PLANNING AND DESIGN

PARK FOR ALL 

S.B. Somani Park, Cuffe Parade

In Mumbai 20,500 people jostle for space per sq km, the city has managed to give back a measly 1.24 sq m per person of open space, equivalent to slightly more than 3 times the page spread of your favourite Indian morning newspaper.

 

Originally know as Dharya Garden, this triangular shaped piece of land was flanked on one side by the iconic World Trade Center, on the west by the Arabian Sea, on the south it shared its edge with a slum, an abandoned site and on the north was a street that culminated in a dead end. This end of the street was used as a parking lot. All in all, there was not much activity around it and the land was being abused as a defecating ground and drug peddler’s haven. However, it had a great potential to be a melting pot for the varied economic groups that lived around.

 

Designed as a Park for All, this public open space has many layers of program building. Infants in prams to specially-abled in wheelchairs use the fitness ring in the park that is designed to be at the same level as the pavement. A sunken sea-facing amphitheater with a built in stage doubles up for musical performances and open classrooms used extensively by the children from high rises as well as the slums. Modern seating system and a gazebo offers space to appreciate the view of the setting sun overlooking the Arabian Sea. Tree-lined fitness trail welcomes health enthusiasts to meet their daily step counts while the adult outdoor gym sets challenging goals for the more dedicated ones. Located in the center of the park is the kids play zone with guiding game trail connecting play equipment and traditional floor games like hop scotch. A yoga pavilion is tucked in amidst bird-of-paradise flowers. Leaving no one behind, the park also has a special area for dogs.  

 

Today know as S.B.Somani Garden, the park has withstood the Covid times bringing a fresh breath of oxygenated air especially to the nearby slum dwellers. This space in the near future hopefully will merge social silos and encourage exchange of cultures. There is a need of repeating this success story of place making in all wards of Mumbai. This social experiment got Plural to generate a Template of Engagement (TOE) so that many such defunct, abandoned and underutilized pockets in the city can be identified and designed for better utility by multiple stakeholders and bridge the amenities gap.

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