Streets are described to be the ‘outdoor rooms’ that users interact with once they step out of their places of comfort and belonging. Architects and Urban Planners all over the world agree that these streets must instigate similar experiences. Streets are the most abundant and distributed urban public spaces. They are where much of the life of a city takes place. 

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The designs of streets and the three-dimensional built environments surrounding them help establish the image of the condition of liveability. “In great cities, spaces, as well as places, are designed and built: walking, witnessing, being in public, are as much part of the design and purpose as is being inside to eat, sleep, make shoes or love or music.” Rebecca Solnit writes in her book, ‘A history of walking’. Streets have been established to be lifelines of the community. 

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An efficient road network regenerates the prosperity of a city along with offering opportunities for social gatherings. Choke streets, and the place dies along with the well- being of its users. Deprive them of their nutrients like a lush green cover and ailments will be prevalent. There are some tangible factors to make streets vehicular and pedestrian-friendly including pleasant surroundings, appropriate lighting and designed street furniture. 

Streetscape is a term “that refers to is used to describe the natural and built fabric of the street and defined as the design quality of the street and its visual effect.” This planning concept recognizes that streets are public property where people are having an equal stake in engaging in social events. Streetscapes are a significant part of the community realm, which help define mobility. It also states a social cohesion and opportunity. Streetscape can have a substantial effect on how people perceive and interact with their community and the built environment around them. It can be concluded that streetscapes to be a vital element of a city and their visuals largely influence public places where people interact, and it ultimately helps define a community’s aesthetic quality, economic activity, health, and sustainability. 

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But streetscapes are not just a tool to improve an individual’s experience or a city’s road network, they also formulate a set of recommendations for developing the criteria for sustainable urban design and a city of the future. The streets we inhabit play a significant role in molding us as individuals but they also impact our collective national identities. On a smaller scale, some of the world’s greatest and innovative streets have been commissioned by the government but have had huge inputs from the citizens. 

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Apart from designing the most user-friendly street it also helps to foster a sense of identity amongst its citizens and a means to extend the country’s values. La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina. With its many flowers and white-washed walls, the charming Spanish street is very typical of the region and embodies what it is known and loved for. This neighborhood involves European immigrants turned dockworkers and communicates in its physical structure its core value – ingenuity.

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At the national level, in the Indian context, cities are bound to their colonial pasts most visibly by their planning and visual makeup. A big part of a previously colonized country’s identity is intertwined with its colonial history, and the streets still in existence are the memories of the past made visible. The history of colonialism in itself is traumatic, but it is part of what shapes us. For example, Pondicherry boasts of many streets that offer beautiful visuals that are demarcated by picturesque Victorian-style houses. 

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In contrast, today’s artists are transforming the streets of Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore to reflect the newer thought and indication of the younger generation that is slowly shaping the country. Akshat Nauriyal is one such street artist who is trying to make public spaces and roads more vibrant for the people who use them the most and to make art more democratic as a medium. 

Streetscapes also make a political statement with various elements like bollards, street furnishing and lighting. Democratic attributes like non-hostile landscape elements and open marketplaces further a country’s radical identity and political stand. For example, along with changing political and social dynamics, Hong Kong’s streets have also experienced dramatic changes. The grey metal railings that have been a ubiquitous element of Hong Kong’s streetscape were recently torn apart by thousands of protesters to use as roadblocks. 

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Today their absence reduces conflicts, eliminates congestion for pedestrians There is now more freedom in areas of the city that were previously confined by narrow sidewalks and also symbolically indicate more freedom in the political environment. 

Streetscapes can help increase environmental sustainability by decreasing vehicle dependency, minimizing traffic and reducing carbon emissions. Sustainable streetscape ensures that spaces are long-lasting and function as a part of the greater ecosystem. Lesser carbon footprint streets help create better places for present and future residents. A sustainable streetscape is one of the contributing factors in the success of the country in today’s alarming time of climate change. 

Streets are a constant source of visual chatter, with varied voices that compete for our attention. But these multitudes of voices all define the country. Streetscape elements all contribute vitally to the identity of a country in terms of its past and vision for the future. 

Author

With a very culturally diverse upbringing, Shreya has been exposed to different methods design thinking in everyday life and is keen on sharing this knowledge. She believes that writing and research is an important tool in making a change through architecture.

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