Mumbai civic body looks to create ‘urban squares’ to promote art and culture

To create new venues to promote culture and art, the civic body’s Mumbai Commission for Arts, Music and Culture (MCAMC) has shortlisted beaches, gardens, unused roads, areas under flyovers or near major traffic junctions across the city, to be converted into “urban squares.”

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) idea is to create free-for-all people’s spaces, where local residents can display their artworks, perform, hold discussions, conduct workshops; where children can play or citizens can conduct yoga sessions or cycling events, according to officials. This move comes a year after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis cleared a proposal, allowing the BMC to create a Mumbai arts commission.

Since last July, the MCAMC conducted 10 meetings with civic staff, urban planners and architects. In November, BMC asked wards to submit entries for areas that have the potential to be developed into urban squares, and last month, it asked wards to submit entries for artworks that can be installed in such squares. Eighteen of the 24 civic wards have replied with their entries.

A senior civic official said, “During our first few meetings, we scrutinised entries by wards that suggested gardens should become urban squares. We cannot use all gardens, because essentially they are open spaces and green lungs of the city. But there are some gardens that have already constructed open-air amphitheatres and are not in use— such as the Hanging Gardens. We plan to use these.”

The MCAMC has on a pilot basis decided to select three areas — one each in the eastern and western suburbs, and the island city — to demonstrate the concept. After this, they will replicate it in other wards. The committee also plans to identify wards with language, food and other cultural aspects associated with its population. For example, as Matunga is known for its large number of educational institutions, an urban square can hold exhibitions that will interest students, book clubs and libraries. Similarly, Bandra and Andheri, known to be Bollywood hubs, can house urban squares based on film themes.

The official added, “There are a lot of concepts we can implement in an urban square, but they must primarily be able to attract citizens. This is why we are trying to make it as local as possible, something that the residents li ving closest to the square can relate to. Some ideas can later be implemented across Mumbai.”

Ratan Batliboi, a senior architect who has worked in urban design, said, “It is a fabulous initiative and will make a lot of our dead spaces lively, and add personality to the city. If the neglected critical places can be opened up for people’s use, it will lead to a whole new ball game as to what can be done in the city.”

First Published:
Jun 01, 2019 00:02 IST

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