Breaking Down Boundaries
Mattancherry, Kochi, Ernakulam district, Kerala, 628002, India
A framework for taking ownership of wasted space
How can neighboring communities who are deeply divided, achieve social cohesion without compromising their unique identities?
There are approximately 32 communities speaking at least 16 languages living in Kochi. Each of these communities have different cultural, ethnic and social backgrounds and are spatially congregated within Kochi, creating a unique cultural mosaic throughout the city. The strong socio-cultural differences and the desire to promote and preserve their own unique identities based on their lifestyle and beliefs have created divisions and invisible boundaries between communities that have prevented resilient and productive relationships. My goal was to establish an urban strategy that will allow these neighboring communities to achieve social cohesion without compromising their unique identities.
When community members were queried as to what could be improved in their neighborhood to encourage people to interact with each other, the top answers included the addition of parks and public infrastructure for leisure, culture and education and the maintenance of social spaces. More community input for new development plans was also identified.
My urban strategy was the stitching of divided communities back together through the revitalization of public spaces using a framework based on the principles of ownership, equity and children as agents for change. An urban design code was created that puts childrens’ needs at the forefront of policy-making and a guidebook was compiled to assist community members in reclaiming ownership of public space.
The pilot project was the revitalization of an existing water tower into a cultural community hub. The water tower which is currently the site of criminal activity continues to provide water to the greater community. The structure below, however, was repurposed by inhabiting it with new programs that provide the community with safe places to play, create, socialize and learn. This project spearheads the grand plan to refashion Kochi into a more equitable and sustainable city that protects Kochi’s cultural identity.
Participating equally in planning requirements, design development and construction will strengthen and bring communities together. The economy will thrive as people gain experience and employment through self-build schemes, positively impacting Kochi's social capital.
The children’s play and participation in community sponsored cultural events will inform and educate them on the characteristics and traditions of the different cultural and religious groups. As participation is done willingly, over time, social cohesion amongst communities will grow without compromising their own cultural identities.
The water tower promotes a positive image for the city demonstrating civic pride, social equity and a sensitivity towards sustainability.