Creating sustainable economies for city space

Fri, 2015-12-18 12:46 -- SCC India Staff

ParkedBench by WMB Studio

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities
The intelligence of the city is on the streets. How they adapt, thereby grow and thus, sustain is what matters. Creating sustainable economies by the city for itself, not just in monetary terms but in totalitarian terms as well is of extreme importance.

For instance, there is 596 acres of vacant public land in Brooklyn converted to community space resources. The Cineroleum London, was converted from derelict infrastructure to a beautiful cinema. Even Newham London, has a deserted site converted to Civic Centre, an apt use of an abandoned space, right in city centre – an unoccupied, jilted space adaptively reused and given back to the same city. Many a time, new areas are identified and the city is on a forever urban sprawl pushing its boundaries and redefining its peripheries. However, there are also times when the old makes way for the new. A vacant lot opens up right in the middle of the hustle-bustle, which when given away by the local authority, can manifest into a building overnight. Such are the demands of urbanisation.  But instead, what if the local authorities choose to use it as an open spot that infuses light and air, into the surrounding and offers the city a new lease of life? Lentspace Newyork, is one such example of turning a vacant lot to a public square - one that offers a much needed respite from the clutter of the city. Benefits of adaptive strategies are as follows:

  • Testing alternative uses or new practices
  • New resources for creative local economy boost
  • Intensification of use in public spaces
  • Beyond economic capital
  • Focus on collaborative processes

Where, on the one hand, cities offer a plot of land that has been recently vacated, accidently sidelined, or dumped as a waste land for years, which could be adapted for newer strategies of creative spaces, it also definitely asks us to be more creative and find such spaces on our own. There is a cliché heard more often than once that, one doesn’t have time – one has to make time! And so goes for the city space. How do you find spaces in city that are already bursting to their seams with maximum occupations? Answer is – be creative.

In recent years, cities around the world have begun to embrace the parklet—a miniature rest stop for pedestrians that extends public space from the sidewalk by sacrificing one or more parking spaces—as a way to improve urban life. A case in point would be London’s initiative towards a parklet. ParkedBench is a portable micropark that offers public seating, a touch of plant life, and an air quality monitor that provides real-time data. Public seating amidst the high pedestrian traffic zone, with planters and greenery, makes an immediate urban intervention ready to be welcomed with open arms. Similarly, the Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project at Ahmedabad has attracted much attention for its concept, approach and achievements nationally and internationally. The project made the river perennially water-filled, gifted citizens with open spaces and established itself as a modern landmark. The Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project thus became a citizen’s idea, a community initiative and a people’s project.