Interview with Urban Designer Swapnil Patel, Pune
How did you decide to foray into urban planning?
What has been the motivation? Cities have always fascinated me. While it is true that cities grow organically, the great cities are actually an act of deliberate intervention, vision & a long term planning. It’s a science & art which I started appreciating while doing my masters course at Berkeley. I consider it a privilege to have professors like Allan Jacobs, Donlyn Lyndon, Chris Alexander, Dan Solomon and Calthorpe at Berkeley. After graduation I also had an opportunity to work with Dan Solomon in San Francisco & with the likes of Larry Beasley & Andres Duany while working with UPC at Abu Dhabi. As an Urban Designer I could not have asked for more. Working with these Masters, observing them at their craft & learning from them was the greatest motivation for me.
What kind of projects have you been working on in India?
We are working on several master planning projects ranging in size from 5 to 5000 acres. These are typically concept masterplans, visioning exercises, large scale integrated townships, TOD’s, long range campus plans & designing ‘Agricultural Urban Communities’.
Do you feel that the average urban inhabitant is unaware or perhaps indifferent to the impact of lack of planning on the quality of their lives? Does the issue need to be tackled at a psychological level for a much broader impact?
Awareness is at the heart of everything. I have seen ordinary folks coming night after night in US for community meetings during city planning process, fighting tooth & nail till they got say a better street, park, school or a project related to their neighborhood improvement. This participation and involvement of common man is a must and the onus lies on us and not the government. We need to take time out and put the focus back on these issues through sustained media outreach and programs such as “Satya Mev Jayate”. Someone like say NDTV with its wider reach & viewership can create so much awareness towards urban planning, townships & community design through special campaigns or even through their annual ‘Architecture Awards’, irrespective of built/ unbuilt status for projects of such kinds.