“If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you will get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you will get people and places.” What role does the design of the space, the activities planned in the space, the ambience of the space play in how it is utilised by a community?
It was important for Bombay Greenway to plan for this new space to be open 24/7 (a rarity in Mumbai!) and to be accessible to pedestrians, cyclists, prams and the differently-abled (most parks in Mumbai ban cycles, play equipment, and are not differently-abled friendly).
The stairs and ramps break midway to flow into a central gathering area. The space acts as a cultural focal point for performances during festivals and events, and are used for free play, cycling in the evenings. The higher part of the steps provides comfortable seating for the elderly. An open-air theatre along with a children’s play area has been introduced to the space to encourage diverse activities and adaptable use within the community.
This stands testament to the power of deliberate design and involvement on the part of designers, public servants, citizens, artists, and volunteers. As Fred Kent said, “It takes a place to create a community and a community to create a place.”
One big milestone was finally managing to extend the width of the promenade on top of the steps, by taking over a part of the road (this proposal had been initially outright rejected by the municipality, but creating a coalition of a few key, broader minded local residents helped implement it. We made ample use of this area during the festival, with a book swap, photography exhibition, and the #UnityInDiversityTree became a photo-op, something totally unexpected!
The Steps offer something for each and every type of citizen that is willing to interact with their city and make use of what the city has to offer. This is a great outcome of deliberate effort and we can only hope that such spaces are permuted around the city.
“It is not more bigness that should be our goal. We must attempt, rather, to bring people back to…the warmth of community, to the worth of individual effort and responsibility…and of individuals working together as a community, to better their lives and their children’s future”. -Robert F. Kennedy