Creatively reimagining space under flyovers

Aditi Hastak, Bangalore Community Manager
Bangalore, 2 August 2016

It is not surprising that Bengaluru has very few public spaces left. Studies show that the green spaces have reduced by 12% and the commons in the city, such as lakes, are facing issues of encroachment, drying, and getting fenced off, making them inaccessible to the poor especially. The vehicular growth, on the other hand, is increasing massively with the surge in population. The number of vehicles has grown by 17 times in the last decade. To ease the vehicular movement, the city has constructed many flyovers. However, the space below the flyover remains an ignored and unmanaged spot in this exercise. The citizens and civil society in the city have come together to reclaim this public space using art as a medium.

In Bengaluru, the space under the flyovers (UFO) has been used for many purposes currently. It’s a parking and resting space for auto drivers and car drivers. UFO space is also often a place a for the homeless, street vendors, slum dwellers and daily wage workers. In one case, an entire slum was displaced to create a flyover with a promise of better housing, which they never got. The slum dwellers now call this space under the flyover their home. Essentially, this space offers multiple services for urban poor.

However, it is not hygienic enough in many places across the city. Many use such places for open dumping, cigarette litter, public urination, and more. The urban poor have no other place to get easy access without disturbance in the city.

Realizing the pathetic, unhygienic conditions in the city, a group came together calling themselves The Ugly Indian (TUI). The philosophy of TUI is very simple: Kaam Chalu Mooh Band (Stop Talking, Start working). One of their initiatives is UFO spotfix. People behind this group are anonymous, and the team believes that anyone who thinks as an Ugly Indian and wants to do something to create better situations, should start taking actions. This is a volunteer-driven effort, catching the city by storm over the last couple of years. The TUI volunteers come together and clean up spaces like filth on the footpath, open dumps, and spaces under the flyovers. The idea is to clear up the garbage dumps, paint the pillars of the flyover with bright colors, and beautify the space entirely. Reports show at least 250 pillars of flyovers have been revamped in the city by this volunteer-driven effort.

Another such similar initiative is by the Junior Company PUC-RioJaaga DNA. One of their projects was UFO cleaning. Jaaga was the facilitator of the art component. It was undertaken in two phases: the first event saw capturing silhouettes of people passing by the flyover – regular passers-by headed home from work, to the market, from the airport and other such daily activities. The second event saw everyone from government officials, politicians, citizens – including the LGBTQ community – and police officers gathered together to paint the pillars of the flyovers and the surrounding urban landscapes.

Many of the painted and beautified spaces continue to remain clean for years now. It’s time the city takes it one step forward, reimagining this public space. For instance, an initiative in Mumbai where the UFO space was converted into gardens and jogging track offers a great model for cities across India. Can it be a playing area for all children? Can it have benches and sitting place? Can it act as a meeting place for everyone? With few public spaces left in the city, this is the logical next step.

Photo: solarisgirl

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