Observation of the physical form of Indian cities is the tool employed by Mehrotra to exemplify the clash between two opposing political rhetorics: constructing a global city or one that is equitable and sustainable.
Urban India: negotiating the impatience of global capital
The contemporary urban condition in India symbolises the two simultaneous transitions at play on the political landscape – moving out of socialism and into capitalism, or from state-controlled imaginations of the city to a free-market production of the built environment. In the occurrence of transitions, which are often at play for decades in India, the built environment is naturally a muddle and the fallout from each condition finds expression in the physical form of the Indian city. Ruptures in the fabric and startlingly bizarre adjacencies characterise the city which evolves with these narratives colliding in urban space. The two narratives, or the political rhetoric, then counterposed against each other are of “building a global city”(in other words, pandering to the impatience of global capital) and developing a city premised on nurturing a civil society that is equitable in terms of access to amenities. Clearly, the former is propelled by impatient capital and articulated as an aspiration by private interests, such as multinational corporations, developers and increasingly the Indian State itself! The latter voice emanates from civil society – the academy, the non-government sector, foundations, institutions, labour unions and all other formations where “capital” acquires patience so as to reside and grow in more inclusive ways. ADVERTISING
The physical paraphernalia of these opposing city aspirations is also dramatically different. In the former case, the ground has to be prepared to allow capital to land softly and securely. This results in the deployment of a standard tool kit: airports, freeways, five-star hotels, convention centres and subway or elevated rail systems followed by the preservation of historic buildings (to assert a local identity) and a general clean-up of the streetscape. In this configuration the rich retreat into gated communities both in the form of vertical inner-city towers and sprawling suburban compounds on the peripheries. In reality, in both cases they withdraw from the city and the nitty gritty of its everyday life. The architecture that results from this attitude often displays a complete detachment from its surrounding environment as well as from the place and community in which it sits.
Furthermore, its tectonic quality and materiality is most often unmindful of local resources and building traditions. Such architectural production is usually a quick response to the demand for the large-scale infrastructure projects (e.g. upper-income housing, hospitals, schools, colleges and commercial development) that allow private participation in otherwise largely government-controlled sectors. Most importantly, this form of global architecture thrives on its perceived ability to provide predictable and stable services for impatient capital, searching for a host terrain in which to invest and quickly realise its value. At the same time, the other emerging landscape in India is one that is evolving naturally in a vacuum, the result of a retreating state.
This is a city that has ensued from the state relinquishing the responsibility for projecting an “idea of India” through the built or physical environment. Today, the major state-directed projects are highways, flyovers, airports, telecommunications networks and electricity grids that connect urban territories but they do not help determine or guide their physical structure as masterplans did in the state-directed (Socialist) economy. At the very least, the masterplans sought to create entitlement to housing and proximity to employment. Instead, the “everyday” space has become the place where the economic and cultural struggles of the majority are manifested and the physical shape it adopts is that of a bazaar or informal city! These are the landscapes of the self-help settlements – often referred to as slums – or the peripheries of cities that grow outside the formal state-controlled urban limit. Similarly, the 400-plus small towns in India expected to become cities of close to one million people (and maybe more) in the next two or three decades are actively producing forms of urbanism outside the mainstream discussion on architecture or urban planning.
This emerging landscape is the image of the Indian urban condition. The processions, weddings, festivals, hawkers, street vendors and slum dwellers all create an ever-transforming streetscape – a city in constant motion where its very physical fabric is characterised by the kinetic elements. This city is not dependent on architecture for its representation. In this “kinetic urbanism”, architecture is not the only “spectacle” upon which society relies to express its aspirations nor does it even comprise the single dominant image of most Indian cities. Quite the opposite, with festivals such as Diwali, Dussehra, Navratri, Muharram, Durga Puja, Ganesh Chaturthi and many more having emerged as the visual and representational spectacles of contemporary India. Their presence on the everyday landscape pervades and dominates the popular visual culture of India’s cities and towns.
Set against this imagination is a new landscape of global derivatives or the images of globalisation. It is an irony – that of the collusion of consciously dysfunctional land markets and exclusionary design and planning at multiple scales that has created this strongly contested fabric of contemporary urban India. Interestingly, in this condition both the rich and poor communities have managed not just to survive but to thrive! However, this reality is constantly challenged by the world-class city idea and slum-free city imagination. The government and financial institutions often drive this via a poorly informed appreciation of Singapore, Dubai and Shanghai – the havens of impatient capital set on autocratic political landscapes: cities where “humans” and especially the poor are not even considered in the imagination of the physical setup they will inhabit. In a democracy, citizens must be placed at the centre of any imagination of the city.
A humane and sustainable city must necessarily be premised on access to a basic infrastructure and patterns of mobility that will determine how the city grows and how people have equitable access to these amenities. In democracies, cities must be judged by how they treat their poor. It is really the choice between these two directions – or attitudes to city building – that will be central to the discussion on the future of urban India: a choice between constructing equitable cities or being bullied by impatient capital.Read also: Cities, increasingly global in the future, are the solution to the pandemic
Rahul Mehrotra (New Delhi, 1959) is the founder/ principal of RMA Architects. He divides his time between working in Mumbai and Boston and teaching at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University where he is the Chair of the Urban Planning and Design Department and the John T. Dunlop Professor in Housing and Urbanization. His most recent book is Working in Mumbai (2020), a reflection on his practice as an architect and urbanist, evolved via association with the city of Bombay/Mumbai.
Opening image: Peter Bialobrzeski, Mumbai 2017, images taken from the book No Buddha in Suburbia, Hartmann Books, 2019 .
Saudi Arabia unveils THE LINE a linear development of smart cities connected without cars as reported by DesignBoom seems to be a significant step out of the fossil fuels grip on any mode of transport but only in this corner of the country.
Saudi Arabia has unveiled plans for THE LINE, a 170 kilometer (106 mile) belt of communities connected without the need for cars or roads. described as ‘a revolution in urban living’, the project has been put forward as a blueprint for how people can co-exist in harmony with the planet. THE LINE will be completely free of cars and streets, with residents given access to nature and all of their daily needs within a walking distance of five minutes. furthermore, the team behind the project says that the linear development of hyper-connected AI-enabled communities will be powered by 100% clean energy.
all images and video courtesy of NEOM
Located in NEOM, linking the coast of the red sea with the mountains and upper valleys of the north-west of Saudi Arabia, THE LINE was announced by his royal highness Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince and chairman of the NEOM company board of directors.‘By 2050, one billion people will have to relocate due to rising CO2 emissions and sea levels,’ says his royal highness. ‘90% of people breathe polluted air. why should we sacrifice nature for the sake of development? Why should seven million people die every year because of pollution? why should we lose one million people every year due to traffic accidents? and why should we accept wasting years of our lives commuting? therefore, we need to transform the concept of a conventional city into that of a futuristic one.’
Although walkability will define life on THE LINE, with all essential daily services within a short walk, ultra-high-speed transit and autonomous mobility solutions will make travel easier and give residents the opportunity to reclaim time to spend on health and well-being. It is expected that no journey will take longer than 20 minutes. the communities themselves will be powered by artificial intelligence and will continuously learn in order to ‘make life easier’ for both residents and businesses. It is estimated that 90% of available data will be harnessed to enhance infrastructure capabilities. from an environmental perspective, THE LINE will comprise carbon-positive urban developments powered by 100% clean energy.
NEOM is a region in northwest Saudi Arabia on the Red Sea being built from the ground up as a ‘living laboratory’. Eventually the location, comprising towns and cities, ports and enterprise zones, research centers, sports and entertainment venues, and tourist destinations, will be the home and workplace to more than a million residents from around the world. It is hoped that THE LINE will create 380,000 new jobs, spur economic diversification, and contribute SAR 180bn ($48bn USD) to domestic GDP by 2030. construction of THE LINE will get underway in early 2021.
Chances are that over the last few months you’ve found yourself trying to adapt to a new working environment as the nation gets to grips with home working and/or schooling. As few people are fortunate enough to have a dedicated home office space, many will no doubt have found themselves sprawled out on the sofa, taking over a kitchen worktop or even working from their beds (we’ve all done it!).
Wherever you have managed to find space, you have most likely been drawn to the brightest spot in the house. It’s no great surprise that people are attracted to natural light and that most of us feel better when the sun comes out. However, beyond the “feel good” factor there are many tangible benefits to increasing the amount of natural daylight entering a building, none more so than improved productivity levels.
Daylight is a vital natural resource that will significantly improve the environment within any building. Evidence from the numerous physical and psychological studies undertaken on the subject, suggests that buildings enjoying high levels of natural light are literally more successful than those more reliant on artificial light. In all environments our brains respond better to natural light, which means people perform better.
If your home has all of a sudden also become your workplace, the presence of natural daylight has never been so important. Daylight is proven to increase concentration levels in working environments, with numerous studies showing that well-lit spaces often achieve improved productivity, over those that are not.
Many scientific studies conducted in the healthcare sector also support the conclusion that natural daylight has proven health benefits. Daylight helps to shorten patient recovery times, improves their mood and generally promotes well-being. So it’s no surprise that architects involved with hospitals, housing for the elderly and other healthcare buildings are constantly adjusting and updating their designs to reflect the importance of introducing daylight and, more specifically, natural sunlight.
But it’s not just the elderly or unwell that can reap the health benefits of natural light. It is estimated that up to 20 per cent of the UK population suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of winter depression. These individuals are known to respond to the hormone serotonin, whose production is triggered by natural daylight.
The environmental and financial benefits
Natural light also offers an environmentally friendly means of saving money on energy costs. It stands to reason that the more natural light entering a building, the less energy for lights and heating is required. If home working is to become the new norm for you or those in your household, then the longer-term cost savings of natural daylight are not to be dismissed, especially as the increase in lighting and power consumption is likely to be required at peak-demand prices. Effective use of day lighting may save up to about 50 percent of your energy cost requirements, depending upon how natural light is used.
Even in our rather dull climate, passive solar gain provides significant potential to reduce energy usage. Buildings that enjoy high levels of natural light evenly spread throughout will be heated naturally for a considerable percentage of the year.
Natural daylight is not only beneficial to those working from home. If you are among the millions of households that have been home schooling your children over the lockdown period you may be interested to know that natural daylight also has a significant impact on education.
Much of the research on the benefits of natural daylight has focused on the learning environment. Enhanced student performance and motivation, increased teacher and student attendance, reduced energy costs, as well as a positive effect on the environment are some of the improvements seen in school buildings that use well-planned day lighting concepts.
One study by Sacramento California, ‘Light Helps Pupils Learn’, is one of the largest ever undertaken on natural light in schools. It suggests that children learn faster and perform better in exams in classrooms with more daylight. It identified that exam results were up to 26 percent higher for schoolchildren in classrooms with plentiful natural light than for those in classrooms with little or no daylight. These findings are reinforced by Alberta Education’s, ‘A Study into the Effects of Light on Children of ElementarySchoolAge’, which showed that natural light also has a positive effect on the health of children, as well as on rates of attendance and achievement.
These are all benefits that can be transferred from school buildings to the home learning environment.
The role of the rooflight
Rooflights let in light from the brightest part of the sky and are not generally affected by external obstructions, such as trees or other buildings. They also provide a more even pattern of light than vertical windows.
Rooflights can form part of an effective technical lighting scheme, particularly in conjunction with efficiently controlled artificial lighting, to produce specified illumination levels for particular tasks. According to leading consultants, horizontal rooflights provide three times more light than vertical windows (the equivalent of 10,000 candles on a sunny day), which is more than 200 times the light needed for most educational or work related tasks.
In addition, rooflights can also add to the more subjective qualities of spaces as an integral part of the building’s architecture. They can provide views of the sky and promote a sense of well-being and connection with the outside without the distractions encountered with views through vertical glass windows.
These facts are well understood by most people involved in building design. However the huge potential of rooflights to provide exactly the amount, type and distribution of natural light required to meet any given specification is not always appreciated by the homeowner. So, whether home working and home schooling is a short-term solution, or something that we all must get used to, the role of natural daylight in the home and the physical and psychological benefits that it brings, cannot be underestimated.
For further information or to discuss your bespoke rooflight requirement contact the Stella Rooflight team on 01794 745445 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Stella Rooflight designs and manufactures high quality stainless steel bespoke rooflights. From design and production through to customer service, Stella has a single vision of doing things better than the industry standard.
Stella produces exceptional rooflights that combine a flush fitting profile, while utilising the very best of materials and has become the first choice for discerning clients looking to bring natural daylight into their living spaces through premium quality rooflights.
Reducing the environmental impact of the global built environment sector by Chalmers University of Technology enlighten us on we currently stand in terms of reducing or lowering all built environment related human activities from impacting the Earth’s climate and how “powerful, combined efforts are absolutely crucial for the potential to achieve the UN’s sustainability goals.” and as a consequence, ‘The global built environment sector must think in new, radical ways, and act quickly’. The above feature picture is only for illustrative purpose.
The construction sector, the real estate industry and city planners must give high priority to the same goal—to drastically reduce their climate impacts. Powerful, combined efforts are absolutely crucial for the potential to achieve the UN’s sustainability goals. And what’s more—everything has to happen very quickly. These are the cornerstones to the roadmap presented at the Beyond 2020 World Conference.
Today, 55% of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, that figure is estimated to have risen to 68%, according to the UN. Cities already produce 70% of the world’s greenhouse gasses. Buildings and construction account for 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Rapid urbanization is bringing new demands that need to be met in ecologically, economically and socially sustainable ways.
“If we continue as before, we have no chance of even getting close to the climate goals. Now we need to act with new radical thinking and we need to do it fast and increase the pace at which we work to reduce cities’ climate impact. We must look for innovative ways to build our societies so that we move towards the sustainability goals, and not away from them,”
says Colin Fudge, Visiting Professor of urban futures and design at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.
As an outcome of the Beyond 2020 World Conference, Colin Fudge and his colleague Holger Wallbaum have established a “Framework for a Transformational Plan for the Built Environment.” The framework aims to lay the foundation for regional strategies that can guide the entire sector in working towards sustainable cities and communities, and the goals of the UN Agenda 2030.
“The conference clearly demonstrated the growing awareness of sustainability issues among more and more actors in the sector. But it’s not enough. Achieving the sustainability goals will require a common understanding among all actors of how they can be achieved—and, not least, real action. That is what we want to contribute to now,”
says Holger Wallbaum, Professor in Sustainable Building at Chalmers University of Technology, and host of Beyond 2020.
Chair of Sweden’s Council for sustainable cities, Helena Bjarnegård, is welcoming their initiative.
“We are aware that we have to deliver change to address the climate, biodiversity, lack of resources and segregation. We need to develop sustainable living environments, not least for the sake of human health. The framework of a transformational plan for the built environment provides a provocative but necessary suggestion on concrete actions to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for one of the most important sectors,”
says Helena Bjarnegård, National architect of Sweden.
In the framework, Wallbaum and Fudge have added a detailed action plan for northwestern Europe that contains 72 concrete proposals for measures—intended as an inspiration for the rest of the world.
The proposals cover everything from energy efficiency improvements, research into new building materials, digital tools and renovation methods, to free public transport, more green spaces and cycle paths. They involve all actors from the entire sector—such as architects, builders, real estate companies, material producers and urban planners.
Several of the high-priority measures in northwestern Europe are under direct governmental responsibility:
Higher taxes on carbon dioxide emissions and utilization of land and natural resources—lower taxes on labor
State support for energy-efficient renovation works
A plan for large-scale production of sustainable, affordable housing
Increased pace in the phasing out of fossil fuels in favor of electric power from renewables
“Here, governments, in collaboration with towns, cities and other sectors, have a key role, as it is political decisions such as taxation, targeted support and national strategies that can pave the way for the radical changes we propose. But all actors with influence over the built environment must contribute to change. In other parts of the world, it may be the business community that plays the corresponding main role,”
says Holger Wallbaum.
Wallbaum and Fudge are clear that their proposed measures are specifically intended for the countries of northwestern Europe, and that their work should be seen as an invitation to discussion. Different actors around the world are best placed to propose which measures are most urgent and relevant in their respective regions, based on local conditions, they claim.
“Key people and institutions in different parts of the world have accepted the challenge of establishing nodes for the development of regional strategies. From Chalmers’ side, we have offered to support global coordination. Our proposal is that all these nodes present their progress for evaluation and further development at a world conference every three years—next in Montreal, in 2023,”
says Colin Fudge.
A thousand participants followed the Beyond 2020 conference, which was arranged by Chalmers 2-4 November in collaboration with Johanneberg Science Park, Rise (Research Institutes of Sweden), and the City of Gothenburg. As a result of the Corona pandemic, it was held online. The conference discussed methods for reducing climate footprints, lowering resource consumption, digital development and innovative transport. Among the speakers were authorities in sustainable construction, digitization and financing from around the world.
Beyond 2020 has the status of a World Sustainable Built Environment Conference (WSBE). Organizers are appointed by iiSBE, a worldwide non-profit organization whose overall goal is to actively work for initiatives that can contribute to a more sustainable built environment. The next WSBE will be held in Montreal in 2023.
More about: A roadmap for the built environment
In their newly established framework, Wallbaum and Fudge establish a general approach that each individual region in the world can use to identify the measures that are most urgent and relevant to achieving the goals of the UN Agenda 2030, based on local conditions. They identify the key questions that must be answered by all societal actors, the obstacles that need to be overcome and the opportunities that will be crucial for the sector over the next decade.
More about: Action plan for the built environment sector in northwestern Europe
Wallbaum and Fudge have specified 72 acute sustainability measures in northwestern Europe (Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, Belgium, Switzerland). A selection:
Establish renovation plans which focus on energy efficiencies for all existing property by 2023. Avoid demolition and new construction when it is possible to renovate.
Halve emissions from production of building materials by 2025. The transition to greater usage of materials with lower climate impact needs to accelerate.
Accelerate the phase out of fossil fuels in the transport sector in favor of electric power—with, for example, a ban on new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.
Double the amount of pedestrian and cycle paths in cities by 2030.
Offer free municipal public transport for all school children and for everyone over the age of 70.
Introduce the climate perspective as a mandatory element of the architectural industry’s ethical guidelines.
Increase the proportion of green spaces by 20% in all cities by 2030.
Concentrate research on the development of new building materials with lower carbon footprints, digital tools for the built environment and new energy-efficient renovation methods.
Read the entire action plan on the pages 20-23 in the Framework document on a Transformational Plan for the Built Environment
In these difficult days, Record new renewable energy capacity this year and next: IEA by Nina Chestney sheds some light in the unending and stuffy tunnel that the world’s economy finds itself stuck-in. Wind turbines lining the roads, roof mounted solar panels generating energy for all are more and more visible even in the MENA region, oil exporters or not.
LONDON, Nov 10 (Reuters) – Record levels of new renewable energy capacity are set to come on stream this year and next, while fossil fuel capacity will fall due to an economic slump and the COVID-19 crisis, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report.
In its annual renewables outlook, the IEA said new additions of renewables capacity worldwide would increase by 4% from last year to a record 198 gigawatts (GW) this year.
This means renewables will account for almost 90% of the increase in total power capacity worldwide this year.
Supply chain disruptions and construction delays slowed the progress of renewable energy projects in the first six months of this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the construction of plants and manufacturing activity has ramped up again, and logistical challenges have been mostly resolved, the IEA said.
Electricity generated by renewables will increase by 7% globally this year, despite a 5% annual drop in global energy demand, the largest since World War Two.
Next year, renewable capacity additions are on track for a rise of almost 10%, which would be the fastest growth since 2015.
“Renewable power is defying the difficulties caused by the pandemic, showing robust growth while others fuels struggle,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.
Policymakers need to support the strong momentum behind renewables growth and if policy uncertainties are addressed, renewable energy capacity additions could reach 271 GW in 2022,the IEA said.
In 2025, renewables are set to become the largest source of electricity generation worldwide, supplying one third of the world’s electricity, and ending coal’s five decades as the topglobal power source, the report said.
Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Mark Potter
Originally posted on FIRE'd @ 47: After conking out for 11 hours last night, we woke up refreshed and ready to go. Breakfast at the hotel Casablanca is a modernized city, and wasn’t exactly what we were looking for on this trip, so we were pretty happy to leave and move onto the next city, Marrakech,…
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