

Food and Architecture being creative fields due to the exuberant quality of art that exists in them, my exploration furthered to see if these synonymous projections could be extended to explore a newer perspective; one that could inscribe value to our cities and engage a wide range of its citizens. The architectural concern of my project was to bring together people through food as a medium by creating a new food public space in the heart of the city that caters to the multiple dimensions that the culinary sector today has branched into.

Bangalore-a truly vibrant city with its fascinating culinary world, be it the ‘oota walks’, the late night partying in gastro-pubs, food melas or the numerous food start ups that can get you anything from a salad or a cookie to a celebrity chef in a jiffy – set the ambience for the design. The site on Church Street, one of the oldest food hubs of Bangalore within the CBD, abounding in eateries and pubs, well connected and surrounded by commercial spines, with a steady pedestrian flow provided ample scope for the project to expand from a ‘culinary arts centre’ into an ‘urban eat street’.

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Bangalore, the restaurant capital of the country.

       

Designing for Food

A study of the existing streetscape and the urban context was important to understand how the built form responded to the same. Food, being a very sensuous phenomenon, works best when it is not hidden away, but exposed, letting the aromas linger. What was interesting about Church Street was that despite the large number of eateries present, there was hardly any spill over onto the streets. The reasons were mainly two:

  1. The street is not pedestrian friendly. It is punctured by transformers and piles of garbage, with uneven foot paths and haphazard street parking, cutting off any contact between pedestrians and the adjacent buildings.
  2. The buildings themselves are largely introverted (barring a few), not even attempting any engagement with the chaotic street.
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Mapping Church Street and its existing food culture.
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Analyzing the street elements .

As an architectural intervention for an urban transformation the design proposal focuses not just on the built form but also on creating a vibrant eat street.

 

Programming for Food

The  culinary arts centre, whose built form was conceived as a response to the city, the streets and the people (and function) at three different scales, was envisioned to be a reflection of the vibrant urban culture, connecting multiple user groups through food and letting the streets flow into the building as much as possible. As the idea was to connect multiple user groups through food, the building is a collaborative food space that has chef studios, co working kitchens, public cooking studios, food retail, culinary schools, restaurants and amenities like library, auditorium etc.

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The building’s conceptual massing was a response to the site and programmes of the Urban Eat Street.

 

Connecting with the Urban Street

The main design challenge was to understand how a vertical building as tall as 24 metres high in a tight urban context with FSI, setbacks and other building constraints could achieve an extroverted character, unlike the other tall buildings on Church Street that strictly did not engage with the pedestrians.

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Hence the building was conceived as a heterogeneous vertical street with a play of inside and outside, multiple walkways within the building enabling many circulation paths for an interesting spatial experience. Transparency as a tool was used to connect the multiple levels and activities and project gastronomy as much as possible. Solids and voids, textures and colours also add to the extroverted building character, making it dynamic. The materiality of the building  also draws from street characteristics such as plain vertical planes for graffiti, steel frames for banners etc .The building comes alive at night as the open spaces double up as dance and disco floors. The colourful banners of street festivals, events and performances get displayed on the steel grids of the building facade and the glass exterior facade of the rotated auditorium has LCD display that screens food videos, music, etc, becoming a focal point for the street node.

The built-form is ultimately an expression of a vibrant urban street. The street design proposing a pedestrian-friendly street, takes the vehicular traffic and parking underground. The idea is to enhance spill-over onto the street and add elements of colour, play and food throughout. The 750m stretch will have three pedestrian subways and one vehicular entry and exit point. The street is envisaged to become an urban canvas and a renewed food public space in the heart of the city of Bangalore.

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Unlike the other buildings on Church Street, the design aims to engage with the street and create an open ambience.
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Street Montage of the Eat Street.
Experiencing Food through Architecture

Architecture is played with to add a physical dimension to the food experience with multiple hues that accentuate the spirit of the place. The building elements were composed to form voids, frame views, fuse activities and provide fascinating new user experiences. Just as food has multiple flavours, the building’s spatial heterogeneity was a deliberate attempt to express the cultural diversity of the city. It also hints that only if architecture implants variety in the cityscape will it be a fertile seed for urban transformation.

The building thus becomes an identity for FOOD CULTURE and in parallel transforms the image of the context. Just as a city offers us a plethora of culinary experiences, the design aims to capture the essence of it on one platter to offer to its people.


[This article is a collaboration between Hashtag Urbanism and Priyanka Sreekanth, based on her Undergraduate Design Thesis, “Eatsup- A Culinary Arts Center on an Urban Eat Street”, compiled in the document below.]

Institution – School of Architecture and Planning, Anna University, Chennai.
Review Members – Ar. Shakthivel Raja, Dr. P. Meenakumai,
Thesis Guide – Ar. Saravanan

Noteworthy mention – Presented at NIASA (National Institute of Advanced Studies in Architecture) Thesis Awards South Zone jury.


Through Calvino’s eyes.

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I was introduced to Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities in a hostel room one rainy night. Four of us sat together and read aloud his ‘cities’.  The boundless imagination with which they were conceived filled us with excitement, curiosity and wonderment. It wasn’t as if I understood it completely, but that again added to its lure. I had forgotten the heights that imagination could possibly reach. After a long time, I found something that was this free of any boundaries or restrictions.

A few days ago, I came across this post and found it very interesting. It also got me thinking. Are his cities purely ‘imaginary’? Couldn’t you see that, in many ways, we have built around us, cities that are as chaotic, as wonderful and as strange as the ones Marco Polo speaks about? So, I decided to do an exercise –to try and look at cities the way he sees them, to try and find invisible cities within our cities. This is a bizarre thing to do, and I tried to be as open-minded and imaginative as possible while doing this.

The Phoenix City:

I have to talk here about the famous city of Boux. Around it lies the desert. As you approach the city, you find that the city has been born again, from destruction. The city stands in the midst of its own rubble. And like broken limbs are patched up with casts and plaster, its buildings show signs of wreckage. Every once in a while Nature comes in all fury and shakes up the city, leaving nothing, and every time, it rises again, not without wearing its wounds proudly for others to see.

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The Phoenix City of Boux
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The Phoenix City of Bhuj

This was inspired from the city of Bhuj, where I spent four months. Bhuj was the epicenter of the earthquake in 2011. The Kachchh region has always been susceptible to earthquakes and has been facing major earthquakes every hundred years. We have heard many stories of abandoned cities and cities that were totally destroyed by a natural calamity. But Bhuj is the Phoenix city.

 

The Excess city

With every single item you could possibly think of, this city forms a maze of streets, all overflowing. There is nothing you can’t find here- Sweets are sold in shops with a grand staircase and blouses laid with precious stones and lace are found on the street. In many ways this is a city of desire: The very desire that sages warn us from – material desire.  Everything is displayed and everybody is called in to touch, feel and buy. It is a city of overwhelming excess.

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The Excess City

This city was born from roaming around Commercial Street in Bangalore. There is literally nothing that you can’t find there. And while that may sound nice, it was an overwhelming experience for me.

The city of Surveillance:

Everyone walked as if they knew where they were going. Confident, smiling and greeting each other warmly. Every now and then someone or the other stealthily looked up towards the ‘eye’ and quickly looked away from it. It is hard in this city to not be aware of the ‘eye’. These are everywhere. They follow you out in the street. They follow you out in the office, when you go shopping, in the restaurant, everywhere. I can’t casually state that I think this is unnecessary. It wasn’t the most comfortable city. Everyone stole moments away from the ‘gaze’ and relished them, while acknowledging that the surveillance gave them ‘security’.

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The City of Surveillance

The city for Anyone.

Leaving the city of surveillance to come to the city for Anyone was a contrasting and liberating. Here you could find  the ‘liberals’, the lovers, the drinkers, the social deviants, the outcasts- anyone and everyone. There weren’t many rules. Nor were there any responsibilities. The city lived by accommodating these ‘outsiders’ who found this haven. Well, for them, it was haven. But a person from the surveillance city would feel like a fish out of water and wouldn’t know what to do.

It was the ultimate freedom city, where no restrictions of any sort were in place. Here most common ‘illegel’ things were legal. Cities like these crop up when the existing ones squeeze out of them the people whom they consider as ‘undesirables’.

The city of Signboards:

It was hard to focus here. My eyes wandered restlessly, trying to settle, but that was impossible. There were signs on roads, on buildings, set in, jutting out….there were even people walking about with sign boards on their backs. Where they felt signboards didn’t do the job, they resorted to flyers or shouting. The city, to me seemed to have an excessive attention seeking character. But that was the way its people survived, competing with each other, to have bigger, better ways to capture the attention of passers by. Sometimes, I felt they were descending into madness, trying to come up with new ways of capturing attention. The kind of madness that made them hang a board on a human and made him walk up and down the road.

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The City of Signboards

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We live and work in cities. Everyday, we travel through the same roads, and it becomes easy to take things for granted. Yet, is that all? Aren’t cities man-made wonders? Aren’t they like huge machines, chugging through the centuries? Cities today have grown, with them new habits and lifestyles have formed and this means what we take for granted now might have been a very surprising, even laughable phenomenon at another place and time. I would like to leave it there, and hope you will find ways of looking at the place and the time we live in, through a different lens.


[Divya RV, the author of this beautiful interpretation of Italo Calvino’s seminal work, “Invisible Cities”, is still grappling with the process of becoming an architect while juggling with writing, traveling and adjusting to the ubiquitous ‘PG’ life in the city. ]