If you are a regular user of the subways in the city and often crib about how badly they are designed or maintained, then you could join forces with the architecture students of Undri’s Brick College of Architecture, who are trying to bring a change in the scenario.
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What started off as a college project for a competition last year got students engaged in analysing six subways in the city on their safety, design, accessibility and other aspects. However, after having presented the findings to the officials of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), the students and faculty have now started studying a list of 23 subways in the city on the request of the civic authorities.
Not only this, the faculty has put together a checklist for the PMC and other organisations of what aspects are to be considered before a subway is built to ensure that design flaws can be avoided.
Speaking to The Indian Express, faculty member Minu Joshi explained the project. “Every architect wants to do a decorated project but it is these public utilities which makes a city. We wanted our students to feel the pride of being a part of a public space project,” she said.
The project, which formed the basis of a current survey, was a study of the six subways at Garware chowk, Mhatre bridge, Pune Railway station, Shashwat hospital, Shaniwarwada and Sassoon hospital, on parameters such as subway plan, visibility, services, current usage, safety as well as certain special features.
“The students gathered statistical data on users both male and female, ratio of students, working population, senior citizens and the timings of the day when they accessed it. The questions were regarding services, safety security guards, CCTV surveillance, and people shared their issues,” said Poorva Keskar, college principal. “According to students, while Garware bridge and Mhatre bridge subways had good design features like open central space, clean walkways, security and attractive murals, the Shashwat hospital subway could cater only to the functional aspect while Shaniwarwada subway was partly renovated ignoring the safety factor,” said Keskar. It was the Sassoon hospital subway which needed critical redesigning in terms of women safety and improving the footfall.
Devika Newaskar, one of the students, said that women complained of feeling insecure while using the Sassoon subway and the unbearable odour there due to lack of hygiene. Based on these interactions, the students prepared a questionnaire for gauging the efficacy of other subways in the city.
“Currently, we have a list of 23 subways which the PMC authorities have shared but of these, three subways are considered critical and hence we are studying them first. We have one set of questions which we answer based on our observation and another set of questions which we ask end users. For example, we observe if the exit is visible from the entrance, if there are blind turns as these are important safety aspects. Or we ask women users about preferred timings which can indicate the safety aspect too,” said Newaskar.
Not just that, but the team has prepared a checklist for students and designers to analyse the existing situation and solutions for improvising subways based on their observations.
“The checklist is centered on four key aspects — human centric, design, technology and environment. For example, in design we check access, well-lit, ventilated, signages et al while human centric questions will be whether it is welcoming, provision for differently-abled while technology centric will check for long life of materials used, anti-vandalism measures. It is quite detailed and we are now hoping to get it published in an international paper,” added Joshi.
Meanwhile, PMC’s chief engineer Srinivas Bonala agreed that he had met with students who had offered to study and suggest solutions for subways. “In fact, not only this college but we are opening up a competition for all architecture students. We want them to suggest ideas to make existing subways more user-friendly by using low-cost solutions. The proposal has been mooted before the standing committee,” he said.