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VESCOA transformed an urban void for the community

August 1, 2023

VES College of Architecture (VESCOA) recently engaged in a project to transform an urban void into a shared space for an informal community in Chembur, Mumbai. A small ‘maidan’ or open space located at the entrance of this informal settlement, which is home to around 600 residents was the muse of this project. 

Earlier, the predominant presence of numerous two-wheelers was seen here, leaving barely any space for the residents to engage in play and socialization activities. However, this space is utilized during festivals such as Ganeshotsav, Navratri, Iftaar, etc. The void seen here is a result of a mindset that prioritizes mere functionality, particularly parking, at the expense of much-needed community space and a play area for children. Moreover, the lack of regular garbage clearance has further deteriorated the condition of the space. Consequently, there is a lack of social areas for residents, leading to poor sanitation, inadequate maintenance, and unregulated activities that exacerbate the situation.

The faculty and student team, led by Prof. Devi Praseeda and Prof. Ruchi Kapoor at VESCOA, actively engaged with the residents right from the inception of the project, recognizing the utmost importance of promoting a sense of ownership of the place. The BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) was also involved, and through regular follow-up, they assisted in cleaning the site, leveling the road for parking, ensuring regular garbage disposal, and preparing the wall surface for artwork.

The Vivekanand Education Society Trust played a pivotal role in supporting the cause, assisting with fund mobilization, and providing constant support. The VESCOA team conducted awareness campaigns within the settlement, facilitating sessions for design and iterations, and actively involving the residents in executing the artwork, which contributed to energize the space

Dr. Prof. Anand Achari, Principal, VESCOA, suggests that most neglected spaces often go unnoticed, and it is crucial to address such pockets. Often, residents’ apathy towards maintaining their surroundings can be overcome through proper awareness and campaigns. Along with the efficiency of local bodies, these factors outweigh monetary considerations in interventions like these. Small participatory initiatives in urban development can have a significant impact on enhancing the quality of life. As summed up by a resident, “It is very refreshing to come to our ‘Aangan’ now; it’s so bright and cheerful. We finally have a space to come out to.”

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