Friday, February 18, 2005

Making of a picture postcard city

Making of a picture postcard city
An integrated approach to the city's development with aesthetics in mind will make it an efficient and beautiful city to live, work, and pin up as a pretty picture
The Times of India

Skyrocketing real estate demand. Every locality that comes up takes hardly any time to turn into a premium area.
900 new vehicles being registered every day.
City roads struggling to cope with traffic load. Flyovers needed faster than they can be put up.

While all this seems like chaos and unmanageable growth that will lead to the city's infrastructure crumbling, there still is a silver lining. A possibility that with inspired planning and implementation, Bangalore can use these adverse conditions to advantage, creating a streamlined and beautiful city that has amidst its glitz and greenery, a thriving economy and opportunity for the creative and enterprising.

There aren't many cities with as high-growth a scenario as Bangalore. Be it in demand for real estate space - both commercial and residential - or for civic amenities such as water, power and roads. The systems, designed a good half a century ago, for a miniscule of the present populace, is no good for today's population and demand. The city outgrows its infrastructure the way a growing child outgrows his clothes. Catering to this demand is an unenviable task. But imagination and innovation, along with the will to build a model city, can turn things around.

Take for example the city's petrol bunks. The cobbled tarmac-like driveways, electronic fuel dispensers, attractive signage, bright illumination, convenience stores, and coffee vending machines have changed the face of Bangalore's petrol bunks. Driving into one is a pleasant experience.

Another example of a simple step that adds to the city's beauty is the numerous bus shelters that have come up on some major roads. Granite seating, stainless steel and chrome-plated bars, bright lighting and innovative sheltering material give the shelters a touch of elegance. Waiting in them apart, they make an object of decor for those passing by. The bright light they throw around creates an attractive spot on the road night-long. A far cry from the concrete stands with no lights, the demand for bus shelters has been used innovatively to create facilities that also add value to the city's image. With more efficient infrastructure in place, these petrol bunks and bus shelters - inane as they may seem in the context of building a city - will add up in Bangalore's being known as a 'convenient, aesthetic, and successful city of opportunity and enterprise'.

While the city lost its luxurious circles and fountains at major intersections thanks to the increasing traffic, the medians, sidewalks and traffic islands are beginning to make up. An attractive piece of greenery or water body along the route to work helps make the drive pleasant.

The key to an efficient and aesthetic city lies in infrastructure that works well and design with an eye on aesthetics.

The next major project that will change the face of the city forever is the metro rail. "We are going to ensure that the structures jell well with the city. There will be adequate scope for commercial development in this project and we have an eye on aesthetics. The pillars will be designed to look attractive", says K N Shrivastava, Managing Director, Bangalore Mass Rapid Transit Ltd. "The train will look elegant in a stainless steel body with no joints and large windows", he adds. A large number of pillars and development that a metro rail project entails will create spaces for commercial uses. This project has tremendous potential as both a solution to commuting needs and enhancing aesthetic appeal.

"There are a whole lot of options to make the city more convenient and beautiful", says M S Jaikumar, Empire Publicity Service, who has been involved in initiatives in this arena. "Fencings, boulevards, signage, alerts, small fountains and rain shelters can be put up to facilitate both convenience and aesthetics.

Simple hand rails at pedestrian crossings to help people who feel giddy when standing close to fast-moving heavy traffic is a convenience and can also look good", he explains. Bright lighting at medians and walkways would add to both visibility and appeal. The lights installed at some medians and aimed at trees create focal points. "Illumination from brightly-lit name boards and signage is good as it dispels the fear of dark on the city's roads", Jaikumar adds.

It takes more than just infrastructure and economy to make a great city. With the thought of one umbrella agency to oversee civic affairs, an integrated approach to urban development is needed too. A 'picture postcard city' is a sobriquet many would like Bangalore to earn.


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