Eco Warriors 2022

Monsoon 2022 – level 3 studio unit
Unit Tutors: Mansi Shah 
Unit Assistant: Shubhangi Saxena
Students: Aryan Choudhury, Daksh Tak, Elangkumaran S, Ishita Singh, Jugal Patel, Khushi Jain, Khushi Patel, Samriddhi Dugar, Shaurya Singh, Srushti Rahigude

Studio brief

The unit focus is centered on the design of public spaces from a ‘productive’ perspective. To define ‘productive’, simply put, it is an approach where landscapes strategies enhance ecological processes, food production, or provide community spaces. Or in other words, landscapes that complement ecological processes or systems approach to provide a range of ecosystem services. 

Productive urban landscapes (PUL) approach is characterised by leveraging natural processes to create thriving and resilient ecosystems that can minimise inputs and maximise what nature can provide. Taking this approach can lead to meaningful landscape design projects that can reconnect city dwellers to new typologies of spaces while strengthening the role public spaces can play in the functioning of cities.

As a case, the studio explores Gandhinagar City, a city with many large under utlised and inefficient public spaces, most of which are vacant or if designed, suffer from a lack of planting diversity and unproductive both in terms of its usage by people and in terms of maintenance and inputs required for its upkeep. 

Thus, the studio invited students interested in developing innovative landscape solutions for a public spaces by adapting PUL approach that integrate elements of public space (such as organised planting and areas for sitting, eating, walking and playing) but bring in elements of the natural world and systems (such as enhanced biodiversity, reviving water systems, or integrating pollinator habitats, or provisioning landscapes, for example). Finally the students are expected to create lively, joyful and productive spaces that form the base of this urban design studio. 

Through this studio, students will learn about design of public spaces with a focus on landscape design. It will include lectures, workshops and tutorials on native flora and fauna, landscape aesthetics, ecosystem services and seasonality across landscapes.

Studio structure 

Now moving on to the structure, there are 3 modules – cultivate, propagate, and demonstrate. 

In each module, you will work at different scale ranging from citywide vision plan to the smallest details. 

Module 1: Cultivate: XL scale (3 weeks)   
Starting with the first module, each student will produce CPUL strategy map at XL scale that meaningfully connect the site chosen to the rest of the city, through dynamic networks, landscape or corridor. The idea is to be mindful that the final strategy is not atomistic but weaved within the city fabric.

With the first module, there were three main components: 

1. Understand and investigate the meaning of “productivity” beyond food in the public realm through readings and case-studies

2. Each student will produce a CPUL strategy/ cartographic map at XL scale or city scale and explain it through a catalogue. 

Module 2: Propagate: L,M scale (5 weeks)
In the second module, students will develop a detail design intervention for the site in line with the XL idea and clearly communicate it through plans, sections and views. The process involves getting acquainted with the site and its spatial dimensions, while simultaneously developing an idea to support productive infill. In order to make pertinent decisions, students works through iterations at two different scales to achieve structural and ecological connectivity.

The three main components were:

1. Develop a design brief based on the productive landscape theme.

2. Position the productive theme as a conceptual design on the chosen site 

3. Develop a design with a set of drawings- plan, sections, elevations and detailed axonometric maps (in proper scale and dimensions) to communicate the strategy and project. The more technically resolved the drawing, the more persuasive will be the design proposition. 

Module 3: Demonstrate: S, XS scale 
In the last and third module, students have to resolve their designs at a smaller scale. And, depending on the project they are required to produce either a detailed planting palette or a policy diagrams or both to show how their project will materialise over time. Seasonality of landscape is also explored to show how the site will transform over time. Students also have to be mindful of synthesising their entire proposal where processes at various scales (XL, L, M, S, XS) come coherently together. Finally, the visualisation has to communicate the complexity of the project through clear graphics and show the entire scheme convincingly with well-organised sheet compositions.

This module involved 3 components:

1. Develop and formulate a detailed planting palette and seasonality sections that demonstrates the landscape and qualities of space. 

2. Synthesize a conceptual policy framework for implementation, and evaluate it through phasing strategies 

3. Construct detailed drawings across all domains (architecture/landscape/policy) depending on the type of project to communicate the design with clarity.

Sites at Gandhinagar

The studio takes the city of Gandhinagar as a lab to test out the principles of ecological intensification and urban agriculture. Often dubbed as one of the greenest cities in India, Gandhinagar comes with plenty of urban parks and neighbourhood gardens but also large percentage of vacant and unused public lands. 

Within Gandhinagar the studio choses 3 sites:

A residential / commercial sector -The first site is made up of small public spaces in a residential sector that are lying vacant or appropriated as food gardens or grazing areas, or used as dumping or parking lots. Taking clues from everyday usages, the design challenge is how to make the urban commons productive spaces and bring ecosystem services to inner neighborhoods. They also have the liberty to completely re-imagine a few sectors. 

The central vista- The second site, the central vista, is predominately lawned and suffers from a lack of planting diversity, making it highly inefficient (both in terms of its use and upkeep). The design challenge is how to design its new identity from a productive lens. This might be visualized as a one-stop destination for locals and tourists to immerse in a new types of landscapes in the heart of the city life. 

The riverfront park patch And the third site is a riverside patch, a home to many species. However, the area is cut off, lacks infrastructure, and is covered by invasive plants. The design challenge is to weave a sensitive public space along the river, retaining the ecological attributes and strengthening it is as a biodiverse and social landscape.