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Pedestrians to Reclaim The Famous Sitabuldi Market Street in Nagpur

The proposal for the new Sitabuldi Market in Nagpur aims at tackling the high footfall of pedestrian traffic on the street, revitalizing the dead spaces, and regenerating the economy in the neighbourhood.

If you have ever been to Nagpur, it is almost impossible to skip the busy streets of the Sitabuldi Market, a shopping paradise located in the heart of the city. The Streets for People Challenge, an initiative by the Smart Cities Mission, Ministry Of Housing and Urban Affairs, aims to crowd source design innovations for pedestrian-friendly streets in 113 cities across the country. Re-imagining streets as public spaces with a focus on placemaking and livability, through quick and inexpensive measures in response to the pandemic, was the main goal of the challenge.

Existing: Sitabuldi Market, an Interactive System of Chaos and Interdependence

In the city of Nagpur, this challenge was rolled out by the Nagpur Smart and Sustainable City Development Corporation Limited (NSSCDCL). The winning design proposal by Mumbai based studio The Blank Slate in collaboration with Sumit Asia Architects from Nagpur aims at tackling the high footfall of pedestrian traffic on the street, revitalizing the dead spaces, and regenerating the economy in the neighbourhood.

Located between Lohapool Chowk and Variety Square, Sitabuldi Market is only about a kilometer-long bustling market street, slithering its way through the ensemble of Nagpur city, the heart of India, owing to its central placement. The overflowing pedestrian load is combined with increased vehicular traffic and on-street parking try to co-exist, that end up overpowering each other, hindering the function of each.

"Our design aims at making this market's human assets, customers, shopkeepers, and hawkers, a top priority along with shaping its identity as a prominent public space. Apart from paying attention to the concerns it posed, our design proposal also identified the existing potentials as a part of the planning process: a library in the site precinct, an open hawking area, and the heritage building facades. By identifying and utilizing these potentials, the design does not limit itself to the main market street but also permeates into selected secondary routes that disperse from it. We find in this connection, multiple focal points that allow for a typical Nagpurkar to pause, reflect, grow, and express. A vigorous exercise in 'tactical urbanism', the interventions are low cost, replicable, and easy to execute with little effort, yet manages to create a valuable solution with a significant impact." stated the designers at The Blank Slate and Sumit Asia Architects.

Proposed Vision Sitabuldi District: Nagpur's New Shopping and Cultural Destination

Tactical Nudging to Program a Streetscape:

The proposal, “Vision Sitabuldi District” untangles the existing chaotic system to create a dynamic, vibrant, secure, and inclusive shopping street that encourages walking and gathering. The conceptual starting point was putting in place strong design principles coupled with a step-wise strategic design approach. While providing an organized yet dynamic shopping experience, prioritizing pedestrian access and connectivity, improving livability, and the standard of street infrastructure were the main principles, the three steps that catalyzed them were:

1. Re-organizing and enhancing functions for a livable street.

2. Introducing Parks and Plazas

3. Creating multi-functional spaces

Design Interventions and Features that Enhance the Character of the Street:

To create a predominantly pedestrian environment throughout the street, alternate traffic connections and parking spots were identified. Fortunately, the immediate neighbourhood is well-equipped with secondary roads, vacant grounds(within a 5-minutewalking distance), and shared parking opportunities in the malls nearby to serve the purpose. An efficient re-configuration of the shared street resulted in 84% of the street serving pedestrian activity as opposed to an existing 5%. The proposed modes of non-motorized vehicles like E-rickshaws and bicycles are beneficial to the public, especially the specially-abled ones who need to move around. The market is starved of basic street infrastructures such as toilets, signages, seating, crosswalks, and green cover, and undergoes relevant transformation through the up-gradation and addition of these factors.

Proposed Connectivity Map

Proposed Re-Configuration of a Shared Street

Applying a low-cost high-impact design strategy, the distinct design features were not only designed to allow better functioning of the street, but also enrich and diversify the crowd that uses this market street. The safe and accessible crosswalks, an NMV lane, E-rickshaw drop-off points, and pedestrian promenades were some features that aided in the organization of the street. Meanwhile, the amenity plaza, the dynamic linear park, pop-up events plaza, a hawkers plaza, and a food bazaar offered new opportunities to expand the potential of the street. The spaces created by the meandering nature of the NMV Lane act as pockets for different functions such as seating and multi-use spaces along with hawking areas and pave way for diverse experiences on the street.

The NMV bends at a 60degree angle to provide larger pockets of pedestrian walkways that can be used for hawking, green nodes and other essential functions.

The ends of the crossings are marked with tactile paving stickers, which ease navigation for the specially abled. The crates are the primary wayfinding tool that demarcate road divisions.

At the same time, the locally sourced design materials, patterns, and repeated modules provide visual cohesion along the entire length of the project. For instance, all street art elements are painted orange and teal. The patterns include concentric circles and Morse codes (spaced 6ft apart), the former directly inspired by the Oranges of Nagpur and the latter a means of ensuring social distancing. Through this cohesion, each function obtains a new identity which in turn eases out the wayfinding and navigation process for the public. The ‘desire for more nature’ is met through the planting of vegetation which punctures the entire length of the street at regular intervals forming green nodes. Trees have been planted along the approach routes connecting the vacant parking lots to the street, making them shaded promenades.

Introduction of Multi-Functional Parks and Plazas:

Applying the low-cost high impact strategy, parks and plazas are introduced along the length of the site and as extended interventions, improving the livability and placemaking of the street. The low- cost materials do not compromise on the quality of the design solution. The multi-functional nature and flexibility of these spaces aim to satisfy all ages. The dynamic ‘linear park’ becomes a playing platform for anybody who wishes to indulge in fun activities, while anybody who loves to read finds a place at the pop-up book fair. While the open hawker's plaza provides a user with an alternate shopping experience, the food bazaar satisfies all their hunger pangs by bringing famous food joints into one zone. These zones attribute an ever-changing nature to the street that's always bustling in endless vigor and excitement.

A dynamic linear park is an everyday market space that can serve as a space for activities like outdoor chess, hopscotch etc. before 10am and return to functioning as a market during the day.

A market by day, the spaces can be transformed into a pop-up performance space as per need. Plastic crates can be arranged to make a stage or stacked to create an exhibition wall.

Section showing the Chowk flanking the Sitabuldi Street, which is an unorganized hawkers plaza. The intervention introduces green nodes, along with graffiti that ensures clear space between hawkers, facilitating smooth movement around the street.

The Food Plaza, unlike any other hawker market at Sitabuldi, is a space for up-scale eateries and brands.

Functions that Seamlessly Transform the Street:

In order to allow a harmonious amalgamation of the existing and proposed activities, a daily timeline was carefully devised to ensure a seamless transition of one function into another. A public space that transforms from being an outdoor fitness zone in the early morning hours to a crowded market street offering a dual-natured shopping experience all through the day and finally into a food street or a cultural fiesta at night, this street becomes the microcosm of a city that is constantly transforming. Running in tandem with our design proposal and timeline, a mobile application is also proposed which is a one-stop solution for all things one might want to know about Sitabuldi Street. Along with this, the application will also aid in collecting valuable feedback and opinions from the public over a social interface, rather than manually doing so on-site, decreasing the risk factor.

The Sitabuldi Market Street is also home to short-term functions. The street can be a fitness haunt in the morning, a market street in the day and a pop-up open theatre in the night.

Community Participation:

The major steps in design implementation have carefully been planned to involve the local community in each stage. Be it contribution towards awareness and issue sensitization, pre-design participation, and execution, or post-design monitoring, the first-hand users, irrespective of their age make a significant contribution by taking part in street games, poster competitions, public meetings, plantation drives, spreading awareness through social media, providing valuable feedback and opinions, etc. Owing to the D.I.Y. nature of the design proposal, citizens can also take part in the on-site implementation process.

All graphics and illustrations are copyright of The Blank Slate, Mumbai and Sumit Asia Architects, Nagpur.

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