Urban Assemblies: 

Radical Interventions in Loose Public Space 

Ahmedabad is full of vacant lands, both public and private, whose surreptitious adoption by tactical citizens supplements the city’s dearth of accessible open space. Contested bans on planned land uses, legal disputes, and uncoordinated developments produce an abundance of loosely
organised vague space within the city. Sitting alongside high densities, much is temporarily occupied while waiting for its ‘official’ function, with
activities vital for the social life of the city. (Cricket! Driving Practice! Festivals!) But the condition is temporary; eventually buildings replace the
activated space, and actors must move. What if, instead of erasure, new programs were imagined alongside current occupations? Though they are publicly owned, these open lands rarely have public access.


As the city grows, plots are set aside for government use. Though they are technically public, rarely may the public access. This studio turns that relationship on its head. By mapping space activation on such sites as-found, the lessons of possibility are applied to an underused “public” site, reimagining it as a space that supports, and is accessible to, the public. 

 

Students’ inquiry into the city is guided through four modules: 

 

City As Found an exercise in mapping to uncover not only physical but also temporal conditions on the ground, and to explore their interdependencies. Drawing strategies interrelate time, movement and physical scale to communicate the systems and structures that organise urban space and time.

 

Testing Claims a pilot project, to quickly test assumptions about how people react to design intervention. Development of a design argument, execution, pilot and reflection take students through the full design process before positioning their own project.

 

City As Desired the definition of concerns to address by each student designer [manifesto], and a proposition by which these are tested. An iterative process between manifesto and intervention generates an innovative design narrative rooted in the city-as-found.

 

Talking To The City– a focused reframing of the argument, meant to communicate the value of the project to city officials and the general public. In the era of COVID-19, new ideas for public space are needed, and the relevance of the design narrative is tested through this lens.

 

 

 

Design Studio: Level 3 BUD Studio, CEPT University

Tutors: Melissa Smith and Chandrani Chakrabarti      Teaching Associate: Vaidehi Shah 

01

City As Found

Time, Space and Scale

The City As Found celebrates events as the backbone of urban organisation. Driven by the premise that the material city grows around events (and not the other way!), the studio observed and identified the urban context as a series of events in time. Initial investigations used rigorous mapping, drawing, and imaging to identify the changing character of spaces that seamlessly tie together different actors. These time-cycles were then layered against an analysis of the structure and organisation of built morphologies, to generate a frame for exploration.

Executing and Recording a Pilot 

Claims were tested through an initial pilot, where potential ideas for intervening in the city were carried out on the ground in a short duration, and documented. Students pitched proposals, collectively decided on one, and designed and produced a 1:1 scale project, on the site on a shoestring budget. To evaluate expectations versus actual outcomes, they simulated the scenario and documented and compared their expectations beforehand with the experience after.

03

City As Desired

Speculating Interventions that Transform Character

In a dearth of public space, what potential sites exist that can transform into an alternative urban assembly? Do they exist at certain times of the day or week, seasons, or years? Drawing on
 a particular site chosen from the set of sites analysed, and as a continuation of the framework they have uncovered in the “City As Found”, students commit themselves to a design manifesto, which they use to radically speculate propositions for transforming an urban public space. The focus is on the scale impact rather than the physical scale of intervention.

04

Talking To The City

AMC Attention Campaign 

The studio intended to test each design strategy’s resilience through an imagination of extreme future scenarios (flood, political breakdown, economic excess, crisis). We are now living out one of the extreme scenarios
 we might have studied, speculating about our own cities’ resilience to the impacts of the coronavirus. In response to this, students identified the catalyst of their design – a strategy, an element, a particular site and develop a social media campaign for it that aims to get the attention of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC). They used their campaign to propose how their catalyst might offer the city another way to inhabit, or to use, its public space. 

Seminars

01 Studio Background-  Public Space and its Relationship to the City

Jacqueline Groth, E. C. (2005). Reclaiming Urbanity: Indeterminate Spaces, Informal Actors and Urban Agenda Setting. Sage Journals .

Shirley Ballaney, M.-A. B. (2013). Inventory of Public Land in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.

Jacqueline Groth, E. C. (2005). Reclaiming Urbanity: Indeterminate Spaces, Informal Actors and Urban Agenda Setting. Sage Journals .

Dovey, K. ( 2016). Urban Design Thinking: A Conceptual Toolkit. Bloomsbury Academic.

02 Seminar Week: Lenses to the City 

Gauri Bharat - Informal Networks and the Business of Cows.

Anjaria, J. S. (2012). Is there a Culture of Indian Streets?

Renu Pokharna - Incentivizing Public Policy and Working with Policy Makers.

Parth Shah, ‎. M. (2005). The Terracotta vs. Green Vision: Restructuring Incentives vs. Reforming Human Nature.

Pritchett, L. (2009). Is India a Flailing State?: Detours on the Four Lane Highway to Modernization. HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series.

Varma, A. (2010). Urban Planning -- A Short Story.

Navdeep Mathur- Planning and Politics in Ahmedabad.

Mathur, N. (2012). On the Sabarmati Riverfront: Urban Planning as Totalitarian Governance in Ahmedabad. Economic & Political Weekly.

Chinmay Tumbe- Urban Temporality and Migration in Cities.  

Avni Sethi- The Hold of Memory on Space

Certeau, M. d. (1988). The Practice of Everyday Life. University of California Press.

03  Terrain Vague- Potentials of Indeterminate Space.

Chow, R. (2015). Changing Chinese Cities: The Potentials of Field Urbanism. University of Hawai'i Press.

Mariani, P. B. (1995). Terrain Vague: Interstices at the Edge of the Pale.

04 Vacant Lands- Vacant Lands and Dense Cities.

Owen, H. (2012). Across the Plaza: The Public Voids of the Post-soviet City. Strelka Press.

Corbin, C. I. (2003). Vacancy and the Landscape: Cultural Context and Design Response. Landscape Journal, Vol. 22, No. 1, 12-24.

 

05 Tactical Urbanism- Actors in the City and their Tactics.

 Anthony Garcia, M. L. (2015). Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change. Island Press.

Hou, J. (2010). Insurgent Public Space: Guerrilla Urbanism and the Remaking of Contemporary Cities. Routledge.

 

06 Radical Interventions- Constructing a Design Manifesto.

Jencks, C. (1997). Theories and Manifestoes of Contemporary Architecture. Academy Press.

07 Developing a design parti 

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08 Design Thinking- Dissecting Design Decision Making Processes.

Dovey, K. ( 2016). Urban Design Thinking: A Conceptual Toolkit. Bloomsbury Academic.

Rowe, P. G. (1991). Design Thinking. MIT Press.

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