Urban Design and Landscape

Reclaiming Public Places - Creating Livability Within Urban Spaces

Minahil Muhammad Ali
University of Karachi, Department of Visual Studies

Project idea

The growing urbanization has led to the imbalance in the ratio of open and built environment, taking over the necessary public spaces in Karachi that effects the quality of life. It is a well-known fact that lack of open and natural environment contributes in unhealthy patterns of life which impacts on physical and mental wellbeing. With less public spaces left in the city, the objective is to make the remaining open spaces so impactful that it becomes a way to compensate the negative effect of decreasing open environment. This research studies the challenges our remaining open public spaces deal with their overlooked importance in these times where the real estate benefits are prioritized.

To test the hypothesis that qualitative solutions can be beneficial in addressing the quantitative issues of public spaces, a mix of qualitative and quantitative methodology is adopted. The research methods include survey, interviews and documents analysis. A survey was conducted in one of the densest urban areas of the city; Nawalane to focus on how the quality of living in a densified area affect the wellbeing. Nawalane is divided into two parts originally depending on their density. Respondents from both sides were included in the study to analyze the impact of no accessibility to a breathable area or an open public space. The results showed people living in part A which is denser than part B are less communicative. The social bonds are fragile and a sense of community lacks. While the part B residents were found to be more open, relaxed and enjoyed their socializing time spent in their streets which resulted in ownership, sense of security and trust among the community.

The analysis demonstrates the correlation between the livable conditions with the personal growth and development. To conclude on the basis of research, it is recommended that the concept of creating livability within the urban environment can generate opportunities out of the existing challenges which can result in retaining the essence of culture and identity of the neighborhood.

Project description

Nawalane; is an area which has no access to open public spaces, missing interconnection between the streets and amenities, lack of community bonding due to less interaction and no space to enjoy recreational activity. The existing conditions impacting the wellbeing of inhabitants has to be readdressed through the interventions to create livability in such congested environment. Based on the principles of placemaking by Jan Gehl, four strategies of livability are narrowed down to create livability in the urban environment,
• Leisure activities
• Accessibility
• Resilience
• Community bonding

To achieve the livability in the context of Nawalane through open public spaces, design strategies are implemented throughout the site to rehabilitate the neighborhood.
An "Accessibility spine" is laid out through the site on the principles of “Elements of the city by Kevin Lynch” that connects all the existing amenities, landmarks, main roads together. The spine acts as a recreational path which passes through the social hubs designed to encourage interaction and social activities. A series of recreational activities/ programs for all genders and age groups are incorporated in the spine which are social hubs that activate the site at all times of the day.

Spaces in the area that has heavy pedestrian traffic due to being surrounded by the amenities and landmarks needs an interactive space to foster the community. Such spaces hold the potential to become a node that can have multiple functions which would help in community bonding, creating ownership, activate the site and create the safe travel route throughout the day. The social hub has three parts; the elevated structure which is on street level, the community roof garden and multi-purpose basement. The street level and basement of the hub is designed to link the streets and build a fluid connection between the amenities. The module is designed to be flexible and transformable according to the needs while creating a three generational space that holds an interactive space for elderly, multipurpose community space for men and women and a playscape for children.
"Roof garden" is the second part of the social hub module that acts as a socializing space for adults and a play area for children during the day. While at night the space functions as a sleeping space for men as it’s a part of their culture.
Multi purpose Basement is a transformable space for events and a playscape for children. The basement level functions as communal pavilion which holds multiple functions as learning space/ co working area, meeting hall, local art display and baithak. The space is designed in a way that it makes a visual connection with the street level making it easy to keep an eye on the activities for children and creates a sense of security for the users.

Technical information

The concern of the project was to make it homely and close to the context of the site to create ownership among the people of the Nawalane. To keep the essence of their culture, all the materials used in the design have been well thought according to their durability and public use. It is intended to use the materials in their raw form and keep it vernacular as much as possible. Such playful elements have been introduced in the design that needs no maintenance and is fit for rough environment in daily use. Materials used in the design are fareface concrete, bamboo and recycled wood.

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