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A pedestrian-friendly city

Sunday, 1 June 2008 - 3:04am IST

Unlike people his age, he believes that the “horrid architecture of these places is killing the city.”

That’s what city boy Faizan Jawed, awarded the prestigious RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship, plans to achieve. He will travel across the globe to study commuter patterns

Faizan Jawed, 22, is not too excited about the increase in the number of malls and multiplexes dotting the city’s landscape lately. Unlike people his age, he believes that the “horrid architecture of these places is killing the city.” But unlike many, he wants to do something about it; and his ideas have won him a prestigious prize.

Jawed has been awarded the 6000 pound (approximately Rs 5 lakhs) RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship, named after the internationally renowned architect and administered by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), which will help him study pioneering sustainable infrastructure projects across three continents. His prize winning research proposal was ‘The Role of Public Transport in Shaping Sustainable Human Habitats,’ in which, he suggests ways to make Mumbai a pedestrian and cycling friendly city.

Having just completed his final year at Rizvi College of Architecture at Bandra, Faizan is in a rush to finish visa formalities before flying off to various cities of the world. The project will take him to Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Moscow, London, Barcelona and other cities to study the transport system there.

“It may sound very technical, but it is really about how something as simple as commuting can affect a city, and how appropriate measures like walking or cycling can bring positive changes,” says Faizan, who believes that the depleting public space is damaging Mumbai’s culture. “There is a mad rush in the city — more cars, flyovers and buildings are ruining its essence. The city is being increasingly stratified into classes and there is no sense of a broad community that involves everyone. My project aims at bettering this situation.”

Faizan has been interacting with environmentalists and IIT professors as part of his homework before leaving on tour, which begins on June 26 and will go on till the first week of October. He plans to meet veteran architect, Jan Gehl, responsible for making Copenhagen the most pedestrian friendly city in the world. He will also closely study the transport systems in big cities like Moscow and London and compare it to the existing structure in Mumbai.

“Vehicular means of transport, if used efficiently, can be a boon to a city. However, it needs to be human-friendly, affordable and consume less fuel. The public need to play a major role too. It’s necessary to co-operate among each other and take necessary measures to make Mumbai clutter-free. Using communal means of transport is one way. Besides, it helps in the cultural growth of the city too,” says the youngster who loves playing basketball, swimming and working out in his free time.

After losing his father to lung cancer in 1998, Faizan shifted to Mumbai from Allahabad with his mother and younger brother. “We had to face some tough times initially. But my family has been very supportive of my endeavours, be it during my proposal research or my travel plans now.”

For someone who was interested in computer science as a kid, Faizan has come to love architecture after his mother suggested he take up the course after finishing school.
Talking about the recipient this year, Norman Foster says, “Faizan’s proposal underlines the importance we must place on the broadest possible vision for the integration of public transport into the infrastructure of our cities.”

Faizan strongly believes that India is fifty years behind most developed countries. “When the world was waking up to cars fifty years back, we were pedestrian and cycle-friendly. Today, when the world is doing away with cars, India is being inundated with vehicles. How a state can work with architecture experts to make a city more pedestrian friendly is what my project is all about. I plan to see Mumbai achieve that one day.”

Faizan’s friends and family are thrilled and are fervently helping him prepare for the tour abroad. But for Faizan, it’s more important to not lose focus of his ambitions. “I don’t care much about architecture of the finished product. That’s no big deal. In reality, anybody who helps in shaping up society is an architect. That’s what I hope to achieve.”

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