Description


On 21st February 2015, the Institute of Urban Designers India – IUDI, launched its Mumbai Centre with a theme of ‘Smart Mumbai- An Alternate Perspective’. The event was inaugurated by UjanGhosh, President of IUDI. He explained the objectives and activities of IUDI, and introduced its various centres located in Kolkata, Hyderabad, Cochin, Bangalore and Pune . K.T. Ravindran, Founder-President IUDI in his keynote address laid out the imperatives of the need for Urban Design in Mumbai. In response to the theme of the event ‘Smart Mumbai’ he called his talk ‘Optimum City’ in direct contrast to Suketu Mehta’s Maximum city. He stated that a Smart city is one that optimizes resources and services to match its urban form. The panel discussion that followed had representatives from the public, private and institutional sectors- from the government, real estate sector, Urban Design professionals, technologists, and people engaged at grass root levels. This highly inclusive panel responded to questions posed by IUDI Mumbai Centre on what would make Mumbai Smart. While ex-chief of the planning division of MMRDA, V.K. Phatak refuted the claim of optimal densities by stating that markets should be allowed to operate and that artificially throttling markets leads to the haphazard development and lack of supply of housing and other amenities that we have seen in the last two decades, NeeraAdarkar, activist and Urban designer, gave the example of how there have been instances in the past, where opening up the supply of land through abolishing the Urban Land Ceiling Act as well as the release of the mill land space in the market, did not result in the reduction of land prices. She emphasized that instead of looking at housing as a marketable commodity, rethinking housing typologies and form through urban design principles can address the issues of affordable housing and make it better suited to people’s needs. AvanishPendharkar, an urban designer and Associate Director at CH2M HILL India, stressed on what Urban Design could do for the city. MadhavPai, director of Embarq India, who works on sustainable transportation solutions emphasized the need to completely rethink transportation in the city by reducing car usage and thinking of alternative modes of commuting. Madhav stated that to improve mobility, resources could be better utilized on strategic projects like upgrading and catering for land infrastructure requirements of BEST/ the Mumbai bus system and providing cycling lanes, rather than solely focusing on big-budget project like the coastal road and the Metro, funding for which is not convincing. He mentioned that as a transportation engineer he was trained to only look at highway design and efficiency, but it was the discipline of Urban Design that allowed him to completely reimagine the way he looked at transportation. Real Estate Developer, Anubhav Gupta, Executive Vice President, Godrej Properties Ltd. opined on the difficulty of use of Urban Design in his ventures in India due to a lack of government interest, but expressed his willingness and interest as an urban designer himself in doing so. MrVenugopal, Addl. Chief Planner CIDCO, dwelled on the development model of NAINA, the development area adjacent to the proposed Navi Mumbai Airport- wherein CIDCO is laying out a vision, regulations and infrastructure with outreach to and contributions from land owners. Technologist Dr. SumitChowdhury, director of GAIA Smart Cities stated that smart cities should not be about imposing big data systems on cities or making large IT hubs but start from the grassroots and within brownfield developments, it should be about using small measurable technological solutions to make people’s lives better. Members of IUDI Mumbai Centre took the learnings of the launch to the next day in a close door discussion to chart out its future agenda and immediate engagements. It was agreed that members would actively contribute to letting the Mumbai Metropolitan Region know how Urban Design could contribute to making cities better and more endearing.