“A good city is like a good party, people stay longer than really necessary because they are enjoying themselves”. - Jan Gehl
Community spaces are the fluid adaptable spaces that facilitate life and engagement. Civic and social engagement needs a stage to exercise expression and India’s public areas need to be able to respond to that. Abraham John Architects have re-engineered the steps of St Stephen’s Church, a historic landmark in the locality of Bandra, Mumbai. The existing staircase and land had become a dump yard frequented by drug addicts for decades and now it serves as 1880 sqm of inclusive and universally accessible interactive public space in the heart of the city. This stands testament to the power of deliberate design and involvement on the part of designers, public servants, citizens, artists, and volunteers.
A series of steps blanket the existing space and act as a culmination point for the community and play activities. The stairs, in direct contact with the church, break midway to flow into a central gathering area. The space also acts as a cultural focal point for performances during festivals and events. An open-air theatre along with a children’s play area has been introduced to the space to encourage diverse activities and adaptable use within the community. To celebrate this new public space, an open call for street artists was made to brighten up the walls of the Steps and a five-week celebration of community and art called ‘Festival @ The Steps’ was jointly put together by local organizations (Bombay Greenway, Love Your Parks Mumbai and Little Big City) with the support of MCGM and the local community.
Their weekend events have featured live performances, film screenings, photo exhibitions, engaging arts and crafts workshops, sports, heritage walks, and historical cycle rides. Riding on the success of the five-weekend festival, the local community initiated a Republic Day celebration and has more programming scheduled over the next few months with a dedicated Instagram page to keep you up to date. The Steps offers something for each and every type of citizen who is willing to interact with their city and make use of what the city has to offer. This is a great outcome of some serious effort and we can only hope that such spaces are replicated around the city.
“It is not more bigness that should be our goal. We must attempt, rather, to bring people back to ... the warmth of community, to the worth of individual effort and responsibility ... and of individuals working together as a community, to better their lives and their children’s future”. -Robert F. Kennedy
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