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urban expo   



Delhi Nullahs  |  Changing Tracks  |  Emerging Cities/Cityscapes  |  Mirabilis Matrix  |  Urban India through the Lens  |  Pan India
Titled “Possibilities”, the Urban Expo component of the Habitat Summit is public-facing and will feature accessible displays and installations that project the possibilities our cities have for radical improvement through innovative thinking and via the deployment of “organic interventions”. The Expo will feature the work of leading architects and urban thinkers engaged with building sustainable built environments.



'The fractal metropolitan layer' is an endeavor in progress by Morphogenesis, that aims to reveal the hidden opportunity that lies within our organically evolved cities by establishing a green and sustainable network as an alternative source of engagement with the city for the common man. The initiative aims to reclaim the derelict, the forgotten, the recyclable, and the toxic by involving all stakeholders, thereby collapsing the boundaries of decades of non-systemic thinking which have generated unsustainable urban growth. The contiguous, sewage-laden nullahs, the greens, the alleyways and the river are viewed as the arteries of a city that can be linked to create an environmental network which integrates livability issues of air, water, sewerage, heritage and walkability. These ecological potentials and vestigial organs of planning can be modulated, transformed, and spatial strategies devised to optimize the ecological, social, cultural, and economic dynamic that can be created through them.


The Morphogenesis Delhi Nullahs installation live
at the India Habitat Centre

The installation aims to create awareness by engaging people, to speculate on what is and what can be, by bridging the gap between the reality of our cities as perceived from the outside, and the virtual image of what Delhi potentially is. The tree has been used as a metaphor and a fractal insert into the fabric of the city; representative of our symbiotic relationship with Nature, and its omnipresence in Delhi.



In the mid seventies, work began on laying a railway line that would circumscribe the extents of New Delhi at that time. Originally called the “Delhi Avoiding Line”, it was meant to decongest the existing interstate lines between Hazrat Nizamuddin Station (HZN) and Sarai Rohilla Station (DEE) so that this zone could more effectively serve passenger trains by using this line to shunt goods traffic. The idea was to connect HZN and DEE stations with the newly settled residential colonies of West Delhi and the vast central government housing areas of South Delhi. The Northern Railways then introduced the Ring Rail Sewa as an augmentation of the existing public transport network of DTC buses in time for the 1982 Asiad Games. The manner in which the city has grown subsequently, the development of other transport networks and numerous systemic issues have left this urban transport system grossly underutilised. In fact,the city has slowly turned its back on the Ring Rail and it has become a forgotten asset that is hidden from view except for an occasional glimpse from an overpass.

A quarter century later, as Delhi prepares to host its next international sports mega-event, this installation revisits the Ring Rail to investigate its value as an urban space for Delhi and its potential to make Delhi more inclusive.



The 21st century is the century of the city with the majority of the world population today living in cities. Given the disproportionate amount of emphasis on “global cities” or megacities, it would seem that most people live and work in these places. However the reality of urban living is quite different. In India, for example, the four mega cities only account for 26% of India’s urban population. Over 49% or nearly half urban Indians live in cities with a population of 1 million or less. Thus the need to invest in good urban planning and design in these smaller cities to improve quality of life and environment is most urgent. This exhibition, Emerging Cities/Cityscapes, focuses on three emerging smaller Indian cities—Naya Raipur, Ludhiana and Bathinda. It showcases KCA’s recent and ongoing urban design efforts in these cities to create sustainable and modern urban space in order to deliver better quality of life to citizens and project the cities themselves as attractive urban centers for living and work in the 21st century.



The Mirabilis Matrix: An Analytical Framework for Urban Thinking

  Hardware Software Governance
Liveability Good quality housing and amenities like parks, hospitals, clubs and schools Social networks & interaction. Clustering of amenities to create "urban buzz", a sense of place and history. Safety and enforcement of Law. Simple and well enforced system of municipal regulation.
Competitiveness Transport & Communications links. Quality of office/ commercial space. Clustering of human capital and ability to attract talent, socio-cultural openness. Reasonable tax rates. Efficient governance structures.
Environmental Footprint Public transport, density, green spaces, waste management, etc. Environmental consciousness, low impact lifestyles. Air and water quality. Sustainable practices with regard to water supply & usage, etc.

The Mirabilis Matrix is an analytical framework for urban thinking. It encompasses three verticals: Hardware, Software and Governance. The horizontals are: Liveability, Competitiveness and Environmental Footprint. It provides a way to think about how different elements come together to form a successful city.

This is not a priority list but a way to think about how a successful city comes together by combining different ingredients. Successful urban planning is about organically combining these facets. This is not a “mechanical” approach but one that explicitly thinks of the city as an evolving eco-system.

The Horizontals

Liveability: At the most fundamental level, cities are to be lived in. To succeed, they must be pleasant places to live, work and play for a large cross-section of the society. Hardware, software and governance are all important factors that define liveability. There is no set formula for how these ingredients combine to make a city liveable. Different cities have evolved different recipes that fit the particular needs of particular societies.

Economic Competitiveness: For time immemorial, cities have competed for influence, power and commerce. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this often meant growing and harnessing their industrial prowess. In the twenty-first century, however, cities will compete in terms of their ability to bring in human capital. Rather than lead to the dispersion of economic activity, the telecommunication revolution appears to have increased the value of clusters of human capital. Thus, London and New York have emerged as global cities while university towns like Boston, San Francisco-Bay Area, Oxford and Cambridge (UK) have witnessed extraordinary revival.

Environmental Footprint: More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. India too is likely to be urbanised very quickly over the next few decades. There is a need to consider the environmental costs and benefits of this shift. A conscious effort will be required to design dense cities with public transport systems and sustainable energy, air and water practices.

The Verticals

Hardware: This includes all the residential/commercial buildings, roads, theatres, museums, stadiums, airports and so on that constitutes the physical form of a city - the material manifestation of the city. Clearly these are very important but, in India, all urban thinking and planning seems sometimes to be limited only to this aspect.

Software: This relates to all the activities that people conduct in the urban space. This includes economic activities as well as socio-cultural interactions that give a city its life. To provide an analogy, as a computer’s hardware must allow the software to function correctly, a city must provide adequate physical infrastructure to enable its citizens to perform well. Grand and expensive projects do not always create great cities if they do not actively engage with the lives of the citizens.

Governance: Cities are complex systems and they require constant regulation/management in order to function efficiently. Rules must be rational and their enforcement must be visible and even-handed. Very little thought is given to this aspect in India even in its major cities. Gurgaon, for instance, is still run as if it was a small “moufassil” town, even as different promoters create a random mix of management systems for their individual developments. There is no consistent set of municipal rules or a transparent system for enforcement.



India is home to some of the oldest cities in the world and to some of newest. Three photographers explore how this journey has impacted urbanity in contemporary India. The collection “Urban India Through The Lens” by Mala Mukerjee , Chandan Dubey and Smita Barooah Sanyal will be showcased from 10 Sept to 30 Sep 2009 at Galleries 4A and 5A, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi.









PAN INDIA, a shared habitat
An exhibition of photographs by Prashant Panjiar

'Pan India, a shared habitat' is a personal photographic project, begun in the new millennium, that seeks to observe the visual landscape of India at the cusp of change and to reflect upon the ways we live.

The exhibition can be viewed at the Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre from 25 September to 5 October 2009, daily 11 am to 7 pm.

The exhibition also travels to Bangalore (20 to 30 October 2009), Kolkatta (19 to 29 December 2009) and Mumbai (26 January to 3 February 2010).