In a context of rapidly deteriorating public spaces, neighbourhoods and cities, the collaboration of art and urban design is essentially important and must be acknowledged. Urban spaces today are chaotic, inefficient and often exclusive, even in some of the most developed countries of the world. The cohesive approach of reclamation through art leads the way to design interventions that are diverse and unique, resulting in attractive and inclusive spaces. While every small element such as the material of pavement, street furniture and signs, traffic circulation create an impact in making an area distinctive and functional, art is one such design component which altogether, transforms the aesthetic of a space. Not only does art help create a visual identity of a place, say a neighbourhood, by reflecting its’ interests and aspirations, but it collectively shapes and defines it.

In cities with a historic core, the use of art tackles the degrading of the urban environment by acting as a catalyst for further revitalisation. The following are big-time examples of the impact art creates when considered a part of urban spaces. In Chicago, an art installation known as The Cloud Gate by an Indian artist Anish Kapoor lead to the widespread success of a public park, that was only a part of, a much larger community plan. This installation has solely created a visual identity for the park, as well as the neighbourhood and now serves as a successful precedent of arts-based placemaking.

The Cloud Gate, also known as ‘The Bean’ (Source: 2019 Millennium Park Foundation)

In India, St+art India is a recent successful example of the amalgamation of art and urban design. It is a street art foundation that is paving way to wider regeneration schemes across old neighbourhoods of Delhi and many other metropolises across India. The neighbourhoods that have been long neglected in the capital city have been given a fresh revived image through graffiti’s, art installations and provided new public spaces for social interaction, which in turn, has resulted in the reactivation of entire neighbourhoods and the creation of India’s first public art district in Lodhi Colony. The success and continuity of this initiative is evidently encouraging more artists and urban designers to join hands and bring a significant change to the urban fabric of the spaces throughout India. “Cultural creativity may well be the driving force of community revitalization in the 21st century. It promises more adaptive ways of seeing, understanding, experiencing, and transforming where we live, how we work, and what we dream.”, as Rip Rapson suggested.

Street art intervention at Lodhi Colony, Delhi (Source: Arch Daily, Akshat Nauriyal)
Artwork on a residence at Shahpur Jat, Delhi (Source: Arch Daily, Akshat Nauriyal)

Having discussed the above, although the use of art as an urban design tool has now been increasing, it is still not widespread. The perception of art and the ways in which it engages and contributes to the urban environment must broaden to further strengthen this relationship. The above also points out the need for promoting and adopting art as a centrepiece of urban design in not only specific countries, but across the world, especially in places, where there is an urgent need for regeneration and placemaking measures to effectively take place.




Vidushi Agarwal, is an Architect and Urban Designer with a keen interest in urban regeneration and sustainable development. She believes research is as important as the design and is focused on being a part of major research projects in the future. She also loves to be curious about everything and exploring new places.

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