Interview with Ar. Mitu Mathur, GPM Architects & Planners
Do you think that the vertical growth of the cities is a step in the right direction? Please share your perspective on the same.
With any significant decision, there is always the scope of steering it in the right direction as well as chances of it back-firing owing to mismanagement. Same applies to the subject of densification. Provided that adequate infrastructure and resources to cater to the populace are designed, the vertical growth model will be the desirable approach to urbanization and significantly reduce the per-capita carbon footprint.
Constant densification is inevitable, and if not expertly spearheaded to the right direction can lead to uncontrolled urban sprawl. Vertical expansion can be considered to be the right direction in a city’s growth because it makes active use of technology, and promotes a compact lifestyle, contributing to reducing per-capita resource consumption and land resource optimization. A significant issue with this mode of development is to provide adequate supplies of essential resources like air, water, transportation, infrastructure, and consumables without putting considerable pressure on the existing farmlands.
The city of New York serves as a great example- the population residing in Manhattan has a considerably low carbon footprint as compared to the state suburbs owing to the prevalent vertical cityscape of that area.
What are some of the pros and cons of the cities reaching the vertical limits?
We have a big advantage as the Indian community lifestyle has been instilled deep into us; we love to live close to our families, and we like to see people, and in return, be seen. We have analyzed that living in a densely packed space has never been a problem with us if we look at our old cities- a tightly knit societal and living structure is being followed in here. Density has not been a challenge with our community- we need to manage our resources better and efficiently organize ourselves to retain the existing spatial character. Chandni Chowk in Delhi serves as the perfect living example.
A vertical lifestyle is dense, with families living very close to each other. One of the primary problems is that we now very easily associate densification as a potential source of trouble and not as a friendly entity in the modern times. Densification comes with an augmented demand of resources and infrastructure, and the actual problem exists in the way we all deal with the issue of excessive densification- we need to realize that success lays in collaboration and sharing and not in competition. Essential resource problems and infrastructural availability constitute a significant concern, and will quickly escalate to the breaking point if not managed properly.
As designers dealing in the spaces we live and work in, we need to broaden our mental perspectives and make use of technologies available to build upon our socio-cultural values and replicate them to create a viable pattern of life in the vertical cities.
In a nutshell, there can be several cons to the idea of vertical expansion, but how we change them into pros, really lies in the hands of the change-makers – designers, policy and decision makers.
While aiming for the vertical heights, what are some of the design and planning measures that need to be kept in mind?
With the vertical extension, a mixed-use typology is a key to hold the social fabric intact successfully. Promoting a walk-to-work culture and safer living areas and neighborhoods, it also provides a unique pedestrian experience. Secondly, an active and integrated mode of transport integrating all the significant areas of residence with work sectors will efficiently reduce the dependence on private modes of transportation, reducing pollution levels and elevating traffic situations as well. We should also promote non-gated communities as that drastically increases engagement, and provides the advantage of zero setbacks, creating a boundary-less community experience.
What are the possible challenges associated with reaching for vertical heights and what are the mitigating measures for the same?
Given the city’s large population and a high cost of real estate, high-rises are the most cost-effective and realistic way to accommodate the need for housing.
Challenges associated with densification: resource management, pollution control and traffic management at an urban scale. The answer is developing a sustainable city, with low energy consumption and integration of the latest technology.
Structural & Safety compliant design and construction: While reaching higher heights, we need to ensure that the model does justice to not just aesthetics, but also, structure stability and fire and life safety compliances. It is essential that people feel safe and secure while enjoying views of the city.
Integration of Community spaces in the vertical landscape: As our lifestyle revolves around active community spaces, it is incredibly crucial to integrate the gathering spaces in the form of recreational spots, sky gardens, refuge floors for the benefit of the community in the design of towers.
Construction technology: Though we are progressing in the use of the latest construction technology, there is still a huge gap which needs to be filled with a collaborative approach and getting the right experience on board.
Outdated Codes and bylaws: Our national code and local bylaws need to recognize high-rises and establish the latest set of codes and ordinances for ease of adaptation of the idea and use of efficient technology in high-rise constructions.
Share your thoughts on that how the vertical growth of cities can be made sustainable, any global example that Indian cities can follow.
Hong Kong: Over the years, the city has incubated different zero-carbon building concepts around the Hong Kong cityscape. And we know that, in a compact and highly urbanized city like Hong Kong, indoor activities account for 90% of electricity consumption. This brings both challenges and opportunities for sustainable city development. Innovative building and design concepts have great potential to resolve urban problems by enhancing resource management and energy use efficiency.