Urban Design is a discipline that forms a bridge between architecture and urban planning. Architecture examines three-dimensional form, culture, aesthetics and experience, but does not examine the urban scale, focusing primarily on individual land parcels. Urban Planning examines wider questions of the city, but tends to cast a two-dimensional gaze of policy abstractions. Urban Design seeks to combine the two, concerned about urban scale while also concerned about three-dimensional form and aesthetic/cultural experience.

Urban Design works within the frame of Urban Planning, defining the quality, history and specificity of neighbourhoods. The three disciplines of Urban Planning, Urban Design and Architecture are meant to work in tandem, each affecting and informing the other, to lay down an ethical, social and cultural ideal of urban life.

Urban Design is a discipline unrecognised and unimplemented in India, where officialdom views the city through a two-dimensional lens that imagines it as a techno-economic entity rather than a cultural or ecological entity.

This episode of BIC Talks will reflect on what good urban design should be and examine key questions in this respect. What are the constituents of good urban form? What have we lost in our cities because of this shortcoming? Given that the discipline’s protocols derive from the Western city, how should we view Urban Design in India so that we do not destroy the vibrance of informal urbanism? What steps should we take toward mainstreaming Urban Design in the Indian city?

The panel consists of architects Brinda Somaya, Rahul Mehrotra, Neelkanth Chhaya and Prem Chandavarkar. This episode is adapted from a virtual discussion that took place in January 2022.

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