Urban voids are the result of inefficient decision making

Urban voids are the result of inefficient decision making , poor land management ,poor coordination among decision makers and designers. In the world of expanding cities, situation such as disinvestment , suburbanization, deindustrialization , and out-migration have created a lot of problems in the cities. This has resulted in various spaces to be lost in the process and left unused regarding the previous original purpose of which it was built on.

In this dissertation Urban void is defined as unused and underutilized spaces. The ownership belongs to both private and public ; edge or corners condition of roads , retaining walls , public facilities and infrastructure , residual spaces between individual plots. The scale of voids is limited to plot scale, block scale and to neighborhood community scales.

2.3 How to recognize an urban void?

New reasons, new urban voids.

The city has changed in its way of growing. From a biological point of view, it seems that the changes of the city in the last decades are not related to the evolution in its Darwin mutations, nor to a quantity jump on a linear period.
These changes would be related to external conditions that modify the growing process of the city. The rules have changed. We don ?t know any longer where the city is going to expand. There are many uncontrollable conditions that affect the expansion of the city. The compact city. The concept of density is based on quantity, figure data and secondly on a compact shape. Since the beginning of the 20thcentury new shapes have emerged in the European cities. These shapes have in turn produced new chances in ways of expansion as well as in the elements of the city

What do we notice when we analyse a city? We can observe construction and deconstruction processes which we recognize as contemporary phenomena. Discontinuity and autonomy are parameters that appear and repeat themselves habitually in the new urban developments. These construction and deconstruction processes have happened in many countries simultaneously because they follow a global model, even though they take different regional characteristics adapting to the local conditions . Social and economical changes have occurred influencing local cultures. Society has gone from a scale economy, a Ford concept and Keynesian theories to the fragmentation of processes and automation. The production economy has become a consumption economy leading us to attend new demands which in turn require new spaces.

2.4 Challenges

• Lack of public spaces: In informal old city the public spaces were vital part of the public realm, we are living in a planned city where there is lack of planning of public spaces.
• Lack of public participation: There is lack of public participation at both ends on government as well as the people side. Building cities is an organic process and not all techniques or recipe fits every city. Hence key to building better cities, public spaces and communities is engaging community in the process should be a concern on public participation.
• Poor design of public spaces: There is a gap between people’s need and design in the public spaces that is been present in the city. Poorly designed public spaces. Local needs are often neglected and planners and designers are hired to design the public realm. As a result it ends up as a design intervention.


3.1 Basic classification

Planning voids
Voids created due to inefficient and improper planning processes. These are created due to planning in isolation without understanding the fabric od the city. These are most visible in our cities also can be perceived using figure ground theory.

Functional voids
These are dead vacant space in the cities .when a space is not used like it was designed to use the space become defunct. These occupy precious land in the city and make the environment unpleasant.

Geographical voids
These area existing geographical features in the city. When the city planners and designers do not respond to these geographical features void are created around them making the space unusable. E.g. river , nuallh, etc.

3.2 Devising void typology

Trying to relate these types of void to the Indian urban context and considering my concern for the potential of urban voids to contribute to the public realm ,lead me to devise my version of urban types.

Although there are similarities between the cities of the west and the Indian cities, but there are also major difference. I have tried to categorize the voids based on my understanding and knowledge of Indian cities. The criteria to select these voids were ownership , the role they play in liveliness of the street, and the potential I saw in them transform.

This brought me to 7 categories from both public the private realm. The scale ranged from plot, building envelop and neighborhood. Working more on these types, I limited myself to the voids occurring only in the public realm of the city , as I had a tactical methods of intervention and change in mind . As the aim was to strengthen the public realm of the neighborhood , voids concerning with the community and on a larger scale were taken into consideration. After refining according to scale and ownership, I came down to 4 main types of voids namely :

• Edge and Buffer Voids
• Infrastructural Voids
• Transportation Voids
• Large Scale Plots

3.3 Voids understudy


4.1 First we shape the city , then they shape us
(GEHL , 2010)

“If we look at the history of cities, we can see clearly that urban structures and planning influence human behavior and the ways in which cities operate .” This explains the existence compact urban fabric of the medieval cities with their short distances, layout of main streets, public squares and market places functioned as center of trade and craftsmanship.

There will always be a mutual influence between the city and the people. This connection between invitation and behavior can be seen in present condition of cities which are trying to solve the issue of growing traffic in our cities. “We can always find new ways to increase our car use , building a direct invitation to buy and drive more cars”.

Finding new ways to use the space should be concern for as in cities modern urban planning which is used as problem solving exercise without understanding the core problem. Physical planning can greatly influence the activities and usage of city space. “If better city space is provided , use will increase.” The better the quality of spaces in cities the better it will be the quality of life.

4.2 Present Problems of Urban Design
(Trancik, 1986)

Today designers and planners are faced with challenge of creating outdoor environment as collective, unifying frameworks for new development. Usually the effort become a cosmetic treatment that is poorly planned and designed for public use. This happens due to the usual process development treating buildings and sites as isolated objects not considering a part of urban fabric of the city. There is no real understanding of human behavior or a human dimensional process in the decision taken, therefore what develops is a badly shaped anti-space unusable and unsafe creating voids in the city. “As professionals who permanently influence the urban environment, architects have a major accountability to meet the challenge of reshaping lost spaces that have emerged in every modern city”.

“Designers of the physical environment have the unique training to address these critical problems of our day, and we can contribute significantly toward restructuring the outdoor space of the urban core. Lost spaces, underused and deteriorating , provide exceptional opportunities to reshape an urban center, so that it attracts people back”

4.3 Life Space and Buildings
(Gehl, 2010)

If we want to create better cities , spaces working with scale is the most difficult and most difficult and most sensitive urban planning discipline. If this is neglected or fails city decline in its quality of life.

“The widespread practice of planning from above and outside must be replaced with new planning procedures from below and inside, following the principle :first life ,then space, then buildings. Instead of reverse order in the planning process that prioritize buildings, then spaces and (perhaps) a little life ,working with the human dimension requires life and space to be treated before buildings”

This method involves introductory work that determines the character and scope of the projected life in the development. Then the agendas are prepare for the city spaces and city structure, and then buildings can be placed or positioned to ensure the best possible coexistence between life , spaces and buildings. This work expands into large developments and larger districts but is always rooted in the requirements for a well-functioning public life.

4.4 The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces
(whyte, 1980)

“A city’s abundant small spaces have key impact on the quality of life. If those spaces are unattractive and left unattended people will respond and retreat from the city streets and eventually have an adverse effect on city in all aspects.”

Indian cities have now been approaching the same way as U.S. cities where the monotonous roadside clutter including highways dividing the cities has resulted in increasing unsafe spaces and cities.

When we think about cities we always think about people. People like public spaces , these places contribute to happiness, and public spaces can bring out that smile. We lack public spaces with our cities are spreading like wildfire, with its highways taking our cities. This can’t be stopped without creative development to provide housing and meeting other demands of a growing population. Whyte describes that how small urban spaces work and don’t work. Places that attract people tend to be relatively free from problems.

“If we learn to take advantages of our small urban spaces, if we design new ones and repair old ones, we will improve the streets and quality of life”.

Urban voids could be unused not only because of their limited functionality, but also because of the fact that the public eye does not perceive them at all.

4.5 Loss of function , meaning and association of a place

When a space is not used for the function it was designed for, the space becomes dysfunctional and loses its intentions thus becoming an urban void. These are dead vacant spaces in the cities which may have lost are dead vacant spaces in the cities which may have lost their meaning due to a specific reason like changed allocated function , abandoned building, changed ownership ,legal dispute , urban blight and degeneration, population relocation, migration, degraded quality of urban infrastructure leading to population shifts, etc.

4.6 Loss of accessibility to a place

Many places are rendered inaccessible due to a new intervention like the building of a flyover, a boundary wall, laying an infrastructure pipeline, a waste landfill, etc. at times a space is rendered off-limits due to the presence or possible presence of hazardous substance, pollutants or contaminants.