Friday, February 7, 2014

A study of Union Square with tasmena

It's been quite a while since I've been on a tasmena urban mapping walk. The last couple of walks I attended were pretty long, taking hours to complete. The group has been doing some shorter workshops recently, and I happened to find one for Union Square in Deira listed in my feed on Saturday afternoon, fitting neatly into my late afternoon. Signing up for this almost immediately, and barely an hour before start time, was my most spontaneous sign-up in recent memory. But, after all, this part of town used to be my 'hood.

As usual for a tasmena project, it was not a willy-nilly stroll; everything was planned and executed methodically. We started with a briefing of the extant work on the mapping of the location. We looked at satellite photos of the old Union Square (pre-metro), when it was a large, almost uninterrupted, star-patterned public park. Then we looked at how the square changed with the arrival of the metro stations, with much of what used to be public space cut off for a construction site and metro station facilities buildings, and much planted space converted into walkways for metro users. For both of these, we used tracing sheet overlays of earlier mapping work to study the layout and use of the area. Finally, we looked at future plans for construction of towers that will cut across the square, enclosing a good deal of the part of it closer to the intersection.

I and a teammate were given satellite photos of the square and tracing sheet overlays on which to map the spaces in the square and the human use of these spaces. We walked around the perimeter of the square, noting the types of spaces and their boundaries, and the movement or presence of people.

I focused mainly on the former, noting the visual fences, the locations of unused interstitial hard space, the economic environment and its interconnections, automobile and pedestrian access/barrier lines, and various other observations. We discussed our findings with the others, and brainstormed for ways to enrich the place, such as uses for the interstitial spaces, and the introduction of public games.

After we were done, I succumbed to nostalgia and went to the still-standing Vrindhavan Restaurant bordering the square, and enjoyed a hearty idly-rasam.

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