IS OUR CITY ANY GOOD?

A forum for citizens to understand and discuss the city.

 

“In this dependence on maps as some sort of higher reality, project planners and urban designers assume they can create a promenade simply by mapping one in where they want it, then having it built. But a promenade needs promenaders.”

-Jacobs, J. ‘The Life and Death of Great American Cities’ (1961)

 

Throughout our architectural education and our professional life we as architects live and strive to make space better. We toil to design buildings, spaces and systems that people should use in a certain way to improve their quality of life. This top-down approach has led to many city-centric designs that are effective on paper but often fail in the eyes of the public. A part of the problem is that the design community has fallen into a rut of “the people should…” instead of trying to understand what it is that the people actually do.

Good City is an experiment through dialogue; in the city, with citizens, and stakeholders. It aims to undertake participatory exercises with citizens and bridge the gap between designers, government and citizens. The forum may serve as a platform to mediate between development and conservation, public projects and private interest, all in the vision of a better city for us all.

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Good City Meet 1 – Bookworm Library, Mala, Panaji

The first meeting brought together people of various backgrounds—a pharmacist, an artist, designers, architects and a policy strategist. Held in Bookworm library on a Sunday, the 5th of May 2019, the meet provided a platform for participants to vocally express what the city meant to them, and what this group can do as a collective to better understand the city. Short-term and long-term goals were envisioned, one of which is representing ideas on a ‘good’ city through visual media: photography, videography, drawings and writing.

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Good City Meet 2 – Charles Correa Foundation, Fontainhas, Panaji

The second meet was held at the Charles Correa Foundation, on a Friday, the 10th of May 2019. Participants discussed the Foundation’s photoblog titled, ‘Late-Night Stroll, Anyone? Assessing Safety in Panaji’s Streets’. In the photoblog, the CCF team approached the dimension of safety in Panaji’s streets through the concepts written by urbanist Jane Jacobs in her famous book ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’. This prompted the discussion of urban theories postulated by Jane Jacobs, and their relevance based on citizens’ observations in Panaji and Mapusa.

A key takeaway was the need for engagement with diverse sections of the public in order to understand a holistic perception of good urban space.

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Good City Event – Jardim, Garcia D’Orta, Panaji

The third meet took the form of a social experiment, based on a suggestion to talk to citizens in the Municipal Garden. On 11th May, a children’s event prompted a large turnout which was ideal for a mood-mapping exercise with children and their parents. Using a colour-coded system ranging from Green (very positive response to a space) to Pink (very negative response to a place), participants of the exercise responded to spaces in the vicinity by placing Post-Its on a map of the area.

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Good City Event – Jardim, Garcia D’Orta, Panaji

With at least 40 children and 20 adults participating in the exercise, a significant amount of data was gathered, including the ages of the participants and their reasons for liking or disliking the spaces. The next step is to repeat the exercise with larger sections of people and analyse the assimilated data.

What do you think makes a ‘good’ city? Comment below or write to us of your thoughts, ideas and experiences of similar initiatives!

The Good City Citizens Forum happens weekly in Goa.  It is publicized in most newspapers; you can join our discourse in person or follow our progress online, either on social media or subscribe to our mailing list here.

 

Further Reading:

CCF Blog

‘Late-Night Stroll, Anyone? Assessing Safety in Panaji’s Streets’

Participatory exercise with children in U.S.A.  https://www.dailycamera.com/2019/04/29/growing-up-boulder-collaborates-with-700-elementary-students-on-city-map/