Over the last decade, Bangalore has begun to dwindle from a garden city into a monolithic concrete jungle. Real estate has become virtually nonexistent and buyers’ trends are hinting alarmingly at the rapid growth of the city in every direction. As an architect, the city’s growth has always made me feel queasy.
It reminds me of the Malthusian theory where Thomas Malthus talks about how the power of population is much more superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man. Our country’s population is forever increasing and certain advertisements seem to think power outages are the cause. With a volatile economy and a modernistic mindset, the general populace in the city is looking for real estate, lots of it. The scenario has panned out in a manner that has the citizens of Bangalore commute from communities that at one point were not even part of the Bangalore district.
While everyone is fighting for the remaining bits and pieces of what used to be Bangalore, buildings and tenements are slowly beginning to show signs of duress. Boundary walls are getting closer, windows open out to darkness, balconies are projecting onto roads and narrow streets have double parking.
Maybe Bangalore needs a revision in its design and construction policies. Maybe it could learn from New York. Architects in the ‘big apple’ have begun to take the land crisis in their stride by occupying the neighbor’s airspace.
FXFowle Architects designed the Isis, an 18 story condominium in New York that serves as a clear example to the opportunistic approach that is being adapted to ensure optimum utilization of real estate. The Isis floats 17 feet over the Xavier high school and 36 feet above a north facing courtyard, adding floor area within the building. Occupying the neighbor’s airspace does have its disadvantages but on the plus side, the neighboring property owner gets an opportunity to capitalize on space that he might never end up using. In the case with the Isis, the Xavier school sold their share of airspace for a significant amount of $13.7 million.
Bangalore could be the perfect city where an experiment of this nature could be carried out in the near future. With a dearth of land in the city and height restrictions in business districts, the concept of cantilevering the building onto unused neighboring airspace could be a source of mitigated development where both, the developer and the neighboring property owner are in a win-win situation. Apart from the obvious advantages of space utilization and land use, selling of airspace rights can also create a necessity for more functional and innovative structural and architectural design. Architects could benefit from clients who are open to newer ideas and most importantly, there lies a slight hope in the generation of cites that span out in multiple axes creating innovative spaces and possibilities for a renewed ambiance.
Bangalore has gone through a massive transformation over half a century. From being a quiet and serene colonial inspired city, it has firmly rooted itself on a global platform for being the silicon valley of India. We all live in the hope that Bangalore shouldn’t become its own nemesis. In the hope that one day, somebody will come along and save this city…