Potential: Urban Voids – From ‘Liability’ to ‘Possibility’:

Urban Voids make a dent in the urban structure of a city. People often transform such spaces spontaneously through momentary activities. The reuse is viewed as having a negative effect and thus such a space is categorized as an adversely stigmatized space, bringing about ecological degradation and psychological discomfort to the users. They become an urban obligation that needs to be dealt with. In any case, the versatile characteristics of such a space, which are exceptional to each spatial setting, are frequently overlooked.

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An overview of a flyover_©sciencestruck.com
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Types of Urban Voids_©ArushiJaswal

Urban voids can make spaces that have a powerful relationship with the neighboring urban environment and achieve imaginative changes to the urban landscape. As of now, the voids stand quiet, holding on to be used, to become ‘conceivable outcomes. Urban voids must be recognized and viewed as necessary pieces of urban texture for urban redevelopment. They can go about as arbiters between the current and the new. Such spaces can work as generators for innovative and enterprising articulations of a populace.

With rapid population growth, the price of land has also increased, and there is less space for much of the population. In the last 15 years of urban growth, there has been an urgent need to respond to better connectivity through infrastructural growth and development. New flyovers and interchanges were constructed when connectivity was complicated and to ease the problem of congestion. Overpasses were built to create free routes for the major arterial roads. However, it created a new issue with empty spaces. This urban void, put in the center of suburban areas, frequently failed to lead them to convert to heaven for criminal activity. Hence the space under the flyovers is the most neglected void.

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Space underneath a flyover in Bihar_©www.telegraphindia.com

Why space underneath Flyovers is the most neglected void

Various flyover schemes have taken place all over the city to address the city’s mobility needs. The flyovers are perceived as a symbol of modernity and are aimed at easing traffic congestion, endorsing economic development, and improving the connectivity overlooking the voids that are being generated under them. These spaces are neglected and form negative spaces. The government develops the flyovers intending to enhance the existing transportation facility for the middle- and high-income groups forgetting about the weaker sections of the society that inhabit the space below the flyover.

However, due to rising land prices and spatial internment, the migrants struggle for space for living and social and economic activities. Migrants attribute a thoughtful percent of the population; they remain unseen during the planning process of the city. City Planners and designers build projects with a futuristic vision that repeatedly lacks contextual needs. With the futuristic approach, they only consider structures and aesthetics. Their lack of foresight in planning and design creates urban voids; of which the area under the flyovers is one great example. Mostly these negative spaces are found as dead spaces or with unkempt landscaping. However, with the increase in the population and shortage of spaces in the city has made the area under the flyovers a void with great potential. These voids which are left unoccupied can be embraced for the upliftment of the weaker sections of the society or the need for public spaces within the city.

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Scrap vehicles illegally parked, cattle and mounds of garbage all vie for space under the flyover near Laxminarayan chowk in Pune_©Ravindra Joshi/ HT Photos

Utility, Worth, and Behaviour of spaces beneath the flyovers

The evaluation and knowing the value of the space beneath the flyover can be done by keeping in mind two aspects, the first being from the point of view of the city i.e., the development, improved operations, and robust growth that could be achieved in the future by utilizing the resources which are neglected and spaces that are considered useless. Secondly, from the citizens’ point of view, there is a growing level of spontaneous activities occupying the area that embodies the space beneath the flyovers. This unorganized blind usage may have harmed the flyover itself, and the individuals may not have an acceptable living setting.

The character of neglected space under the flyovers

The space underneath the elevated road is a sort of leftover space in comparison to other spaces in the urban fabric, and it has a different character, concerning urban advancement. It has its positives, and causes, as well as its inevitability. As the result, because of various potentialities of the utilization of the space and adjusting rules, its dynamic character exists, from factors affecting the dynamics of space itself and its availability as a potential space.


“City is sort of a living organism; it is necessary to confirm that its performance is functioning properly if it needs a normal, healthy growth, thus its body perform can’t be in a very full load operation” (2020; Christopher Kirwan, Zhiyong Fu). If it’s been operative at total capacity, then it cannot be a model of property development, it’s not possible to survive within the cruel nature of survival of the fittest.” The expansion and growth of the city cannot invariably be in excellent management over the state throughout the development process, it inevitably manifests itself that area could not be used” ( 2016; Gordon McGranahan, Daniel Schensul, Gayatri Singh). Due to the residual space that is created by the explanation of disparity of land, variations in economic development, and the transference of industrial, therefore we have a reason to concentrate on the present kind of unused area throughout the planning process, on the way to regulate them to stay among the acceptable range. Thus, for the readability of the urban fabric, the unused or residual space is inevitable produce that is created within the method of urban development, from the construction of flyovers itself, the leftover space is generated inevitably by the extensive scale development of the flyover, Likewise, the space as a region of space that does not exist in its entirety, this portion, on the one hand, has its initiative and, to become a component in sustaining the operation of the city, on the other hand, not all urban areas are full of functions, but are constantly in the process of regeneration, and so there would invariably be a barren, neglected, idle space-temporary presence. For the unused space underneath the flyover, there is just the presence of the structure of the flyover it formulates a definite space with the column and the surface, the space beneath is created inevitably and therefore has a question about the utilization of the space.

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Conceptualisation of Under the Flyover in Chennai City By KSM Architects_©www.ksmindia.com

Dynamic nature of spaces beneath flyover

The space left over as a form of space within the city, and is dynamically coupled with the different factors of the city, so it is not a static matter, the variables that create the space residual are closely connected to the urban spatial structure, the economy, the planning, and the space left over under these factors are expected to be in a state vector. For example, if the direction of urban development shifts according to the strategies and goal alterations of the government, the economic focus and metastases will also change. The change of these considerations would affect the relocation and conversion of the residual area within the city. This uncertainty is due to the dynamic nature of the space left behind by the lashing force that the state of mistreatment of the area beneath the flyover is not stagnant but is compatible with the needs of the population and the local environment.


We can say that residual spaces are the spaces that are not being used as per their potential or spaces that are underutilized, particularly it happens because the land price is high, not only that the space needs to be well integrated and optimized to its full potential before being exploited by enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the city as a whole. Hence, these spaces have the potential to be converted into a place from space. Now arises the question of its applicability and utilization.

Human behavior towards space beneath flyovers

One of the purposes of urban design is to provide a safe environment that provides a place for social activities. Spaces beneath the flyover are usually avoided by pedestrians because of being lifeless and unsafe with no measures to incorporate any activities that could take place there. But if the space is developed properly, the site would attract more people and encourage activities in the dead areas which could utilize the neglected space into a place with potential.

Examples of the changing environment under the flyover

  1. The Flyover School, Delhi:
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The Flyover School, Delhi_©www.theoptimistcitizen.com

The concept of having four walled places called a school has seen a new horizon. A private entity ran a free school for poor children living in the surrounding slums under a metro bridge in New Delhi, India. The school has about 40 students who sit on a mat under a flyover, and the blackboard has been painted on a building wall adhering to the flyover. Their classroom is now in the open amidst the heat and dirt, its roof is a metro line, and blackboards are painted onto a concrete wall of the flyover.

2. Supporting Entrepreneurship: Duct Tape Party

This concept has evolved in Singapore and is increasingly appealing to social entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In January 2017, the local people, a start-up business that manages independent craft markets, initiated the “Duct Tape Party” on the West Coast Highway Bridge along Clementi Lane. The festival included 30 market stalls where participants could take part in several fun events, such as watching free film screenings, having a tattoo, and even contributing to charitable organizations. This proposal was the result of a 21-day public meeting of the SLA on how to optimize these spaces. It is motivated by people’s passion for good urban architecture and varied land use, while preserving the environment, and is grounded by sound.

3. Folly for a Flyover, London:

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Folly for a Flyover, London_©www.re-thinkingthefuture.com

Folly for a Flyover was a temporary initiative that showcased the prospect for the deserted Hackney Wick motorway to become a modern public space for the city. For 9 weeks, this abandoned and the unused spot has been turned into a hosting space for locals and tourists alike – drawing over 40,000 tourists in one summer. Capitalizing on the impact of Folly, the London Legacy Growth Company has invested in the establishment of permanent infrastructure.

Enabled the place to continue as an exhibition and artistic public space. A non-profit organization has established a temporary theatre and staged a series of films and performances under the London Highway Flyover. The building is surrounded by a café, bar, and movie stalls and was locally hand-built from bricks of clay and timber, backed by scaffolding.

4. Fly the Flyover, Hong Kong:

Fly the Flyover, Hong Kong_©www.ekeo.gov.hk

After its opening as an informal cultural and entertainment venue, more than 40 various forms of activities have been arranged by different organizations, including street dance festivals, band concerts, running gatherings, photographic workshops, outdoor film shows, carnivals, arts and design workshops, architectural exhibits, and seminars. “(Energizing spaces, 2014).

Fly the Flyover was a kick-off initiative to open the fenced-off lands under the Kwun Tong Bypass for public enjoyment. An open-plan architecture for performing media, community, and performance was built with the industrial elements of Kwun Tong. Various gatherings, such as music, dance, demonstrations, and sporting competitions, have been coordinated by diverse organizations. The performance stage, the dressing room, the general lighting, and the restroom are provided.


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Arushi is an architect and interior designer who loves to travel and explore new places. She believes each place has its own story to tell. Her passion for history, culture and climate and how they all are related to architecture intrigues and motivates her to fulfil her goal to travel across the world.