A first glance at the city of Mumbai invokes concrete-jungle imagery with tall, grey buildings covered in a brown dust filter. While the urban landscape of the city is a large portion of its landmass, a few green pockets stand as important oxygen relief spots, such as the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali. Sion’s 37-acre Maharashtra Nature Park (MNP) is one such vital ecosystem tucked away in peaceful solitude.
MNP was once a Mumbai dumping ground, and has been built from a wasteland into a green woodland under the leadership of director Avinash Kubal. Kubal and his team’s conservation projects and waste management measures have made this park alongside the Mithi river a self-sustaining, solar powered oasis amidst the bustling city.
In the latest phase of development in continuing efforts to build this holistic ecosystem, a competition organised by the MMRDA in collaboration with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in Mumbai will decide which architecture firm will win the construction bid. As they described the Mithi River Bridge project, which is one of the most vital parts of this makeover, “The bridge design must sync with the modern twenty-first century architecture emerging on the Mithi River’s north bank at the Bandra Kurla Complex. At the same time it should naturally seam in with the forest-like environs of the Maharashtra Nature Park on the south bank of the river beyond which, it must connect to nearby transport hubs. This vital pedestrian connectivity is expected to see over 50,000 users daily and is intended to herald a new wave of pedestrian-friendly infrastructure throughout Mumbai and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. It has a compelling transport case and will support the BKC’s growth in the decades to come. The bridge will also serve as an important feeder to the MNP.”
As the first stage of architectural firm selection opened, hundreds of initial entries poured in. Sameep Padora & Associates, Tiarstudio & Atria Arquitetos, Virmueller Architects, and Studio For Habitat Futures Private Limited are the four firms that have graduated to the next stage, and one of their ideas will realise the makeover of this beautiful grove.
Since their design plans will only be open for public viewing after July 20, we decided to look back at all the firms whose designs didn’t make it to this stage and showcase the most interesting ones we found. Of the 26 entries that made it past Stage 1 A, but will not advance to Stage 2, these are a few of the most creative plans brought to the table. Even though these entries didn’t make it into the next level of selection, they’re gorgeous, creative and well designed, which gives us a lot of hope for the ones that did.
I. Arkind Consultants Private Limited
with Arkind Architects; Studio Bednarski Limited; T-ingenierie SA & Studio Fink
This firm’s proposal planned to respect the unique originating spirit of the park while dramatically increasing its appeal for the local community. Their approach involved a people-oriented plan with features to make the woodlands more accessible, as they describe it. “The structure of the new park aims at a dynamic balance of walkable urbanity, open/green public spaces, inclusive and seamless connectivity.”
II. Arup India Pvt Ltd
with Broadway Malyan India Pvt Ltd & Econ Pollution Control Consultants
This firm’s proposal aimed to focus on public spaces, increasing biodiversity and improving connectivity to the city, making it a public asset. A wide range of features from cycle paths and jungle gym adventure installations to a sports pitch, butterfly garden, waterfront food village and mud flat exploration were a part of their plan.
III. Green Des Lab
The proposed length for the waterfront promenade of their design was 700m. A new wooden stage with a canopy and a 5 m wide road made of green pavers in the park bank was included in their plan, along with earth benches on the river bank for visitors to enjoy. Canoe tours, solid waste management, and a mangrove boardwalk were a few of the features in their design proposal.
IV. Menomenopiu Architects
with Anarchment; Bollinger + Grohmann; TRiBU & Agence Cristophe Gautrand & Associes
Along with making the park easier to reach, the new developments proposed by MenoMenoPiu planned to provide multi-functional sports fields for the nearby Dharavi community. Enlarged pathways would be designed with circular resting areas for patrons to enjoy the fresh greenery of the park without disturbing its ecosystem. The proposal also included plans to extend the existing bridge and a new knowledge centre that would be constructed partially underground for natural cooling, and covered with a thin layer of water.
V. Somaya & Kalappa Consultants Pvt Ltd
with Urbanology; Balmond Studio; ADF (Adao da Fonseca) CONSULTORES; Sunjoy Monga; The Landscape Company; Anuradha Mathur; Dilip Da Cunha & Junya Ishigami + Associates
‘A line that stimulates connections between diverse geographic, material and cultural spaces’ was the key concept behind this firm’s proposal, with community open spaces, ecological landscapes, blue and green landscapes including stormwater collection, and working landscapes.
VI. UDP International
with AECOM Design + Planning | Economics & Terracon Ecotech Pvt Ltd
‘Creating the catalyst of change in the heart of Mumbai’ was the idea that surrounded this firm’s proposal for the grove. Their site features included an arts centre, amphitheatre, theme garden, viewing platforms, a reservoir, a watch tower, floating boardwalks and canopy walks, a nursery and a promenade and decks. They planned to unite places, preserve ecology and celebrate life through their designs.
VII. Vidya Venugopal
with Priya Dey; INGEROP; Smai BEN HAJ
Bamboo framework forms large pavilions to give the constructions within the park a natural feel in this firm’s proposal. Their plans included a pedestrian and cycling bridge to make the park more accessible as well.
These are only a few of the various design entries for the Maharashtra Nature Park makeover project that made it to Stage 1A. See all the entries here, and mark your calendars for June 20 when the Stage 2 designs will be open for public viewing.