Tuesday, July 3, 2018

My City My Responsibility - Reflecting on #UrbanLab workshop about Smart spaces (Part I)

Dear All,

I would like to share my reflections on a workshop, that I recently attended on Development of smart spaces under the #UrbanLab series of workshop organised by Indo-German Smart Initiative (IGSI) in Pune city supported by Dr. Bhanuben Nanavati College of Architecture (BNCA) and National Institute of Urban Affairs, Delhi. 

I missed the first day, however managed to sync in with a group of creative architects on the second day who were working on creating smart spaces. Our task with this topic was to identify the need and issues related to creating smart spaces and coming up with alternatives. 

Before proceeding further, I would like to highlight that the location where the workshop was conducted was a seminar hall named Bhauudeshiya Bhavan on baner road a municipal initiative for social development. This place apparently had NO USABLE TOILETS as good as having no toilets which I think is a basic need for any community space. The space for toilets was demarcated but not built. There was enough parking space, though! I wonder what's the intention of designing a community place without a provision of a functioning toilet??? In this era of Sustainability where we talk about inclusive designing having toilets for all the members of the society considering the differently-abled persons, senior citizens, women etc..This particular community space lacked providing a basic feature that too in an area which is being developed under the smart city area development scheme. (Note: The organizing team was completely unaware of this aspect and some last minute scrambling had to be done to deal with the problem.) 

Anyway, I was glad to have a group where all of us believed in understanding the NEED of creating a smart space in the first place, instead of just creating something for the sake of it. Also I understood that creating a smart space was not only about creating something new, its also about making optimum usage of any existing space.

Interviewing the local milk supplier
For instance, consider roads. The basic features a road should have is a proper storm water drainage system, access to parking spaces, usable cycle tracks, walkable footpaths, solar powered LED street lights etc... however while conducting a random survey on the Highstreet road in Baner all the above mentioned features of a road were missing on this 'so called posh' street which comes under the smart city area development plan. We observed water logging on the roads due to inappropriate storm water drains, footpaths were tagged with cycle track boards and the recently introduced PEDL cycles under the Pune Cycle Plan were parked on footpaths. However this footpath was blocked even for walking due to some concrete structure and pipes. On the other side, we could see a lot of paved area right in front of the hotels that were completely vacant probably because it was morning time.

Privately owned company buses were parked on the road reducing the driving space of the road. The road on one side had tall corporate companies with glass facades and hotels, bars plus luxurious residential societies on the other side.
Vacant space in front of hotels

We were searching for some localites to ask our queries, we met just one local milk supplier who stayed around 3-4 km away from this street. He mentioned that this place is very crowded in the evenings causing heavy traffic jam in the area since most of the people come to hang out in these hotels and bars. When asked about improvement in quality of life, he replied that he is happy just because of the increased income growth and schooling facility for his children but was sad that his family does not like to come to his shop and that they saw a loss of local culture. He felt like he has lost his hometown. A local person felt like an alien in his own place. 

Another highlight of this area is the Energize Park  - a smart 
Energize Park
initiative by the municipality to create an environment friendly public space. The park has solar powered street lights, seating areas, library (but no books! Basically it is just a space for reading i guess!), a yoga center and lots of greenery. However one of the residents of this area said that we don't really visit this place because our society's open space is much better and greener. Some people visit the park mostly in the evening, but some people don't know that such a place even exist.

I feel this is another example of a planning disaster because this space seems to be created either without even checking if it was needed at this location or may be they have failed to promote its significance and hence it is under utilized.

With all these observations and inputs we were supposed to come up with a prototype of solution. 

I will write about our solutions prototype in my next blog. Happy learning!!!

Pournima Agarkar. 


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pratik said...

Nicely written. Well pointed fact of basic necessities in public spaces and smart utilisation of available spaces.

Unknown said...

Dear Pournima,

Would appreciate if you had mentioned and elaborated on your overall experience of the UrbanLab and its outcomes. People in general look upto your organization, which provides facts and not twisted narrative with selective observation.
Few pointers where the facts are incorrect -

1.IGSI Network –It has no connection with our National Institute of Urban Affairs, Delhi. It is done by Federal ministry of Urban affairs, Germany. Know more on this - https://www.igsi.info/#network

2.Bhauudeshiya Bhavan on baner road a municipal initiative for social development is “UNDER CONSTRUCTION”. It had been provided to us for convenience in the study area - by support of corporator, Mr.Amol Balwadkar, Aundh baner balewadi ward.

3.We were well aware of this situation and made arrangements for acess to a toilet facility nearby – your notes “(Note: The organizing team was completely unaware of this aspect and some last minute scrambling had to be done to deal with the problem.)”
Looking forward to hear some more on constructive outcomes of Urban Lab.

Nidhi Dixit, Co-ordinator from BNCA/Urban lab 4

pournima said...

Thank you for your feedback Nidhi.

The narrative is purely my reflection and opinion on the workshop, here I am trying to relate it with the aspects of sustainability that's the whole point. Moreover, this narrative has been approved by the admin from the organization before publishing.

1. For IGSI - The information on National Institute of Urban Affairs, Delhi is given in the invitation pdf. You can view this link for reference. https://igsi.info/UL4_IGSI_Invitation.pdf
According to the link, BNCA and National Institute of Urban Affairs, Delhi are the network partners. Hence mentioned these names.

2. For Bhauudeshiya Bhavan the point I was trying to highlight is that parking and seminar hall is given for using though this place is under construction but a basic necessity like a toilet is still under construction causing inconvenience. I am working on a research project where we are the critic on smart city mission because their focus is mainly on technological interventions ignoring the need for basic facilities. The bhavan experience reflected as a perfect example on this so had to reflect on it.

3. Since its not the organizers fault had to mention such a comment, my apologizes if it was misleading... I know you did make alternate arrangements but its a planning failure from the municipality's end that's the point I wanted to highlight.

The workshop gave a good exposure for sure. I will be writing about the outcomes soon :)

Pournima Agarkar
Research Associate - Creating Sustainably Smart city.