- By: Archana Gupta
- Posted on October,8 2013
As young Architects, one romanticizes as if the architect is the major determinant and driver of the built space and cityscape around us but later in the ‘real’ world one begins to understand that there are many other key stakeholders and factors who play their respective roles, and even take precedence in the building up and shaping of the city. On a simplistic note, these key stakeholder groups can be classified under the following categories, namely – Policy Makers (Planners, Administrators, Politicians, Municipal authorities etc), Practioners (Architects, Developers, Contractors etc ), Providers (Large and small Businesses, commercial establishments and government orgnaisations and other employers etc) Preachers (Academicians, Economists, Urban and Transport Planners etc) and the People (City dwellers, Immigrant groups, Investors etc) as change makers in the shaping of the city. It is the collectively intertwined, integrated and selfish thoughts, ideas and actions of all the above sub-groups put together that contributes towards the shaping of our cities.
Delving a little deeper – into ideas relating to what makes a city grow, how a city grows, what makes a city liveable, what defines the character and quality of a city – one begins to identify the roles that these sub-groups play for the physical building up of the city. The Policy Maker or the Decision group who determines the way the city should grow, the Practicioners or the action group who collectively build the city, the Providers or the employer group who provide livelihood and employment in the city, and the Preachers or the Influencer group who define the policy maker and the practitioner. All these four groups look at cities with their respective filters, have their own theories and agendas and work hard towards their end with a good intent, involved in their own intrinsic processes of building the city BUT then comes a key question that “does the city building process adequately involve the People living in the city, whose actions initially get defined by the city and subsequently defines the city. The end product is never static, is ever evolving and a resultant of a many complex and simultaneously contributing factors and drivers at play. As Winston Chrchill once said “ We first shape our buildings, and thereafter they shape us” !
Each of the sub-group has a selfish agenda and an intellectual and/or commercial stake in the way the city should develop. Each group tries to influence/control the city but the city listens to none, and takes its own shape, as if it had a mind of its own. Who owns it, who defines it, who builds it, who manages it, who keeps it clean, who polices it, how does history influence its present, how does its culture get defined, can we define or identify its soul, who are the people who come and stay etc are all very dynamic and elusive facets towards understading of the city. The city has to be understood as a system of various layers and overlays that constitute its structure, each having its manifestation in shaping the character of the city. The planned elements defined as per the Master plan viz – commercial, residential, recreational and occupational patterns, roads, pavements, flyovers, Metro, highways, open spaces, water bodies, trees, vegetation, urban open space etc openly fight and flirt with the dynamics of the socio-econo-cultural patterns of that period viz – Value systems, festivals, rituals, celebrations, hoardings, bazaars, technology, construction materials, encroachments, land prices, supply and demand etc. As a result of this ongoing tussle between the planned, unplanned and the behavioral aspects, the city becomes like this elusive mistress with many lovers, and each trying to exercise control over her ! But alas, the city belongs to none, or all !
In trying to untangle this complex web of how, who and for whom is the city evolving, we come across a pertinent question – Do our cities go down the road map we had planned or do they take a life of their own which goes against their very identity or intent that was initially planned for ? Perhaps if one began to understand the multiple and complex ground forces at play within the evolution and functioning of the city, we might be able to make a more integrated and sincere road map for the brighter future of our cities.