Since the beginning of the 21st century, sustainability has been a widely discussed subject among urban planners, designers, and architects. It has been challenging for our nation to meet the needs of 1.3 billion people. However, in the past two decades, our country has been able to make a significant effort towards achieving adequacy. In 2020, a global pandemic was declared, and a lockdown was imposed across the country. During the lockdown, the conditions lead people to self-analyzing the statistics of their monthly requirements whilst also being
conscious of the amount of waste that they produce daily. Hence, this pandemic has positively impacted the people’s outlook towards utility.
Over the past decade, cities have seen a rapid development of various schemes such as smart cities, social housing, and commercial complexes. The study conducted in Pune to analyze the urbanization and changing green spaces shows that this development has lead to a tremendous increase in the ratio of built area to open spaces. The urban sprawl is not only
limited to the open spaces of the city, but the lands reserved for wildlife ecosystems have also fallen prey to this expansion. During this pandemic, experts have found traces of evidence to prove that life-threatening viruses like corona can be transmitted through fauna. This indicates that this rapid urbanization is going to cause complications in the future. To avoid these
difficulties and to safeguard the varied species on earth, government policies should include meticulous demarcation in terms of land spread for various ecosystems. Land use maps released by the town planners can define these boundaries. Also, the rules on expanding the spread of human settlements should be tightened.
Urbanization and changing green spaces in Indian cities (Case study – City of Pune ) After two months of lockdown, guidelines were drawn for the nation to steadily step out of their
homes. As per the guidelines and precautionary measures, it’s recommended that we sanitize ourselves thoroughly before entering our house. However, most of our modern apartments are not planned with a consideration of sanitation at the entrance. Our public toilets are often designed with the least consideration of natural light and ventilation, which results in a
breeding ground for various infectious diseases. If we look at our heritage, the houses consisted of a verandah or front yard with a washing area. This planning ensured that the humans cleaned themselves before entering their living spaces. This culture of sanitation needs to be considered again. Public spaces represent the image of a country in front of the whole world. To encourage sanitation, we can propose sanitation hubs consisting of aerial disinfectants and UV sterilizers, at the junction of walkways as memorials to mark this struggle for good health. Nevertheless, we have been believing that cleanliness begins at home, it’s the right time to make sanitation a public affair.
Urban sanitation is dependent on essential workers and they are dependent on public transports. To ensure their safety in the future, the number of people using public transit must remain restricted. The masses in megapolis cities like Mumbai have been enormously relying on public transports for several decades. The idea of finding a job close to the residence has been a secondary concern for a long time. When the public transports were shut down, people were forced to look for a job in their vicinity which lead to a major reduction in the number of people travelling via public transport. In the future, people might prefer a solo transport mode, which could lead to a rise in privateowned vehicles. The urban planners and government authorities could use this opportunity to promote the use of cycles by providing an infrastructure to meet the requirements of cyclists and pedestrians. Considering
the difficulty to cycle for a few, car parking spaces could be provided for the elderly and specially abled.
Image 1 Proposal for incorporating Sanitation hubs in public spaces.
Illustration by Author
History has time and again demonstrated how the economic devastation was addressed by new schemes and new capacities. In this year, campaigns such as Atmanirbhar Bharat has widened the opportunity for employment in the manufacturing and supply chain sector. While starting with this new era of industrialization, the country needs to shift its approach from a linear to a circular economy to achieve a reduction in waste production. As a rule, the manufacturers need to start including the guidelines for 6R’s i.e. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Redesign, Re-manufacture and Recover for their products. The construction and demolition contractors can refer to these guidelines for the optimum use of the products. This shall give rise to the recycling industry which will decrease the frequency of landfills. More land can then be allotted to the recycling plants. Few of the manufacturing companies have come up with a strategy to repossess their products at the end of their service, give them a new life and bring it back to the market. If this pattern is made a part of the guidelines for the whole manufacturing sector, we are bound to have great control over the waste, the construction industry has been producing.
Considering that the construction industry relies enormously on migrant workers, we saw that the industry came to a standstill during the lockdown. This entire model needs to be reevaluated to ensure smooth functioning in the future. To cater to this dependency on migrant workers, either the technology to increase productivity will be promoted, or urban
infrastructure could incorporate guidelines to provide safe and distinct housing facilities for the migrant workers. This decision could affect the real estate industry. In the past few years, we have noticed that the builders have significantly indulged in luxury housing schemes. However, these luxury apartments do not hold the same demand as they experienced in preceding years. To upgrade the living conditions of the essential workers, affordable housing, and structures supporting adaptive reuse will become a vital sector in the real estate industry.
Image 2: Proposal for incorporating Vertical Farming Station in every suburb catering toa radius of 5 Km
Illustration by Author
The adaptive reuse could also be applied in the public spaces considering their dynamic character. This opportunity is ideal to introduce the concept of design for disassembly. This concept is based on the principle of designing the structure with advanced planning of its dis-assembly at the end of its service. This approach shall catalyze the process of achieving
a circular economy in the sector of urban planning and development. The public spaces can be further upgraded by promoting biophilic design principles and green investment.
Will this pandemic bring any change in the demographics of the nation? This year has seen a remarkable change in the lifestyle of varied classes. The culture of working from home has to some extent eradicated the need for a commute to your workplace. Hence, the trend of newcomers moving to the cities in search of opportunities to work will likely fade away. The concept of shared apartments, paying guests has declined over time. This has affected the real estate industry tremendously. The urban population who relied on rent earned from the students or newcomers can consider developing vertical farming in their ancillary apartments. The covid-19 pandemic has evinced how the health of cities suffered when the borders were shut and cities faced a crisis in the vegetable markets. To avoid such a setback in the future, cities need to have hubs of vertical farms catering to every suburb in the city. This would ensure that every suburb would have adequate services and scope of employment. Besides the fact that the population will be evenly spaced, it will also enable systematic segregation of containment and green zones while dealing with such disease outbreaks in the future.
In various building typologies such as workplaces, residences, hospitals, we have experienced how spatial inadequacies have lead to psychological problems. The living conditions need to be carefully addressed to maintain the mental health of people at their best. The houses built in the future should incorporate comfortable workspace and spaces for rejuvenation.
For many of the sectors such as designing, marketing, finances, etc the table discussions are still something that cannot be replaced with video calls. However, the cities may not require towers of corporate buildings, but workspaces rented on an hourly basis could be in a boom in the future.
Amid pandemic, the urban rich preferred moving to their holiday homes – often located in the suburbs or outskirts of the city. Previously, people preferred the cities for economic opportunities and the urban lifestyle. Although, now taking the business online has become so easy, and crowded spaces are visualized as a threat to life. If the pandemics continue in the
future, people could likely reconsider their choice of residence permanently. The people who would now prefer staying in luxury villas in the outskirts than in the urban apartments could initiate this change. This is a sign that the shift towards reverse urbanization is not far behind. The new settlements in the rural areas must be a composed amalgamation of sustainable
utility spaces, agricultural lands, and essential services. This rural development will mark the beginning of the prosperity of our nation. The cities will become less crowded and manageable to maintain safe and sanitary living conditions.
The pandemic has been extremely brutal on all the nations. We have seen a rage rising among many of the countries to track the global coronavirus outbreak. While the whole world is battling against the pandemic, it is reported on the news that many of the countries are conducting tests for nuclear weapons. Our nation is facing aggression at the borders. Various international news reveals that powerful countries are trying to use this opportunity to expand their borders, and the smaller nations appear to protest and demonstrate their agitation. The changes in the trading relations between the countries have resulted in international conflicts. In the post covid world, the countries that shall survive all the hurdles and provide a helping hand to the devastated nations shall prove victorious. The foreign policies will be redrafted, plans for economic recoveries will be outlined. In the long run, this pandemic will prove that the survival of the fittest still applies.
In this journey towards survival, we the Architects, Urban Designers, and Planners can play a key role and contribute to society by paying keen attention to healthy living conditions. Encouraging sanitation and practicing urban farming are among the few aforementioned incorporations that will help us achieve breathable and self-sustained cities.