Streetscaping and Canal-front Development along Shihab Thangal Road in Panampally Nagar is a part of the Master Plan for Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) for Kochi, southern state of Kerala. With the purpose of encouraging walking and cycling in the City, the Kochi Metro Rail Limited initiated preparation of a DPR for NMT Master Plan emphasizing street-design and urban place-making. Focusing on retrofitting major streets, it was essential to develop place-making and environment design solutions to transform public spaces.
Third Award | DAF 2016 Awards
Category: Urban Design (Built)
Participant Name: Adarsha Kapoor
Team Members: Neetu A. Joseph, Rajkumar Sharma
Respecting the larger vision, a pilot project was identified based on existing conditions, location and potential of the area to accommodate public spaces and encourage NMT usage. The then undermined Shihab Thangal Road along the canal was an ideal area for intervention. Its transformation proved to bear a ripple effect – for people it became a new day-trip destination and for investors, it reaped business. For planning and implementing agencies, the direct benefit was capacity-building and convincing stakeholders who were initially hesitant to participate. Now, the concerned agencies are confident to experiment with innovative solutions for public space design and are receiving support from investors.
Shihab Thangal road, with canal on its east and residences on its west, was a dump-yard and an unauthorized parking space for the neighboring areas. It was a source of pollution and lacked basic infrastructure that could render it useable for and accessible to road-users. Detailed surface utilization study, mapping and analysis and need and impact assessments conducted supported drafting of principles for city-wide NMT planning, standardized pre-project actions and informed case-specific designs. In-principle it was decided that project areas would be visually and physically permeable, be designed and have dedicated space for active use (cycling), leisure walks and social interaction. It would retain existing trees and amalgamate fragmented green areas into useable landscapes with seating and resting facilities. Such zones would necessarily be universally accessible and have infrastructure to host activities after sunset. Further, all designs and specifications had respect mandates of Indian policies, codes and laws and refer to best practices around the world.
Design solutions developed kept in mind limitations, need for resource protection and maximization and securing desired response. For example, area being linear and limited in width the needs of pedestrians, seated persons, bystanders and cyclists was altering alignment of the footpath to connecting exit points through landscaped and social spaces without increasing walking distance or obstructing cyclists. Further, for safety of the space users, the footpath is built of anti-skid tile and is visually distinguishable from the cycle-path as the latter is a painted cement surface. To protect the canal, ensure its continual maintenance and enhance its visual appeal, rainwater harvesting and storm-water drainage channels were planned, its retaining wall was reconstructed and its fence was rendered transparent.
The project had its share of oppositions– from Public litigations to apprehensions – all were resolved time to time, and post implementation, the extent transformation is appreciated by all stakeholders of Kochi. It has paved the way for more pro-NMT and public space designs in Kochi.