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Urban Layouts, Densities and the Quality of Urban Life

Urban planning in Mumbai has been systematically dismantled over the last few decades by successive regimes in Maharashtra. The planners themselves are not clear about the space needed for public uses. Hence, when they talk about turning Mumbai into Shanghai, they are only considering an increase in the floor space index but not the public areas. This study introduces two new concepts to help understand and evaluate urban layouts: the public ground area per capita and the buildable plot ratio. Using these concepts, it analyses how the variations of the configuration of private and public spaces affect densities and the working of urban areas. The paper also disagrees with the proposed government policy for Dharavi of resettling slum-dwellers in situ, in free housing paid for by new occupants in additional floor space on the same site.

Urban Layouts, Densities and the Quality of Urban Life


Economic and Political WeeklyJune 30, 20072726Table 1: Built-up Area (BUA) Per CapitaLocalityArea HaResidentialCommercialBUABUAsqm Per Capitasqm Per JobNew York5CD-5 (Manhattan Midtown, theCBD, primarily commercial)423.567.332.1CD-8 (upper east side, primarilyresidential, the most crowdedin Manhattan)512.963.742.5New Delhi6Sundernagar, Bapa Nagar andKaka Nagar45.498naGol Market32821.7naRaghubir Nagar and Vishal Enclave37525.2naLajpatnagar14318.3naMumbai7A-South334.75.8-6.288.5-9.9A-Mid345.119.6-29.0610.1-12.2A-North245.86.3-25.083.2-5.3B246.31.5-10.7820.8-53.5C212.61.4-11.253.9-23.4D-East210.13.7-11.791.8-10.6D-West261.925.7-29.724.4-25.6D-North260.813.7-19.173.9-20.2E-East229.213.3-21.8423.9-40.9E-Mid242.84.0-7.435.7-20.6E_West204.54.6-7.631.9-7.3F/South-W210.15.9-9.531.9-8.1F/South-NE157.65.0-5.784.8-7.6F/South-SE336.52.9-4.4210.3-15.7F/South-NW150.64.5-7.734.7-13.9F/North-NW474.815.1-19.644.5-15.7F/North-E412.54.3-5.273.8-10.2F/North-S295.44.1-5.223.9-10.4G/North-N239.11.7-2.430.4-5.0G/North-SE214.92.8-4.320.6-2.6G/North-W277.76.2-10.571.5-9.0G/South-N290.76.3-8.691.7-4.0G/South-E287.83.5-5.942.7-5.9G/South-W300.64.8-6.349.4-12.8Island City (sum of the above)6442.15.8-9.624.2-10.2Notes:1The entries for Mumbai show two numbers bracketing a range for thevalues of residential BUA/resident and commercial BUA/job. Thereason is that the information available on BUA in each locality is forresidential buildings, commercial buildings, and “mixed residential +commercial”. In such mixed-use buildings the exact proportionbetween the two uses is unknown. So we have taken such buildingsas either entirely residential or entirely commercial. In both cases thisprovides the upper value of the range of BUA. The lower value of therange excludes all mixed-use buildings.2Mumbai’s municipal wards are in some cases too large for analysisofthe type shown above to be useful. They have, therefore, beenbrokenup into smaller units of roughly 2-3 sq km in area each (see map).Arterial transport spaces may or may not be open to sky.Underground railway systems in particular add a network oftransport services below the ground in multiple levels in a formwhich facilitates crossings. Above ground also transit spaces canbe in multiple levels; witness the spaghettis of flyovers we seein so many cities.Our interest for the moment is in the configuration of privateand public spaces, and how variations in these affect densitiesand the working of the urban area. The relationship with transportspaces is a separate matter with its own complexities which wewill not deal with here. Transport spaces eventually translate intotransport capacities. All we note in passing is that transportcapacities are related to the numbers of persons to be carried,and therefore, to densities (persons per square kilometre) in theareas served.We should also note that urban planning and in particular,planning of particular urban layouts when we get down to detailedarea planning, is concerned with precisely this relationship betweenprivate and public spaces; and that the various kinds of controlsimposed on development on the private plots, whether by wayofFSI or otherwise, are intended to control the densities in the area.IIPrivate SpacesThe amount of built-up floor space consumed per capita willvary from one country to another, and within a city will varyfrom one locality to another depending on what people in thatlocality can afford.Table 1 shows the built-up area for some localities inManhattan,New Delhi and Mumbai’s Island City for which wehave been able to obtain information. For Mumbai the rangesof BUA for residential and commercial use are quite similar. Ifwe assume the two are identical, the average works out to 7.5sqm per resident and per job. The lowest value is about 2.5 sqmper resident and per job in parts of the G/North Ward (whichincludes Dharavi).One important caveat needs to be recorded here. This is thatin calculating the foregoing parameter of BUA per capita we areassuming that all the population in a locality is housed in built-up residential or mixed-use accommodation in the locality. Noaccount is taken of the area occupied by those residing in thecommercial or industrial or institutional buildings, because thisinformation is not available. The error on this account may betrivial, but we should note that it is in the direction of under-estimating the residential BUA per capita. More serious, however(again, for want of information), is the exclusion of the BUAof slums. In Mumbai, with half the population resident in slums,this could lead to a serious underestimation of the residentialBUA per capita. If, for example, we were to assume that a slumhome occupies 10 sqm for a family of five members, that is,2 sqm per person, and that the Island City has a slum populationof 50 per cent, the figures for BUA would go up by 1 sqm percapita on the average, with a higher number for those localitiesthat have a larger-than-average slum population.For Manhattan we should note that the BUA is 63.7 sqm percapita, nearly nine times the average for Mumbai. When ourpoliticians justify increasing the FSI in Mumbai by comparingit to New York, we need to remind them of the comparativecontexts and the very different requirements of floor space percapita. For the same level of crowding, New York’s FSIs of eightand 11 need to be divided by nine to arrive at the values thatwould correspond to Mumbai’s much lower level of floorconsumptionper capita.IIIPublic SpacesResidents in a city need a variety of spaces whose use theyshare with other, unknown members of the public. These includespace for: (i) common amenities, (ii) recreation, and (iii) foot-paths, roads and public parking.We collectively call such spaces PGA. It would seem the notionof PGA per capita is a new concept, being mooted here for thefirst time. We find it particularly interesting and useful.Let us first look at some planning standards for an idea of whatthe PGA per capita for common amenities only should ideallybe. This is exclusive of amenities on common private spaces,and strictly restricted to spaces shared with the general public.
Economic and Political WeeklyJune 30, 20072728So what is the minimum PGA we should provide when were-plan an area like Dharavi? Notice that we are not aiming atraising standards to a new level, as we would, if we were seriousabout emulating Shanghai. We are seeking a rock-bottom mini-mum for acceptable livability of permanent reconstruction. Froma review of what exists elsewhere, it would seem we shouldprovide not less than 3 sqm per capita for roads and footpaths(excluding transit space), and an additional 2 sqm per capita onthe ground for common amenities. Zero for recreation. So thisis not an ideal. It is a lower limit we should not transgress: atotal PGA of 5 sqm per capita.IVBuildable Plot RatioHow a city is laid out when it first starts affects the way itworks forever thereafter – unless, as with Baron Haussmannsupported by Napoleon in the middle of the 19th century an oldcity like Paris can be blasted through to make way for widerboulevards and a completely changed new layout. The Harappancities were carefully laid out, but not, as far as we know, everrecast along altered lines. Their gridiron plan had a fundamentallogic that many subsequently founded cities have instinctivelyadopted, most notably Manhattan when it was first laid out inthe early 19th century. Here too there has been no change, nodeparture from the early layout. The temporary city of the KumbhMela is also laid out every 12 years in the dry bed of the Gangesat Allahabad on a gridiron plan: the area is divided into com-pounds, within which people build their ground-floor accommo-dation, either tents or shacks, which open onto streets that emergeonto still wider streets that lead to the pontoon bridges thatconnect to the banks of the river.What interests us here is not the particular pattern of the layout,whether gridiron or not, but the proportion of the total area thatis devoted to living accommodation as compared to the propor-tion that is devoted to circulation, plus the proportion that isdevoted to any other public use, such as a temple or a kitchenand dining area for free meals in the Kumbh Mela, or a hospitalTable 3: Public Ground Area (PGA) in Different Localities in Different CitiesCity and LocalityArea HaPublic AmenitiesOpen SpacesRoads andTotal PGATotal PGA(sqm per resident)(sqm per resident)Footpaths(sqm per resident,(sqm per occupant,(sqm per resident)night-time)day-time)New York (Manhattan)(Wall Street) CD1445.340.63.332.076.06.5(Greenwich Village) CD2402.17.30.716.024.013.4(Lower East Side) CD34563.13.08.714.819.0(Chelsea) CD4591.918.46.521.146.023.5(Midtown) CD5462.56.910.935.653.32.6(East Midtown) CD6386. West Side) CD7596. East Side) CD8560. Harlem) CD9426.15.97.513.827.231.8(Central Harlem) CD10397.43.74.312.120.124.2(East Harlem) CD11627.36.523.57.337.339.1(Washington Heights) CD12763.53.613.49.826.833.5Total (including Central Park)*6,1165.87.211.424.413.4New DelhiLajpatnagar1436.5Gol Market32833.4Raghubir Nagar and Vishal Enclave37519.91Sunder Nagar, Kaka Nagar and Bapa Nagar45.4111Mumbai (Island City)A-South334.70.090.752.893.743.94A-Mid345.11.107.8432.6541.598.06A-North245.82.8611.4246.7161.006.36B246.30.090.1211.8212.0313.20C212. City Total:64420.960.856.388.196.46Notes:*The area of Central Park has been distributed proportionately among the surrounding districts that touch it (CD4 to CD11).1The last column shows total PGA per daytime occupant. The ratio between this value and the total PGA per night-time resident will be the same for totalPGA as well as for the individual constituents of PGA.2The footpath and road space in each locality have been computed assuming that nothing is to be removed to account for transit space. This is not correct,and more precise work would require this adjustment.
Economic and Political WeeklyJune 30, 20072729or school or park in a built city. We call this the buildable plotratio (BPR). Included in the area of buildable plots are all plotson which residential or commercial or industrial or mixed-useactivity is permitted. Excluded are roads and footpaths, parksand playgrounds as well as plots that accommodate a publicservice such as fire services or police stations or hospitals orschools, even if such public services are profit-making. The BPRalso is a concept that has been developed for this study.The comparison of different localities is shown in Table 4.New York’s most crowded localities are said to be CD-5(Midtown), which is the central business district, and CD-8(Upper East Side) which is one of its most crowded residentialareas. Both have a BPR of just under 54 per cent, whereas theaverage for all Manhattan is just over 41 per cent. New Delhi,for the four localities for which we have information, has valuesranging from 40 per cent for the swanky areas of Sunder Nagar,Kaka Nagar and Bapa Nagar, to 69 per cent for the much morecrowded Lajpatnagar. Mumbai’s average for the Island City isnearly 63 per cent, with the more crowded areas at over 78 percent. So Mumbai’s average as well as its highest BPR valuesare about one and a half times Manhattan’s corresponding figures.Why the higher values of BPR should give a greater sense ofcrowding will become clearer in the subsequent sections.VFloor Space IndexThe FSI, called the floor area ratio (FAR) in most cities, isthe ratio of built-up floor space on a plot to the total area ofthe plot. The FSI applicable to plots in a locality is often specifiedas part of the building control regulations, and can be strictlycontrolled. It is an important instrument in defining the amountof floor space that can be built in a locality, which therefore,indirectly, controls the number of people who can live or workthere. It does not have to be uniform across all plots in the locality,but often is in India, usually out of laziness on the part of theurban planner (or, possibly, because the functions of the urbanplanner have been pre-empted and taken over by a bureaucracythat loves the blanket uniformity of rules). Uniform FSI acrosslarge urban tracts leads to a monotony of the urban landscapewhich is both deadening and completely unnecessary.Table 5 compares FSI in various localities around the world.Notice that the residential floor space consumed in Mumbai’sTable 4: Buildable Plot Ratio (BPR) in Different LocalitiesCity and LocalityBuildable Plot Ratio (Per Cent)New York ManhattanCD141.3CD244.4CD346.5CD434.9CD553.8CD648.6CD744.8CD853.9CD931.3CD1050.0CD1132.7CD1226.8Manhattan Total41.2New DelhiLajpatnagar69Gol Market49Raghubir Nagar and Vishal Enclave54Sundar Nagar, Kaka Nagar and Bapa Nagar40MumbaiA-South88.9A-Mid35.2A-North24.5B46.1C67.7D-East69.6D-West76.2D-North78.4E-East71.7E-Mid61.7E_West52.7F/South-W59.8F/South-NE55.8F/South-SE74.0F/South-NW71.4F/North-NW62.8F/North-E62.8F/North-S49.5G/North-N71.4G/North-SE66.7G/North-W61.9G/South-N78.8G/South-E75.0G/South-W38.6Island City62.6Table 5: FSI is in Various Localities around the WorldCity and LocalityFSIResidentialCommercialFloorFloorConsumptionConsumption(sqm per capita)(sqm per capita)New York ManhattanCD-5 residential1167.3CD-5 commercial1732.1CD-8 residential763.7CD-8 commercial842.5New Delhi(Actual values)Lajpatnagar1.5 to 318.3Gol Market0.74 (permissible 1.5)21.7Raghubir Nagar and Vishal Enclave2.25 (max)25.2Sundar Nagar, Kaka Nagarand Bapa Nagar0.798MumbaiA-South0.726.049.2A-Mid3.8324.3311.2A-North4.3115.694.33B1.816.1437.2C2.086.1313.7D-East1.787.756.2D-West1.3627.7115.0D-North1.5516.4412.2E-East0.6317.5732.4E-Mid1.435,7213.2E_West2.026.124.6F/South-W1.536.125.0F/South-NE0.875.396.2F/South-SE0.283.7113.0F/South-NW0.946.129.3F/North-NW1.1417.3710.1F/North-E0.494.787.0F/North-S0.674.667.2G/North-N0.322.072.7G/North-SE1.183.561.6G/North-W1.308.385.3G/South-N0.877.502.9G/South-E1.214.724.3G/South-W0.995.5711.1Island City1.217.717.2Notes:1For Mumbai, the FSI values are for total built floor space, for all uses.The floor consumption per capita (BUA/capita) is the average residentialvalue for the locality assuming (arbitrarily) that 50 per cent of the“mixed residential and commercial” floor space is residential and 50per cent is commercial.2Mumbai currently has FSI limits of 1.33 in the Island City and 1.0 in thesuburbs. The FSI values shown for some parts of the Island City arehigher than the current limit of 1.33 for historic reasons – these areparts of the old city that were built up before the limit of 1.33 came intoforce (partly in 1964, fully in 1971).
0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 4 8 12 Buildable ratio 50 per cent Footprint = 33 per cent of plot BUA = 5 sqm per capita 1 cylinder = one family of five 50 per cent 50 per cent
Mumbai NYC-CD8 Buildable ratio 50 per cent Footprint = 33 per cent of plot PGA = 5 sqm per capita BUA = 65 sqm per capita 1 cylinder = one family of five 50 per cent 3 6 9 12 15 18 24
Delhi Lajpatnagar Delhi Gol Market Delhi Raghubir Nagar Delhi Sundar Nagar Mumbai A-mid night-time Mumbai A-mid daytime Mumbai B Ward Mumbai C Ward Mumbai Charkop New York CD5 night-time New York CD5 daytime New York CD8
1 cylinder = 1 family of 5

Footprint = 33 per cent of plot

20 per cent

BUA = 5 sqm per capita

20 per cent

Buildable Ratio 20 per cent PGA = 20 sqm per capita Footprint = 33 per BUA = 50 sqm per capita 1 cylinder = 1 family of 5

20 per cent

80 per cent

PGA = 5 sqm per capitaBuildable Plot

BUA = 5 sqm per capitaRatio 20 per cent

1 cylinder = 1 family of 5Footprint = 33 per cent of plot

20 per cent 12 Floors 80 per cent

Buildable Plot Ratio 43 per cent

BUA = 5 sqm per capita

Footprint = 33 per

1 cylinder = 1 family of 5

cent of plot

43 per cent

57 per cent

capita for 1/3, 1/3, 1/6

are 2,000, 1,333 and

and 1/6 population

2,667 sqm, respectively

1 cylinder = 1 family of 5

60 per cent

40 per cent

Population = 800

Buildable Ratio 80 per cent Footprint = 33 per cent of plot 1 cylinder = 1 family of 5

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