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Avneet Kaur Waraich

LA4008

Hidden Heritage:A Gateway to Bandra's Cultural Landmarks

Bandra is a unique suburb in Mumbai’s evolving streetscapes. At one time, Bandra had been inhabited mainly by East Indians, a few Goans, Mangalorean immigrants, and Hindu Kolis. Past, present, and future seem to flow seamlessly together in Bandra- given its central location and diverse history. It has responded well to the artistic sensibilities of the youth. Hill Road, the central spine of the suburb, is privy to the rich heritage and cultural landmarks that Bandra still contains. There is a need to consolidate the identity of the street through an urban gesture. The intent is to create a ‘gateway’ to the cultural relics along Hill Road as a way of connecting the old with the new. To achieve this vision, a three-point strategy has been devised as a socio-cultural approach to the site: Connect, Embrace and Breathe. Using this strategy, a node has been reinterpreted as a temporal pedestrian thoroughfare, with an urban insert that invites people into the center of the street. It is meant to breathe with the site and mirror the street character experienced in the latter half of Hill Road, making it a Gateway to its cultural relics.  

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Bandra consisted of seven historical hamlets or pakhadis. These ranged from fishing to trade to farming with a strong Catholic influence. A part of these still exist today as urban villages connected via the major spines running through the Bandra. There is a correlation between the hamlets and Churches which are the religious centers of the cultural precincts. Hill Road is one such corridor connecting 2 of the old Pakhadis along its 1.5km stretch.

Hill Road- at a stone’s throw from Bandstand promenade- is a destination for locals as it hosts a series of eateries, retail stores and the oldest parishes of Mumbai. There is a dominant mixed use character to the site, with upper residential stories and ground floor shops (garment, jewelry, hardware) that open up on the street, activating the edges. Newer construction concentrated to the Eastern side with relatively lesser tree cover than the heritage built forms, centered around the seafront with considerable canopy cover.

There is a dichotomy on the site based on stakeholder user engagement where two distinct circuits are created. On the western half, vehicular passage and permanent user engagement is seen. Along the eastern half is a public, pedestrian passage with transit user engagement. There is a distinct correlation between transit hubs near the entry to site.

Considering the site context and the historic origins of the site, the Vision was devised as a socio cultural approach to Hill Road. The site was reinterpreted as a pedestrian dominated space with historical totems and as an intervention in placemaking to establish a cohesive identity of the street- an homage to the identity of Bandra.

Aligning with the Vision, a three point Strategy was devised. Connecting the old and the new, by introducing an element that invites people into the site and embodies the character of the space. Embracing the experience of the heritage half of the street while using contemporary elements to recreate that character. Breathing by creating organic pause points and totems for placemaking.

The intervention transforms the insert as a node and entry to a cultural corridor, connecting Bandra Station pedestrian activity to Mount Mary. It is an attempt to bring an essence of Mt. Mary to the entrance of Hill Road. This concept of connecting two levels to enhance smooth pedestrian passage and engagement along the street can be implemented at each exit point of the foot over bridge from Bandra Station.

The three point strategy of Connect, Embrace and Breathe was implemented on the Masterplan of the street to achieve a cohesive Vision. This was characterized by wider pavements for pedestrian movement, medians as greening pockets, green buffers between the roadways and pavements, and multifunction edges or parklets.

The proposal is an urban gesture in the form of a cultural insert, creating a large thoroughfare node. The design is a 8 m wide median starting from the landing of the staircase coming down directly onto the middle of the 24 m street. The two plazas created on either side of the median are connected with cobblestone paving, encouraging pedestrian activity across the street. The median is flanked by large trees on either side, creating a shaded avenue space for an enhanced outdoor experience.

The material palette is a minimalistic feature, meant to enhance the temporality of the space and give the user freedom to interact with it as he desires. It is meant to breathe with the site, and create a sense of timelessness. The planting palette is subdued, with white flowering species to enhance the simplicity in the design and let the user engagement define the space itself.

The intervention is a gateway to Hill Road, which is a cultural stretch of evolving skyline. The plants selected give ample shade and creates pause points, and also allows a visual connection to the heritage precinct that gives the viewer a similar experience.