Monthly Archives: February 2009

Shaky foundations

How qualified are the graduating professionals who design our homes, offices and institutional buildings

 

To whom do we entrust the planning and design of our urban environment? How do Indian schools of architecture compare with the best in the world? How qualified are the graduating professionals who design our homes, offices and institutional buildings?

Do our architecture schools pass the test?

In 2006, after 18 years of studying, teaching and practising architecture in the US, we relocated our practice to India. Shortly thereafter, we were commissioned by a prominent Indian school of architecture to evaluate their operations and prepare a comprehensive assessment report.

The trustees of the school envisioned this exercise as an opportunity to analyse the existing infrastructure and curriculum, the calibre of the teaching faculty and the academic performance of the students. Our findings would facilitate a vision plan for the growth of the institution.

Enthusiastic about recording first-hand impressions of the intellectual life of this institution, we resolved to direct our efforts through conversations with the students, administrators and faculty members. We hoped that our study would reveal the potential capabilities of India’s future architects (at least as represented in this institution).

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Poor planning keeps millions in India’s slums

Millions of Indians are forced to live in squalid slums, not because they are impoverished, but because city planners have failed to build low-cost alternatives, a government report said Tuesday, warning the problem was getting worse.

As India’s economy has boomed in recent years, India’s predominantly rural population has flocked to the cities hoping to get a slice of the growing prosperity. A massive shortage of affordable housing has left many no choice but to live in makeshift tenements with few _ if any _ basic utilities, according to the country’s first report on urban poverty.

Housing projects would provide residents properly constructed homes, linked to basic infrastructure like sewage, electricity and running water.

That kind of housing would be in sharp contrast to the slums that dot most major India cities, with their endless warrens of small houses and shops built of corrugated metal, cement and tarpaulins, public latrines and tangles of electric wiring, often illegally linked to the main power lines.

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Dharavi project gets an expert panel

An expert committee has been set up to advise the government on planning, management and implementation of the Dharavi makeover project. The 11-member committee comprising architects, city planners, activists and former bureaucrats has been approved by Chief Minister Ashok Chavan.

The panel includes former chief secretary D M Sukhtankar, former IAS officer Sunder Burra, urban planner Vidyadhar Phatak, architect Shirish Patel, housing expert Chandrashekhar Prabhu, architects Arvind and Neera Adarkar, director of the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture Aniruddh Paul, Society for the Promotion of Area Research Centres (SPARC) Director Sheela Patel and SPARC founder and National Slum Dwellers Federation convener Jockin Arputham.

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The City and Emerging Technologies

The Real Time City by Andrea Vaccari

The way we describe and understand cities is being radically transformed, alongside the tools we use to design them and impact on their physical structure. While architecture has shaped the built environment to satisfy urban dwellers aesthetically and to accommodate their functional needs such as face-to-face interactions and travel, pervasive systems shape electronically mediated interactions in urban space, including use of both fixed and mobile displays and wireless communication (see CityWare).

A major issue is space and its relationship with behavior: how do we design the ambient created by fusing electronically created interaction space with architecturally created physical space? Another major issue is infrastructure: how do we provide interaction and interoperability that scale up to city-level pervasive systems, while ensuring that they function appropriately and merge aesthetically with urban spaces, materials, forms and uses?

Continue reading here.

Can congestion pricing work for Mumbai ?

London’s congestion tax, a levy on private cars entering the central part of the city, could be scrapped altogether in the near future because it has failed to serve its purpose, according to deputy mayor of London, Richard Barnes. “People complained that earlier they used to be stuck in traffic jams. Now they complain they have to pay (congestion tax) and still remain stuck in jams,” Barnes told TOI recently. He added that a referendum in Manchester revealed that the majority was against it.

The controversial congestion tax which came into force five years ago has been keenly followed by transport experts here in Mumbai, with a section of planners wondering whether Mumbai too should implement something similar in its narrow southern end to decongest the roads.

 

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Mumbai Planners oppose MMR Development around Thane

A group of city planners has criticised the rough draft for developing a section of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) around Thane

creek, drawn by an international firm of architects. They claim that the draft has failed to take into account the problems on the ground.

Architect Julian Jain of GMP International had pitched for changing the focus of development from the Mumbai city to the MMR. Among his recommendations were reclamation of land in and around the Thane creek. This, he said, would be easier than getting new land for development-an idea that was opposed by farmers. GMP, an international firm based in Hamburg, Germany, had earlier planned certain areas in Frankfurt and developed a new city called Lingang near Shanghai.

UPS Madan, head of the Mumbai Transformation Unit of the All India Institute of Local Self Government, opposed the reclamation plan. Madan, who holds the rank of a secretary in the state government, said reclamation was not allowed by the Centre and would lead to environmental problems as there were large clusters of mangroves in the area.

P K Das, a city architect said, “This is Google planning, they have missed the feedback from the ground.” The round table discussion was called by Bombay First, an NGO, and the Mumbai Transformation Unit to discuss ideas for solving urban problems.

Original article here.