“You have to design your streets for everyone. The cities that have safe streets, that are easy to get around, are the one that will grow and thrive in the 21st century.”

  • Jannette Sadik- Khan.
Need for public recreation centres in metropolitan cities in India - Sheet1
A designed square with landscape and levels ©www.archdaily.com

Community is the essence of Indian society that manifests into dynamic activities for every individual in it. The Urban cities offer a wide range of work opportunities resulting in a large concentration of population moving from different regions into city limits and sub-urban areas. The housing and other infrastructure requirements are built by developers and municipalities while neglecting social spaces that can leave people feeling very isolated. The times before the metropolitan cities rose to their glory; the streets and squares were the heart of any city, town and village where all kinds of multi-level interaction and experiences took place as a result of the diversity in the Indian society that allowed a platform for negotiation and understanding distinct mosaic of subcultures in the urban environment.

The implementation of planning a mixed-land use development needs to adhere with strictness to avoid losing the quality of urban fabric in the prime areas due to depletion of public areas as a result of the exploitation by private developers and expansive demand of the city for housing. Various stakeholders like the developer, community, local interest groups and municipality need to exercise their arguments and formulate a framework that is inclusive of open space networks in every set district, which helps in creating meaningful spaces that would enhance the real estate value without compromising on the essence of nature in every aspect of the built environment.

“Cities promote a diversity of social, cultural, and economic exchanges. The design of streets determines both the diversity and efficiency with which these exchanges can be transacted.”    

– Engwicht 1999.

Need for public recreation centres in metropolitan cities in India - Sheet2
Public furniture designed to provide multi-functional use for different people ©www.archdaily.com

Public interaction spaces include pedestrian sidewalks and streets, green parks, squares, traditional market, small plazas, a building in the form of a community centre for specific activities; to establish numerous dialogues adding value to every citizen in their lives. They do not confine people by their caste, gender, age, ethnicity or economic income and are accessible to anyone with no obligation for a dress code, entrance fee.

These spaces invite people as a realm to unwind, release their stress, interact, walk or have any physical activity without any inhibitions as everyone is an observer. Considering the ever-changing atmosphere of the market and malls at different times of the day luring people to shop, buy food, sit-down at food courts or gather at plazas for sales and entertainments. Hence, public spaces are not designed to be used for a particular purpose but open to people on how they would want to make use of the given space.

“Public Space is for living, doing business, kissing and playing. Its value can’t be measured with economics or mathematics; it must be felt with the soul.” – Enrique Penalosa

Local markets and shops on the streets offer a wide range of products compared to supermarkets. They are spaced for quick or detailed shopping transforming into a vibrant choreographed area for people to interact and perhaps retrace cultural roots for these shops have existed for decades providing a sense of comfort by the availability of products that helps to respect and explore one’s own unique culture in the society.

Similarly, the slow diminishing playgrounds are so vital to children; for it is in that space they are free to explore, play and learn various skills regarding leadership, team player, loyalty, honesty and confidence that mould them into future individuals in an engaging community instead they are deviated to video games and staying indoor that cut the level of interaction resulting in challenging impacts psychologically in the social sphere.

This emphasizes on a concept that landscaping and trees are vital elements that encourage active space with the introduction of art to complement the architectural expression of a given community in a simple geometric relationship tangent to that same communal space that initiates an imperative relationship bond between different generations of human society.

Need for public recreation centres in metropolitan cities in India - Sheet3
Art in collaboration with designed furniture interacts with the public in a very flexible manner while maintaining a level of aesthetic quality. ©www.archdaily.com

Large plazas designed for public speaking and announcements, demonstration of protests, evening space for family, friends and lovers to spend time by historical or monumental buildings with conversations and fast-food provided by street vendors and small-scale local shops at all important city centres during the colonial rule in India.

However, they are converted to traffic junctions for vehicles causing a shift in human society from being pedestrian-friendly and active to auto-mobile dominant. The effects of this aren’t just social but environmental degradation and health hazards as trees and green covered cleared for roads to fit in the increasing traffic problems in the city centre.

Need for public recreation centres in metropolitan cities in India - Sheet4
A bridge can transform into an opportunity to pause, sit and see ©www.archdaily.com

The key to good design is the one that communicates with the people while in the present era, the needs and requirement have evolved which means the spaces need to strike a balance between providing a platform and creating a degree of engagement to all ages for their recreation that would allow one to hang out with their peers, lovers and family. Therefore, the cities in India require to rebuild, reinvent, and revitalize the quality and relevance of public places at a much larger scale to the current scenario.

Jan Gehl and Lars Gemzone—an international consultant from Gehl architects in Copenhagen delineates twelve attributes for urban space to function well. It must protect individuals from traffic, crime, elements while providing a place to sit, walk, stand and pause. Also, create opportunities to play, have conversations, see things, and enjoy the weather while the plug-in and any built form to be of human scale with aesthetic quality. These features can be seen and experienced in new expanses of the city but requires public funding, designers and citizens to come together and collaborate and figure out their needs so that the design could exhibit and function with optimal spatial use along with restoring the lush green cover, a critical element.

“Cultures and climate differ all over the world, but people are the same. They’ll gather in public if you give them a good place to do it” – Jan Gehl.

Need for public recreation centres in metropolitan cities in India - Sheet5
A larger public space that engages public with nature, has a place to sit, stand, walk, pause, see things and has a recreation centre built form that allows other engagements like the public library, workshops and sports. ©www.archdaily.com



Subhay Baberwal, a practising architect at Taller-S and a visiting faculty at SJB School of architecture and planning, Bangalore. He is an art and culture enthusiast as well as a certified wildlife Eco-volunteer by the Karnataka Forest Department for activities regarding conservation, census, preservation. Furthermore, he is a poet and currently exploring his voice in architecture writing along with being a ghostwriter for mobile application, fashion collections and bloggers.