Thursday, August 30, 2012

Urban design: Enhancing the experience of the city

Urban design is the art and science of designing and shaping cities, towns and even villages. The objective of the entire process is to make urban areas functional, attractive, and sustainable. Urban design integrates various aspects like planning and transportation policy, architectural design, development economics, engineering and landscape and then draws these and other strands together to find a vision and then successfully deploy the resources and skills needed to bring this vision to life.

Focusing on integrating technology, landscape and, urban life and ambience, the urban design may ensure economic and environmental sustainability. A good city considers the important relationship between buildings and the beauty of the city as a whole. It may be, thus, concluded that the outstanding urban designs are those that are not only visually stimulating, but are also sensitive and respectful of their surrounding developments and environment.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Housing the Next Million

Sahara Integrated Township, Jhansi

Planning ideas in creating a model Integrated Township were focussed on appealing to a diverse population in Tier-II cities by providing a socially, economically and environmentally aspirational standard of living. The project is designed to provide the residents simultaneous benefits of living and recreation along with economic opportunities in close proximity to their homes, and offers  the developer a framework to build in phases while remaining flexible to the changing future real estate opportunities in the region.

To amplify the benefits of agglomerating a variety of land uses with an affordable housing project within the same boundary, the scheme offers a host of commercial, institutional, recreational and infrastructure facilities intelligently zoned and phased. The format of building a high-density high-rise residential development ensures a comfortable built-to-open space ratio and ease of vehicular/pedestrian access with ample hassle-free parking. The design then does not simply become a USP but also an inspiring concept of urbanism in India which allows for compact mixed use development around meaningful green open spaces.

Presentation Credits: Pawan Bangali, Rajarshi Das, Abdul Bari,  Atanu Deb, Subhradip Roy & Chetan Lahori

Monday, August 13, 2012

Breaking the Habit

BRTS & the Cities of India

By Abdul Bari
Pedestrian & Public Transport User,
Architect Urban Designer

One wonders, what makes certain things work in one city and fail miserably in another. It may still be comprehensible to the casual mind if it were cities in different countries or continents we were talking about, but when it comes to cities in the same country it needs some pondering.

There were recent news reports on how well the Ahmadabad BRTS was doing, and on how it has gained public acceptance gradually, but steadily, among the higher classes of its people. It had some mind-boggling figures to the tune of 23% bikers, 25% auto rickshaw users and 3% car users shifting to the BRTS for their daily commute! That is quite an achievement for a new concept to get such a city-wide acceptance. Though it wasn’t a piece of cake, as we can imagine, but still having gone through the initial doubts and criticisms it is now well on its way to spread its network. And it won’t be long before it becomes a city habit.

And then we have the Delhi BRTS, with its criticisms and court appeals. Being a daily commuter on Delhi’s only BRT corridor I couldn’t help appreciating the meticulousness that is apparent in its design and execution. And even maintenance. Yet for all it’s worth the bus I take still doesn’t take the lane designed specifically for it, nor does it alight by the bus shelter that is designed for it in the middle of the corridor. There was a court order a few days back allowing mixed traffic on all lanes of the corridor, but why should that stop buses from using the lanes that have been designed for them? The BRT has apparently reported 32% increase in bus ridership, but somehow this figure has no impact on its wide-scale public acceptance or support.

The most common justification we hear on this difference between two cities getting such varied public responses within the same country, is that the Delhi BRTS is an open system while that of Ahmadabad in a closed one. This means, Delhi BRTS allows traffic from the non-BRTS road network to mingle with it at various points. My personal experience with this; I would wait for the bus to enter the BRT corridor because it would mean faster unhindered travel, and dread re-entering the conventional road network because that would mean unpredictability. The reason I use that word is; and i am sure people who have been in organized traffic in foreign countries will mostly agree, that it is the most important thing about road traffic. If one can predict how long it is going to take to negotiate it, then that is a hundred times better than not knowing when you will be relieved of that torture. And that is how road commuters are supposed to plan their travels. Non-BRT corridors in Delhi with its mixed traffic and erratic commuter behaviour are never predictable. And that precisely is what the BRT offers - predictability.

The Delhi BRT Corridor

The conventional Delhi Roads

The only complaints we hear about the BRT are by the car-owners, whose only complaint again, is they have to wait at the signal for far too long than they would like. Their general habit is to just keep moving, even if that is at a ridiculous speed because that is how they are used to commuting. They have become so habitual to chaos that order is now frustrating them. Agreed that the signal phasing of the Delhi BRTS needs to be a little more innovative but in principle a BRTS should work as well in Delhi as it is in Ahmadabad even if the Delhi volumes are much higher. It is a matter of breaking the habit of the commuters which has been so moulded over years and years of bad public transport and inequitable road planning. One cannot imagine the current road network accommodating more and more private vehicles every year. The only alternative is public transport and the BRTS is the current best practice worldwide. I don’t think there is a better explanation of this scenario than what the Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has said, that the BRT is “for the common man,” but it faces hurdles from “vested interests.” What we have to acknowledge here is that our only chance of survival is together. Everyone requires a piece of road, and equitable road space planning is the only way for us to move forward.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Creating Impressions...

By Abdul Bari
Architect Urban Designer

There is generally an institutional resistance to adopting new technologies. But technological advancement for attaining a higher efficiency and a better quality output has been a constant endeavour at Design Atelier Urbis. Following the incorporation of Autodesk Revit in the design studio, and the development of a customized work smart studio management system codenamed ‘CONCERT’ to monitor studio activities, there was casual experimentation of a lesser known software application by Autodesk named ‘Impression’. And the outcome is what you see below!

We found Autodesk Impression to be a much lighter and easy to use alternative to Adobe Photoshop for making attractive and legible design illustrations like master plans, landscape schemes, rendered elevations & sections, views, etc. The software was tested on variety of projects of different scales and types;  from a 10 Acre housing scheme to a 150 Acre integrated township to a schematic industrial landscape for a Power Plant; and was found to be twice as fast as Photoshop in delivering a product of the same (maybe even better) quality. A very handy application indeed during the crunch! 

Further ‘impressive’ aspects of the application are its compatibility with other drawing/graphic formats and its block library. It imports, and even identifies layers from .dwg and .psd formats, allows for .dwg links to be updated at any stage of the work, and gives high resolution outputs in JPEG, PDF, PSD, TIFF and other standard formats. The block library is populated with ready to use plans and elevations for Trees, human figures, automobiles in different presentation styles. The drag-and-drop interface for the blocks makes for very quick working. Downside - the application crashes very easily, which means you can lose a lot of work in an instant and without warning! Though there are intelligent ways of finding one’s way around it, like packing the elements in your layers and importing clean geometry into your workspace. Moreover, we hear there’s a new release which is more stable and high performance.

So, our stance is that if you’ve got the resolve and enjoy making pretty illustrations and rendered drawings, this software will go a long way in creating lasting first impressions!

Presentation Credits: Abdul Bari, Rajarshi Das & Sarvesh Jaiswal

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hospitality Interiors - Creating Unforgettable Experiences

Creating unforgettable interior environments as memorable guest experiences should be motive of a great designer of hospitality sector. And this can be achieved with original, personal & thoughtful design aesthetics. Each project should have its own signature design, differentiated by architectural elements, finishes, furnishings, accessories, lighting and art to create style, image and an inviting ambiance.

Green Architecture For India

Almost non-existent in modern Indian cities till few years back, sustainable architecture is now gaining some attention. However, it may not be wrong to state that ambiguity on what exactly constitutes sustainable architecture do exists as well.

In India, ancient reservoir of knowledge can help reduce energy consumption in buildings today. To some extent "Vaastu Shastra" do advocate and guide us on how to create green buildings. Climate-responsive architectural design is age old tradition in India and courtyards, clusters, wind towers, roof terraces and jaalis (stone lattices) were built for effective climate control. The need is to combine modern technology with traditional methods. It may also be said that for an ideal green building all one has to do is to look and get ideas from nature. As in his hugely  successful book Design with Nature, published in 1969, Ian McHarg says that: “If one accepts the simple proposition that Nature is the arena of life and that a modicum of knowledge of her process is indispensable for survival and rather more for existence, health and delight, it is amazing that how many apparently difficult problems present a ready solution.”

While designing with nature at a building level, one should recognise sun paths, breezes, shade trees and rock formations so that people can inhabit comfortably. Natural features like trees, animal tracks, habitats and natural drainage systems must also be protected. Building a collection pond for rainwater is another ancient method to reduce consumption of supplied water. Rainwater flows are retained and water runs into a pond at the lower end of the site. 

It must also be understood that the social, political, economical and cultural context of India would also have to be addressed while designing environmentally sustainable architecture so that solutions are sensitive to its particularities.

"Using conservative design methods, a potentially staggering impact on the power-water consumption of the country could result if effective ways are found to support change in products and processes across the built environment. Imagine if buildings could be designed to be used through the day without electrical lights, or to run air-conditioning needs on pre-cooled recycled water or to use all natural and paid resources conservatively and then say multiply this model to the entire city to gauge the impact," points Aashish V. Karode (B.Arch.; M.U.D. (Berkeley) Principal, Planning and Design Services, Design Atelier, New Delhi)

CII - Godrej Green Business Centre, Hyderabad is the first platinum rated green building in the world outside the USA. It is the first platinum rated green building of the world under LEED version 2.0.