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Posted by : Renu Singhal, Hyderabad, India, Urban Designer, Faculty Member
30 Jun, 2020 15:00:09
The whole world came to a standstill.
There was silence all around.
Gradually one heard the chirping of different bird species and the croaking of frogs.
From terraces, stars and distant mountain ranges became visible.
Streets and gardens became the new habitat of peacocks, deer, tigers.
It was as though when humanity was confined, nature found its place in the city.
Without the frenetic pace of life, the daily rushing about, we survived - some of us happily.
Families bonded over shared chores, food, recreation.
Physical distancing did not mean social distancing as the internet brought people together from all over the world.
The downside was a social isolation, even within homes, and the overuse of and dependency on digital mediums and the virtual world .
Of course one does not envision a dystopian Huxleyan future where one is homebound and dependent on and connected through technology alone.
However, it did make us realise that we need to rethink our cities to be more equitable, sustainable, resilient. Rethink family, community, society, livelihoods.
Projection 1: Looking to futuristic vertical cities. Mixed use buildings, energy efficient, biophilic , sustainable, gardens in the air. Helipads on rooftops, PRT and space shuttles zipping around in the sky; MRT and private vehicles below ground. The land free for people and urban agriculture. Food in the vicinity, recharging of ground water , recycling , replenishing the earth through bio-waste management .
It raises questions about the quantity of energy utilised, the disconnect from the ground, the earth itself .
Projection 2: Retrofitting neighbourhoods. Redistribution of resources, comprehensive energy, water, waste management and efficiency. Creation of local urban agriculture community spaces along with other community facilities of neighbourhood planning . Affordable, inclusive housing . The creation of sub-neighbourhood segments for the availability of daily needs, as well as to foster a sense of community belonging and responsibility . Whom does the city belong to? ‘ It belongs to me ‘ should be the generated response with greater public participation in decision making and events .
With nearly all members of a family needing to commute to work or to higher education institutions, urban mobility needs to be restructured . While co-working spaces can be created in neighbourhoods to cut out some travel trips, it would not be enough. Mass public transport could be supplemented by e-shuttles, and point to point transport for fewer passengers, reducing wait time and the use of individual private transport.
Since the majority of cities are not structured as neighbourhoods except in terms of areas for the ease of the functioning of local urban bodies, it would be important to create that sense of neighbourhood through a redefinition in physical terms. It could be done through connection with existing landmarks, parks, streets, buildings .or the creation of new socio-economic opportunities.
Creating a general blueprint , and fitting it to local areas through local area studies and subsequent local area plans could create more liveable sustainable cities.