Faculty: Melissa Smith | Chandrani Chakrabarti

Urban Assemblies: Radical Interventions in Loose Public Space

Ahmedabad is full of vacant lands, both public and private, whose surreptitious adoption by tactical citizens supplements the city’s dearth of accessible open space. Contested bans on planned land uses, legal disputes, and uncoordinated developments produce an abundance of loosely organized vague space within the city. Sitting alongside high densities, much is temporarily occupied while waiting for its ‘official’ function, with activities vital for the social life of the city. (Cricket! Driving Practice! Festivals!) But the condition is temporary; eventually buildings replace the activated space, and actors must move.

What if, instead of erasure, new programs were imagined alongside current occupations? Though they are publicly owned, these open lands rarely have public access. By mapping space activation on such sites-as-found, the lessons of possibility are applied to an underused “public” site, reimagining it as a space that supports, and is accessible to, the public. An onsite pilot project tested initial ideas, and gauged citizens’ response. This and site-as-found mappings framed student design positions and intent, which were then tested through design interventions. The design proposals imagine an alternative future for the public space, which balances the existing citizens’ claims and the needs of the area and city. Link to studio work :vacantlandstudio.com