Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Right To The City.

Henry Lefebvre - The French Giant.

He was a critic of disciplinary over specialization such as that between economics, geography and sociology, which 'parcelled up' the study of space. He worked on dialectics, alienation, and criticism of Stalinism and structuralism. Lefebvre wrote more than sixty books and three hundred articles.

Lefebvre defined everyday life dialectically as the intersection of "illusion and truth, power and helplessness; the intersection of the sector man controls and the sector he does not control“ and is where the perpetually transformative conflict occurs between diverse, specific rhythms: the body’s polyrhythmic bundles of natural rhythms, physiological (natural) rhythms, and social rhythms. The idea was that through auto critique, people could understand and then revolutionize their everyday lives. This was essential to Lefebvre because everyday life was where he saw capitalism surviving and reproducing itself. Without revolutionizing everyday life, capitalism would continue to diminish the quality of everyday life, and inhibit real self-expression.

Henry Lefebvre (1901-1991)
"Change life! Change Society! These ideas lose completely their meaning without producing an appropriate space. A lesson to be learned from soviet constructivists from the 1920s and 30s, and of their failure, is that new social relations demand a new space, and vice-versa."

Lefebvre’s right to the city is an argument for profoundly reworking both the social relations of capitalism and the current structure of liberal-democratic citizenship. His right to the city is not a suggestion for reform, nor does it envision a fragmented, tactical, or piecemeal resistance. His idea is instead a call for a radical restructuring of social, political, and economic relations, both in the city and beyond.

 Urban space figures are so centrally placed in the ‘Right to the City’, it is important to say a word about Lefebvre’s notion of space. He takes an extremely expansive view that encompasses much more than just concrete space. Lefebvre’s idea of space includes what he calls perceived space, conceived space, and lived space . Perceived space refers to the relatively objective, concrete space people encounter in their daily environment. Conceived space refers to mental constructions of space, creative ideas about and representations of space. Lived space is the complex combination of perceived and conceived space. It represents a person’s actual experience of space in everyday life. Lived space is not just a passive stage on which social life unfolds, but represents a constituent element of social life. Therefore, social relations and lived space are inescapably hinged together in everyday life.
Producing urban space, for Lefebvre, necessarily involves reproducing the social relations that are bound up in it. The production of urban space therefore entails much more than just planning the material space of the city; it involves producing and reproducing all aspects of urban life. For Lefebvre, then, “the right to the city is like a cry and a demand... a transformed and renewed right to urban life.”

 The right to the city involves two principal rights for urban inhabitants: the right to participation, and the right to appropriation.

The right to participation - maintains that citadins should play a central role in any decision that contributes to the production of urban space.

The right to appropriation -  includes the right of inhabitants to physically access, occupy, and use urban space, and so this notion has been the primary focus of those who advocate the right of people to be physically present in the space of the city.
David Harvey described the right to city as : -

‘The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization. The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is, I want to argue, one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights.’

The Right to the City

should modify, concretize and make more practical the
rights of the citizen as an urban dweller (citadin) and
user of multiple services. It would affirm, on the one
hand, the right of users to make known their ideas on
the space and time of their activities in the urban area;
it would also cover the right to the use of the centre, a
privileged place, instead of being dispersed and stuck
into ghettos.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Chandigarh - The Influence of Le Corbusier & His Team

'Modern life demands, and is waiting for, a new kind of plan, both for the house and the city.'
'Space and light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep.'

After the tragic death of Nowicki, Mayer gave up the work and new face in Le Corbusier was given the opportunity to build his 'dream city'. Le Corbusier duly considered the Mayer –Nowicki plan, but introduced several major changes. The socio-economic conditions and the living habits of the people ruled out the idea of vertical and horizontal planning. The planning team included Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, Corbusier’s cousin and practice partner; Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, a British husband and wife team who had experience designing for a tropical climate from working in West Africa with a large team of Indian architects, both new and experienced.

Le Corbusier conceived the master plan of Chandigarh as analogous to human body, with a clearly defined head (the Capital Complex, Sector 1), the heart (the City Centre, Sector 17), lungs (the leisure valley, innumerable open space, green spaces and their linkages), the circulatory system(the network of roads, the 7Vs’) and the viscera (the Industrial Area).

The concept of the city is based on four major functions : Living, Working, Care of body and Spirit and Circulation. Residential sector constitute the living part whereas the Capitol Complex, city centre, Educational Zone (Post Graduate Institute, Punjab Engineering College, Punjab University) and the Industrial Area constitute the working part. The Leisure Valley, Gardens, Sector Greens and Open Courtyards etc. are for the care of body and spirit. The circulation system comprises of 7 different types of roads known as 7 Vs Later on a pathways for cyclists called V8 were added to this circulation system. As per records, the phase-I of the master plan was up to Sector 25. Later the city was extended in the space available east of Sector 7,19 and 20 and numbered 26,27,28,29 and 30 and further towards phase II.

Concept Plan - The Grid Pattern, Factors relating the Human-Nature Relationship, the Hierarchy of Roads and the placement of things in relation with  the body of a human being

PLAN (PHASE I) with its green lungs, linking them in order to function the urban ecosystem efficiently and providing the inhabitants the principle of care of body and spirit.

Le Corbusier Vision for the City formation; Biological phenomena – cities also have brain,  heart, lungs, limbs and arteries like human being.

Comparison between Corbusian Principles and Ekistics Principles

“We are fond of the crowd and the crush because we are human beings and like to live in groups. In such a town as I have outlined, with a denser population than that of any existing cities, there would be ample provision and opportunity for close human contact; there would be trees, flowers and spreading lawns.” - LC

'Le Corbusier was the clearest example [of planners designing optimal cities according to so-called scientific principles]. He and other planners had a minimalist conception of human nature. A human being needs so many cubic feet of air per day, a temperature within a certain range, so many gallons of water, and so many square feet in which to sleep and work.' The era which followed the Corbusian era saw many developments and changes in the policy and principles outlined by Le Corbusier for the city's development in accordance with the human values and human-nature relationship majorly. 

 The Bigger Picture of Chandigarh

The first part of this story can be reached at Pre Corbusian Era of Chandigarh.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Chandigarh - The Only Built City of Le Corbusier

The Union Territory of Chandigarh is located in the foothills of the Shivalik hill ranges in the north, which form a part of the fragile Himalayan ecosystem. It is occupied by Kandi (Bhabhar) in the north east and Sirowal (Tarai) and alluvial plains in the remaining part. The subsurface formation comprises of beds of boulders, pebbles, gravel, sand, silt, clays and some Kankar. The area is drained by two seasonal rivulets viz Sukhna Choe in the east and Patiala-Ki-Rao Choe in the west. The central Part forms a surface water and has two minor steams. The steam passing through the central part is called N-Choe.

Soon after the Partition of the then 'Bharat', the need of a new Capital for the State of Punjab was felt. About 70 sq. km. of land between the rivulets PatialaChoe and SukhnaChoe were acquired as per a Master Plan developed by Le Corbusier which had a number of control mechanisms such as architectural control, frame control, advertisement control and zoning to regulate development. In 1966, Punjab State was reorganized and Chandigarh became the Capital of Punjab & Haryana having an area of 70 sq. km. and 26 adjoining villages with an area of 44 sq. km. The total area of the city being 114 sq. Km.

Mayer and Nowicki had prepared a master plan for a population of 500,000. It was based on grid system of low-density neighbourhood defined by a grid of roads. The roads were slightly curved to follow the contours of site and the major traffic arteries would appear dull and monotonous if kept straight. 
The partition of India led to the State of Punjab, in the
boundaries of  'Hindustan' without a capital
zone, Lahore being the earlier one which came in the
boundaries of 'Pakistan'.

The Choes(rivulet), Shivalik Ranges and the Morni Hills are in the backdrop of the City Site.

Plan based on organic form of leaf.  The stem of the leaf was  compared with a commercial  axis, which cuts through  the centre of the city. Traffic arteries would  branch out from this stem.
The unit of housing was a superblock with 500 M x 1000 M dimensions. Each superblock was to consist of 3 blocks which would contain Housing, School, Shopping centers, among other amenities. 3 types of housing for Low, Middle and High-income groups were planned around a central green space. Different income group were mixed intentionally to avoid rigid stratification.

The capital Complex was proposed to be sited at the northern end of the city , with the city centre  in the centre and industrial sector in the east. Two natural valleys which run across the site were proposed to be developed  as park strips. Nowicki was tragically killed in an airplane crash and Mayer decided to leave the project. Then came the face of Edward Jeanerette commonly known as Le Corbusier, the team of his then designed and planned the city to the built form.  Le Corbusier duly considered the Mayer –Nowicki plan, but introduced several major changes. The socio-economic conditions and the living habits of the people ruled out the idea of vertical and horizontal planning.

The arrival of Le Corbusier and his team changed a lot of things and hence the shape and design changed which would have been the other way, if Nowicki wouldn't have got killed. Well, that's just the if's and but's. Le Corbusier did a commendable job while planning and designing one of India's first planned city after the country got its independence.   

Photo of the  Earlier Construction Phase of the Deelopment of the formation of the city of Chandigarh
Sketches by Maxwell Fry 
defining the location of the city
onto the map.

This journey is continued at Corbusian Era of Chandigarh Development.

The WaterLOGGING of the National Capital of the Republic of India.

The arrival of the monsoon hits the Urban space of Delhi badly, which is on the verge of becoming one of the world's earliest megacities. The problems is being faced by the inhabitants from decades and no such ground measures have been set or implemented which enhances the overall hydrological cycles of the region for the long term to come for the better and efficient existence of the city which has been made the capital of its kingdom several times. For the sustainable development of any space, one factor which holds its importance pretty much is the management of the river systems which consists of the hydrology as well. Planners have took a several measures one of which includes the building the nallas (drains), which allows the run-off directly to the means of its disposal. Reduction in the surface run-off has degraded the water levels of many of the cities across the Globe which is a concerning factor for designing the cities of the future. Have a look at some of the clicks taken from the parts of New Delhi.

The area in the South Delhi where first the construction of the Metro route has been delayed leaving behind the daily commuters facing a lot difficulties during their daily journey and then the water logged areas has further degraded the overall situation.

Not only the main approach road is water logged, there are areas in front of the residences which are filled with usual water after a few minutes of shower. The situation is from the city where the inhabitants are a lot concerned of their so called 'Standard Of Living.'

The situation worsens itself in the months of July-August(which has also becoming late with every passage of a year due to the changes in the natural systems with the ever increasing human intervention.) The areas could be seen well a more than feet logged with water intervening and effecting the transit system badly.

A city is a place of formation of social groups as a resultant of the heterogeneous character of the inhabitants residing which transforms the order of the community and thus regulating the shape, characters to the city. It's more of a collective approach which holds the key in the social and economic well-being of a city/urban space. The government is just a medium of the management and they can be guided in many ways in the advanced world of today and they can be left with a set of examples as well at the individual level, community level or may be ward level. The promotion of the 'Local Area Planning' needs a mention here as well as the approach followed by the planners and designers seems to get failed from the very first step itself. They needs a set of revival policies here as India is, with a decent pace being urbanized every moment that passes by. India is in a mid-way of the process of urbanization and if a wider aspect related the planning and formation of the sustainable settlements of tomorrow, a lot can be saved and planned accordingly. Also, the context of planning and situations prevailing has to be wisely considered. Foreign models can't be directly transferred

Cities can't be developed and designed by the concerning authorities and government organizations, It's more of the community involvement and participation which shapes the city. Cities are more of a biological phenomenon and hence it can be moulded around the needs and perception of the citizens inhabiting the space.

Friday, December 13, 2013

What is a City?

The city in its complete sense, then, is a geographic plexus, an economic organization, an institutional process, a theatre of social action, and an aesthetic symbol of collective unity. The city fosters art and is art; the city creates the theatre and is the theatre. It is in the city, the city theatre, that man’s more purposive activities are focused, and work out, through conflicting and cooperating personalities, events, groups, into more significant culminations
The Advanced Human Settlement
Source :- https://www.ratestogo.com/blog/three-most-futuristic-cities/
The above quoted lines are taken from the essays of Lewis Mumford from his work on the ‘Architectural Record (1937). Mumford arguably made the complex nexus of the cities to very simple through his words. He calls it a network of geographic elements, the prosperous future of economics for the liveliness of the cities, a place where the knowledge based activities flourish and steps are attempted to increase the standards of living. The comparison of the cities with the theatre of social action is the most humane and natural process that occurs where a few people shares their views, spaces (marketplace, green areas, institutions, etc,) together. Mumford beautifully explained a city that gives the individuals residing, a sense of an aesthetic symbol of the oneness, i.e. the collective unity. What is said to be the understanding of the cities in the post second world war era, holds pretty much true in the current picturesque, except a few major changes that the existence of the urban spaces experienced especially after the formation of the various world and state organisations, global spread of the technologies and the so-called modernisation, to name some.

Elizabeth Wilson in her work 'The Sphinx in The City' describes a city and its ever increasing hemisphere from the 'excluded' point of view and calls it as the "preconditions for the continuing struggle, since in the city the poor, although 'excluded from the comforts of the city, are exposed to its modernity.' " She describes city as a space, where the gulf between what is and what might be appears to get widen.
The City raises aspirations of its citizens and gives more chance of their realisation. The city is a gathering of people from diverse culture and regions, collectively forming the so-called 'sub-culture' which constitutes the basic thing behind the functioning of the city.