India on Wheels

For many non Indian visitors being driven around in India is like Russian Roulette, but as we all find out it is our preconceptions that are  chalenged and it seems very little damage is done to our bodies – the rate of car sales and the difficulty of providing public infrastructure in some parts of india must make one wonder about the  divide between the public good and business interests – in this article we see the Modernist tendency of focusing on the object a car and its appeal to the individual broadened to include its social significance but little or no consideration of its impact on the urban fabric it inhabits – at this stage design still sees its role in a narrow funnel of proving value to individuals and companies profits from where it derives its own functions and income – we have yet to understand the implications of this consumerist approach applied to the rest of the planets population. A good design article by Harsha Kutare at DESIgn MASALA

The Indian automobile industry is set to become the sixth largest passenger vehicle producer in the world, growing 16-18 percent to sell around three million units in the course of 2011-12. The passenger vehicles sales trend has shown an exponential growth in past few years and it is expected to grow further in coming years.

The Indian market presents several challenges to car manufacturers and dealers. After researching a bit online about the current car scene in India and talking to car owners, I came up with the factors that make the Indian car market stand out from others in the world.’

Harsha goes on to describe the factors he sees as influencing the Indian automobile market naming  Traffic and Road conditions; Way Finding; Huge numbers of first time buyers; Financial factors; Social Influencers; Cultural Significance/Unique features as areas which make the Indian market different from others

Social Influencers: There is lot of social influence from friends, family or relatives when it comes to buying a car. Buyers reach out to their social circle for recommendations regarding car models and dealerships. Some of the online platforms that are influencing people’s buying decision

Cars make a statement about the owner’s personality hence buyers are very cautious about the cars that they pick. Brands also play a vital part in projecting a brand image for e.g. Honda equals Pride, Mahindra is seen as a rugged brand and Maruti Suzuki equals good value for money whereas Mercedes signifies luxury. Brands carefully pick actors, sportspersons or celebrities as their brand ambassadors as Indian consumers, mainly youth is influenced by testimonials of celebrities.

First cars for most of the buyers are mid range hatchbacks. In most cases the buyer is the first person in the family to own a car. He takes his driving lessons from a driving school and prefers something easy to maneuver within the city with low maintenance costs and a great mileage.

India needs new cities and experts who can build them

From Economic TImes

Peter Head , chief of Global Planning Practices , Arup, is one of the key figures spearheading the British engineering and design company’s operations across the globe. Most recently, Head has been associated with building China’s first ecocities, Dongtan and Wangzhuan. But lately, he has been increasingly travelling to India.

Though Arup is present in India, Head’s visits have little to do with the company’s operations. Rather, Head is closely associated with developing the Indian Institute for Human Settlements , an upcoming Bangalore-based private university “focused on creating a new generation of professionals prepared to tackle the unprecedented transformation of India’s urban regions”.

Arup and design counterpart IDEO are partners of the university, established by a group of entrepreneurs and professionals such as Rakesh Mohan, Keshub Mahindra, Deepak Parekh and Jamshyd Godrej, among others. The institution, Head says, will teach urbanism as a holistic subject so that people can study a core discipline and branch out to special subjects such as architecture, urban design, energy and waste management.  Continue reading

Interview: Should We Worry about a Global Population Explosion?

Via Polis Posted by Katia Savchuk

Sometime this year, the global population will reach 7 billion, according to United Nations estimates. Twenty-one cities now hold more than 10 million people, and many more will join their ranks by mid-century. Robert Kunzig, senior environment editor of National Geographic, shares his views on the impacts of the explosion and whether alarmism is warranted.  His feature on the population boom, the beginning of a year-long series on our crowded planet, appeared in the magazine this month.

The demographic tools at our disposal have presumably matured since Leeuwenhoek’s estimate based on cod milt. What are the best tools we have today to measure population growth and fertility rates, and how accurate are they? 

Demographers still don’t have a scientific theory that would allow them to predict in advance how many babies will be born and thus how population will grow. What they have is decades’ worth of data on how population actually has grown in many countries. They use those observations of the past to project the future, country by country and for the planet as a whole. The UN’s global projections have been pretty accurate lately, but the farther out you go, the more uncertainty there is. So we know we’re going to hit 7 billion soon. Whether there’ll be 9 or 8 or 10 billion in 2050 is less certain. Continue reading

SimCity for Real in Naya Raipur via The City Fix

Along the lines of Masdar and Dongtang  another city from scratch is rising on the Indian plains and this one looks like it is actually happening and an a vast scale. mind you it seems from this report that the sustainability and eco-city themes are an after thought , nor am I sure who the future citizens of this city will be or if they have been consulted on their needs, requirements and likes, I suppose when you have over a billion people to deal with you can think on this scale and plan as though they were just cyphers? From The City Fix by Erica Schlaikje

Mantralya Bhawan Road View. Rendering by Naya Raipur Development Authority.

Have you ever played SimCity? Well, I spent hours (no, actually, days!) trying to make my planned cities thrive in the classic version of the game, some 20 years ago. You can now play the game online, for free, with SimCity’s Classic Live. For those not hooked to the game, here is a short story: You take a “greenfield,” remove trees and marshlands, lay down some roads, zone some areas (industrial, commercial and residential), build a coal power plant (with no limits on CO2 emissions), connect power lines, place some fire and police stations, and, voila! Wait for development to happen.

Magically, houses, warehouses and stores start to pop up…in addition to congestion, pollution and crime. As an all-powerful mayor, you have the choice of changing taxes and determining the budget for the police and fire staff, as well as road maintenance. As the game progresses, you are able to place other features on the barren land: a sports stadium, an airport, a sea port, mass transit lines, parks, etc., and check your popularity in the newspaper polls. You learn that even with these limited features, making a city progress is hard: you run out of budget and problems start to pile up (you can be mobbed out by your Sim Citizens.) And things get trickier when disasters happen, like earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and even Godzilla.

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Dharavi, Mumbai – “Shantaram” – Slum for sale

Those of you who have been to India, have read Gregory David Robert’s best selling  ” partially autobiographical” novel Shantaram, which it has has recently been  announced will be turned into a movie, with non other than Johnny Depp taking the lead role, will be dismayed to learn that the slum in which he spends much of his time, Dharavi is the subject of a documentary about  the on going saga surounding its redevelopment:

From the blog [polis]:

“Director Lutz Konermann has created a documentary on the ongoing contested redevelopment proposal for Dharavi, Mumbai, an informal settlement that is unique in its paced evolution and current dynamic capacities of adaptation and production.  Its foremost quality attracting attention, however, is its prime positioning in the heart of Mumbai, causing land value and the potential for the generation of capital to overwhelm the complexities of livelihood and industry.  The film gains incredibly valuable access to key players in the case, and through skilled editing and composition, brings forth the impression that Mumbai is a city tearing at the seams, with extremes of a wealthy ‘global city’ continually at odds with the majority of the population living in informal settlements and aspiring to better services, upgraded housing and secure businesses.”

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