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MuseLAB is an end-to-end design studio; offering a bespoke and leading-edge approach to design. With a precise focus on unique and highly customized environments, interiors and furniture. In 2012 partners Huzefa Rangwala and Jasem Pirani founded the studio built upon their shared passion for design. Each space and or product embodies integrity and is created with the same care, skill and attention to detail.

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MuseLOG

 

 

Filtering by Tag: 100 Smart Cities

MuseMATTERS: B is for Bicycle

MuseLAB

A steadily growing number of cities around the world are eager to become bicycle friendly, as part of an overall strategy on sustainable development and the desire to become green cities. Biking in cities can be extremely efficient and healthy. Unfortunately, it can also be intimidating, stressful and dangerous.

When cities provide a safe and welcoming environment for cyclists and pedestrians, they can encourage more people to give up driving in favor of riding bikes. With a network of protected bike lanes and fewer cars on the road, there is less risk of accidents. Also, an increase in cycling and walking can lead to significant health benefits for a city. A reduced need for parking can free up valuable city space, and streets can certainly be much more pleasant with less honking.

As usual with this kind of thing, Copenhagen’s got a bike skyway- Cykelslangen, which lets cyclists ride over a waterfront area on an elevated bridge. London’s planning to complete the 18-mile East-West Cycle Superhighway traversing the city by summer this year. Paris’ plan to boost cycling includes five proposed highways that will be almost entirely protected from car traffic, on some of the city’s busiest roads.

Cykelslangen or Cycle Snake: an elevated cyclist roadway to ease congestion.  Image courtesy:  DISSING+WEITLING              

Cykelslangen or Cycle Snake: an elevated cyclist roadway to ease congestion. Image courtesy: DISSING+WEITLING              

Similar measures are needed in India. Despite decades of having a cycling culture, we've never had dedicated cycling lanes or infrastructure of any kind to support and encourage cyclists. Our cities were not designed with cyclists in mind, and it is a huge challenge to effectively accommodate everyone’s mode of choice, but giving more space to people who walk, cycle or use public transport is going to be the only way to move people around the city and ease the burden on the roads.

(L)  The Hovenring is a circular suspended bridge between Eindhoven and Veldhoven in the Netherlands, which offers an alternative route for cyclists.      Image courtesy: mymodernmet.com    (R) Staircase fitted with a bike rail at Copenhagen Central Train Station.    Image courtesy:    tumblr

(L) The Hovenring is a circular suspended bridge between Eindhoven and Veldhoven in the Netherlands, which offers an alternative route for cyclists. Image courtesy: mymodernmet.com (R) Staircase fitted with a bike rail at Copenhagen Central Train Station. Image courtesy: tumblr

A lot of cycling groups have come up in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and most parts of the country. But very few people opt for cycling as a mode of transport to offices and work, as there is very less or absolutely no cycling infrastructure and space in the city. So far, there are only a few disjointed cycling tracks, and even these are encroached. The cycling corridors should be planned in a way that they connect to main roads and not end abruptly. They could be elevated or clubbed with the skywalks and beautified by landscaping so that it encourages more people to actually use them.

The High Line in New York is a beautifully landscaped elevated park built on top of the tracks of an abandoned railway.  Image courtesy: Pinterest

The High Line in New York is a beautifully landscaped elevated park built on top of the tracks of an abandoned railway. Image courtesy: Pinterest

Bicycle -friendly cities are very much people-friendly, and city planning that considers pedestrians and cyclists will make a significant contribution to the city of the future.

Muse MATTERS is a series of dialogues that as a studio we shall engage in– the purpose of the dialogues is for the studio to discuss matters, ask questions, share lessons learnt and maybe in the process we can make a difference. Topics discussed shall not be restricted to the field of architecture and design necessarily; they could be about an experience, a journey, a comic strip and anything in between or beyond. We will use this space to share our thoughts and blurbs.

MuseMATTERS: 100 Smart Cities or Self-sustaining habitats?

MuseLAB

The government has announced an urban agenda to develop 100 new smart cities for the country as a solution to the issue of: urban liveability. This initiative has received a lot of attention within the country and the world. Intense discussions and thought provoking debates are taking place regarding the form and context within which these cities should be developed. 

A summarized version of the Government of India’s definition of a smart city is: “one that is clean competitive, capital generating and sustainable. The cities should provide good basic infrastructure such as water, sanitation, reliable utility services, health care, attractive for investments, transparent processes to be able to run businesses, simple and on line processes for obtaining approvals and services and facilities to make the people of the city feel safe and secure. To read more about the smart cities mission visit smartcities.gov.in

By that definition a smart city sounds no different than what a city should be in the first place. Cities are engines of growth and as a result of which they attract people. With increasing urbanization and the lack of infrastructure, the government has now realized the need for cities that can cope with the challenges of urban living and also be magnets for investment.

Illustration concept of smart city technologies.   Image courtesy freepik.com

Illustration concept of smart city technologies. Image courtesy freepik.com

When we talk of smart cities often people limit their conversations to the need for sensors, CCTVS, ambient intelligence and digital records. Instead they need to talk about raising the standard of living, generating resources, creating opportunities and self-sustaining habitats.

Sustainability or building right and sensitively has to be one of the main criteria for a smart city. The city should be able to address climate change and reduce carbon footprint. So how can technology really assist us in the planning of smart cities? 3D mapping tools have become valuable for visualizing and designing cities where various services can be layered and looked at together. Like in New Orleans, CyArk is using that same 3-D mapping data to create a detailed digital copy of the city, so that if there is catastrophic damage, and some of these historic buildings are destroyed or altered, a detailed record of what was there could be referenced. As Neelie Kroes, Vice-President, Commissioner Digital Agenda, European Commission once said, “Every city already generates huge amounts of information, for many different purposes. But too often that information is lost. It’s time to get smart and start using it”.

Case – studies of cities in the west is good to look at for the lessons learned but by aping the west we are not going to be able to solve our issues. Each city in India has its unique set of issues and challenges that need to be dealt with and resolved by providing solutions specific to that city. We need to find our own mix and derive a definition that is specific to us.

But in a country where millions are struggling to get by, the initiative also got us wondering how people will be able to afford the expensive housing and living costs of smart cities. The upcoming infrastructure in most parts of the country is coming at the expense of farming land. Rural percentage is higher than urban because India is an agrarian state and most families depend on farming for their livelihood.

Should the focus now be on building new smart cities or retrofitting existing cities or developing the villages around these existing cities? It has previously been stated that no economy can grow on the basis of agriculture so it is inevitable that people will move to cities. In that statement alone lays the answer to our problems. A sustainable growth with balanced resources could help in raising the quality of life of rural areas.

At the first Annual Architecture Festival hosted in Jaipur, B V Doshi and Rajeev Kathpalia had spoken about Crafting Future Cities and what they had to say was, "We are used to cities as centralized entities and we are saying perhaps the time has come to start thinking of each place as independent and self-supporting", which is what sustainable cities are all about.

Proposal of the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City), one of the flagship smart cities of the 100 Smart Cities program.   Image courtesy archdaily. 

Proposal of the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City), one of the flagship smart cities of the 100 Smart Cities program. Image courtesy archdaily. 

Masdar city is among the more high-profile experiments in smart-city technology.   Image courtesy: Foster + Partners. 

Masdar city is among the more high-profile experiments in smart-city technology. Image courtesy: Foster + Partners. 

Be it a city or a village, these are just settlements or habitats at different scales, which need to be planned in a way that they are self-sustaining , providing enough job opportunities, training people to use resources wisely and increasing their quality of life.

The goals of a self-sustaining city need to: reduce emissions and traffic, save energy, make the urban landscape a more comfortable place to live in. The systems at all levels, be it social or political needs to be transparent and there needs to be accountability at all levels.

The way the smart cities agenda is being marketed there is no doubt that the real agenda is the need for foreign capital to enter into new territories. This will allow international corporations to invest and operate in sanitized spaces bypassing the multiple complexities that otherwise characterize urban India. Therefore our purpose and goals for smart cities need to be much clearer along with a better understanding of the socio-economic condition of our country. The city needs to be designed wisely, catering to everyone’s needs equally irrespective of social and cultural differences. 

Muse MATTERS is a series of dialogues that as a studio we shall engage in– the purpose of the dialogues is for the studio to discuss matters, ask questions, share lessons learnt and may be in the process we can make a difference. Topics discussed shall not be restricted to the field of architecture and design necessarily; they could be about an experience, a journey, a comic strip and anything in between or beyond. We will use this space to share our thoughts and blurbs.