Urban acupuncture: Cities needs revitalising

Urban acupuncture: Cities needs revitalising

Restoring or rehabilitating an existing urban space is just as important and impactful as designing a new city from scratch. Rohit Suraj discusses the importance of urban design in evolving cities. _________ Approximately 50% of the world...

Restoring or rehabilitating an existing urban space is just as important and impactful as designing a new city from scratch. Rohit Suraj discusses the importance of urban design in evolving cities. _________ Approximately 50% of the world’s population dwells in rural areas. In the coming decade, with economic development and growth, this percentage may go down to 25%. Thus, it is clear that half the rural population plans to either shift to urban centers or reevaluate its environment. This gives urban designers the scope to change existing settlements, not just plan a major city. With the existing urban labyrinth, we have all come to terms with the contrasting variations in the planning of cities and its influence on lifestyle. It would be wrong to state that ‘new’ cities that are yet to be developed or planned present the only scope for better planning and design. A city, no matter how old or refurbished countless times, has the opportunity to create a better story within it. Restoring or rehabilitating an existing urban space is just as important and impactful as designing a new city from scratch. It is alarming for the large number of people residing within cities when they do not have a direction to go in, no benefits to achieve or any positive output to produce. Urban design can provide a sound solution to issues and subconsciously change habitual activity. With a developed city, the economy develops through urban branding. Urban branding is the result of good urban design. Apart from attracting non-residents into the city, it is important to keep residents well engaged and entertained to keep economic growth and development on the rise for a better quality of life. This process not only makes the city resilient but will ensure that it endures and its people thrive. Urban design is not only time-consuming but also devours a huge sum of funds. Ironically, it is also a design typology that requires immediate action. In some parts of the country, it takes longer to get approval on the design than to build it. And on other occasions, with minimal interference of design, the execution process takes years. Urban acupuncture is a lesser-known concept that is a boon to designers. It involves conceptualising a space with minimal approval procedures and immediate effect, while consuming fewer resources. As the name suggests, this process helps revitalise areas of the town/city that are in dire need of attention. Whenever executed, urban acupuncture has had a positive and drastic change on the locality. With precise control over the functionality of a given small space, it can intricately trigger the points that need to be addressed. Urban acupuncture is a method of addressing the user experience such that it changes the perception of the given area. It is more about design that speaks for itself while serving the very need and purpose of the situation. It may vary depending upon the locality and the community that lives there. Similar to the process of acupuncture, it takes control of a localised area and does not expand beyond that. Every situation and locality has a face of its own that needs to be reflected on an urban scale. We pass through beautiful and ugly, tiny and large, functional and form-based buildings every day. We subconsciously experience these buildings and become an audience that listens to what they say. Imagine this on a macro level of cities…cities joining suburbs to expand the scale, which just keeps growing. If what we see, where we live and work, can make us believe in a certain perception, it is astounding to imagine the effect urban design can have in our lives without us noticing. It has the power to mould our routine, restrict our views to something as basic as nature and cause us to believe a story of a locality that lingers for a long time. For instance, one can imagine the positive impact of a small-scale park within a backward setting of the city. As Mies van der Rohe famously said, “Less is more.” The simpler the solution, the better the outcome. Similarly, making use of negative spaces in a neighbourhood, areas that have been neglected can be smartly converted into activity spaces. A quiet lane can be rejuvenated with some vertical seating arranged interestingly. Understanding the need for the settlement and working out an easy way to execute it is a jigsaw puzzle that can be solved by working it out multiple times. Urban design is theoretically conceptualised from the time a locality is born. But putting thought behind every lane, settlement and recreational spot, the path turns and junctions occur as and when the locality develops and grows over time. We don't just have to design for the future. As cities reflect culture, one can capture the roots of the same culture to survive in the future. Every evolving city and each town that will one day be a city will speak for themselves. And that will be the language of the architecture of that city. Author: Rohit Suraj is CEO & Design Director at Urban Zen. He has designed and executed a vast spectrum of projects of varying scales and profiles, starting from multi-million-dollar international mega ports to masterplan developments, mid-rise buildings, niche villas and boutiques.

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