Cities on the Move

Jon’s post on the culture of ‘making’ in Indian cities, got me thinking about a project that we did years ago with John Thackara, who has been a mentor and friend to UnBox from the start.
In the Velowala project that we did for the Biennial of International Design at Saint Etienne, we documented velo-commerce and explored the ‘variety and vitality of people selling things from or on bicycles’ in cities in India. We discovered such a range of things being sold in this vibrant mobile marketplace- ranging from incense to fruits to books to furniture!
Here is John talking about the workshop on velo-commerce that he ran at the UnBox Festival in 2013.

Ahmedabad as a city is a great showcase for the numerous transactions that happen on the streets, on a daily basis. Especially with food, you’ll find the young and old alike, flocking to the streets every evening to partake of the varied food options available through various transient shops. The food trade in Ahmedabad truly began the ‘pop-up’ phenomenon in my opinion :) . A chai and snack on the street becomes a default place to have meetings, to hang out, to people watch and to celebrate!

Thinking about this led me to a post by John Thackara which I thought was relevant to some of the questions we are seeking to explore through the lab. John talks about electric bicycles heralding a “system-wide phase-shift in transportation” and several pertinent issues with regard to mobility in cities- including lightening cargo movements in cities, transforming the ‘mobility profile of modern cities’ and longer term implications of such shifts. He ends by quoting the writer Robert Neuwirth who reminds us that “diverse, fragmented economies are more resilient than hyper-connected global ones…”

As our cities go through urban infrastructure plans, and large-scale systemic change, how do we ensure that older mechanisms of community-bonding don’t disappear? What might seem haphazard ha s evolved through ages of resilience, spontaneity, and context-appropriateness. How can we preserve this spirit as our cities go through unprecedented growth ?

- Babitha George

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Quicksand 2014