Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bridges over Chronopolis

(Collage by artist Boris Bilinsky, City Art work for Metropolis c.1926-7, sourced from the Tate Liverpool website: here)

Like the Overload device from Surrogates (where every individual experiences the environment through a robotic surrogate), Bombay's density ensures that every facet of life is pickled with an overloaded complexity, sometimes irritatingly to an extent where everything is an abstraction of an abstraction, a post production of sorts that has completely forgotten its borrowed source. The combination of massive densities (12 million of us in 30 degree Celsius, shit, sweat and dust) and less resources turns the train stations into highly contested spots where concerned 'citizens' (local residents claiming authority/ ownership through their rights towards property), shopkeepers, hawkers, cops, eunuchs, beggars and commuters all stage a daily show of physical endurance, of Olympian proportions.

(Art work by Hugh Ferriss done for the Metropolis of Tomorrow. More images uploaded by Kosmograd here)

So in such a scenario the State Government attempting to untangle this complexity by distributing people in various levels through pedestrian bridges is hilarious and amazing at the same time. If the government goes as crazy with these pedestrian bridges as it went with the paver blocks, then we may even have an amazing cobweb of bridges crisscrossing above the city.
In case of Bombay I believe, various bridge typologies like the flyovers, sky-walks, highway pedestrian bridges etc are similar to Viktor Ramos's Bypass Urbanism project, where the urge to bypass the chaotic complexity below is more stronger than desire to bridge places.
It would be interesting to see what nocturnal activities find refuge in these bridges and would they turn into corridors of sleeping, homeless bodies or isolated echo-tubes reverberating with memories of the morning stampede.

(Photo by Ranjit Kandalgaonkar of Skywalk bridge at Borivali)
Contrary to the delicate, minimal almost invisible structures preferred in European context, I like these elephant foot, over-reinforced columned bridges (a "creative" response to a design challenge by a Municipal engineer no doubt) which in some odd way celebrate the half a million people-crowd marching to their jobs everyday, every year and rest of their lives, like some Soviet monuments.

(Photo by Ranjit Kandalgaonkar of Skywalk bridge at Borivali)
I also wonder if finally the pedestrian too, like the motorist has found a good vantage point to enjoy the city but from a comfortable distance without getting his feet dirty. Maybe in some more years we may witness the first ever pedestrian traffic jam on one of these bridges with people stuck for 4 - 5 hours due to someone walking in the wrong direction.

(Photo by Ranjit Kandalgaonkar of Skywalk bridge at Borivali)
Few years back I had also heard a proposal to deal with the train crowding during peak hours, where various government and private offices could be told to stagger their opening and closing hours by half an hour, thereby distributing densities in different time slots. What is amazing is this possibility where the city continues to accommodate higher densities but divides those densities through time and space, different populations of the same city living in different time zones staggered by half an hour and different levels that get built slowly one above the other, somewhat like a combination of J G Ballard's Chronopolis and Hong Kong's Kowloon Walled City. The level and time occupied by a person would be based on the economic status.
The only question is at which level and time zone difference will the city be when Violence erupts...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Two Articles

2 very good articles by Arundhati Roy:
1) The Monster in the Mirror
Which is on the terrorist attack that took place in Bombay (hope the MNS isn't here)
2) The Greater Common Good
On the Narmada Dam project, forwarded to me by Aditya Sudhakar (Pottu).
update to the above post:
I found an article written by Ramachandra Guha reacting to Arundhati Roy's above article Greater Common Good...his article titled: The Arun Shourie of the Left which she reacts in the following interview: Scimitars in the Sun