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Inclusive design process a must for sustainability

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Any city is a complex entity with many different layers. Its numerous definitions change and redefine themselves over time and across different fields. However, the way our cities are being shaped, it is a curious tale of how the people for whom the cities are designed, are hardly involved in this process. It is safe to say that ‘city making’ cannot and should not be a process for a single agency to attempt. Many governments across the world, including our own, are slowly acknowledging this fact.

Experts from various backgrounds look at the city from different focal points. People and agencies, which act towards improving the city, do so at different capacities. But, the key of having a common platform for knowledge exchange has always seemed to be missing. With this in mind, DELHi 2050 was started in 2010 by Anne Feenstra, Principal of arch-i platform, as a process to fundamentally rethink the future of the capital of India. It is an open platform where people from the government, private agencies, autonomous institutes and citizens come together in a single forum to contribute towards the betterment of the city. This multidisciplinary approach encourages interaction between different fields and synergy between different efforts towards a common goal of making the city more sustainable.

Last year, the DELHi2050 team comprising researchers and experts travelled to various institutes of knowledge in the city. The interactions with the professionals, academicians and students brought forth new ideas and themes drawing from their specific backgrounds. The amalgamation of these ideas with the perspectives of the experts resulted in conversations steering towards unexpected directions and brought forth unconventional and creative ideas.

One idea was the use of Health Impact Assessments for new developments, another idea was Urban Mapping of Carbon Footprint and yet another idea was to address the issue of identity to impact ownership, safety, informality, community, disaster management and even sustainability. This multidisciplinary approach strengthens the core idea of sustainability at the level of a city, where systems and ideas focus on a more holistic approach.

The Delhi2050 process is the formula of an open platform that offers conversation between the various stakeholders in the city making process. It goes beyond the static objectives of singular interventions and rulebook changes, suggesting possible changes in action by people for the people. Such dynamic visions and innovative action plans rather than static Master plans will engage and empower the inhabitants of the city to find healthy, humane and self-sustainable long-term solutions for the problems ailing the city.

The exercise towards bottom – up planning by bringing together the experts, government agencies and the public resulted in the cross questioning among three groups of – ‘City makers’, ‘Policy makers and ‘City dwellers’. The issues highlighted were the scale and level of public participation, language of the government, the Master Plan not being legible to the public and the need for the Indian mind-set to shift from a rural to a more urbane one. The general agreement among all the distinctive groups was to look at solutions by re-evaluating the methods of public participation that the government engages in, the need for more focused action plans and participation of the public through representation by elected experts for a more robust planning process.

Case Study: Dwarka

Dutch experts, architect Matthijs Bouw of Dutch Water Design/ONE Architecture from Amsterdam and designer Rianne Makkink of Studio Makkink & Bey from Rotterdam joined the research on Dwarka to focus on fundamentally re-thinking the biggest challenge of Dwarka – the water!

The emphasis was on developing scenarios to better manage water on the scales of the individual, societal and urban level. With the joint effort of SPA Delhi, JMI, INTACH and local activists, the team is finding ways to restore the balance between demand and supply of water. The participation of the Dwarka residents being essential, Residents’ Welfare Associations (RWA) are being identified to take the concepts forward for actual implementation.

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