Creat. Sp.

Design Strategies for Reorganizing the Public Realm of a Neighbourhood Unit: The Case of the Modern Housing Complex, Manimajra, Chandigarh



Public realm, neighbourhood concept, streetscape, underutilized spaces

PUBLISHER The Author(s) 2015. This article is published with open access at

The Public Realm, an interface between the public and the private, is a vital aspect of the built environment that helps to give a city its identity. Despite being a highly significant contributor towards shaping the urban life and the quality of urban spaces, the fact remains that the concept and idea of meaningful public realm remains largely ignored, especially within neighbourhoods with their series of unmaintained and misused public spaces. Such is the case of the Modern Housing Complex at Manimajra, Chandigarh, where the planned open spaces and parks have been increasingly converted into parking lots, garbage yards with uncontrolled vegetation, or spaces that promote antisocial activities, all of which together affect the livability and attractiveness of the ‘model’ colony.’ This paper is based on a study of Manimajra’s Modern Housing Complex, that was undertaken in 2012-13. The objective was to focus on the public realm and to devise design strategies for a livable neighbourhood through a community-based vision for an improved, high quality Public Realm making the neighbourhood more vibrant, safe and a truly liveable place. The study was based on an understanding of how the physical pattern and organization of a neighborhood influences perception and understanding of public places, multiple forms in which public places are manifested, different ways in which public places are understood, and various manners in which public places are used. The study reinforced the notion that the design, condition and quality of the neighbourhood streets and spaces have a major impact on the quality of its inhabitants’ life, and their careful designing and quality development can help to create successful public places.


This paper is based on the premise that “Cities are about people.” We engage with the public face of the city every day – with roads, streets, lanes, pavements, parks and piazzas, and all other publicly accessible spaces between buildings, including the neglected voids in the urban matrix. This is the ‘public realm’, free to use by everyone, and experienced by the everyday user, regardless of age or social status, as an essential part of everyday life. This is why public realm is so important and deserves such careful consideration and development.

The Public Realm is a vital aspect of the built environment that helps to gives the territory of a community its individual identity. A quality public realm enables fulfilment of the socio-economic potential of a place/ city/ town/ community. It facilitates ‘re-positioning/re-imaging’ of a neighbourhood and transforms places into high quality places in which people enjoy to live, visit and invest, enhancing their ‘sense of civic pride’ and ‘sense of place’ and, in the process ensuring long-term Vitality, Viability and Vibrancy of a place.

The public realm within a neighbourhood should feature quality open spaces of various sizes and programming types, as well as opportunities for public activity that invite people to gather and socialize. It provides an approach to movement networks, street design and open space control to support communities within neighbourhoods, creating a healthy and safe and a congenial environment where children may safely play near their house and elderly get place to interact and rejuvenate in the evenings.

Page(s) 157–182
ISSN Print : 2321-3892, Online : 2321-7154
DOI 10.15415/cs.2015.22008

The physical environment in which people live and operate is the key to adjudge how successfully a neighbourhood works. Living in a safe and vibrant place makes people feel positive and proud of their neighbourhood. On the other hand, living in a place where there is poor security, abandoned vehicles, untidy gardens, unsafe streets and pedestrian connections has the opposite effect. This project has helped to recognize the significance of a Neighbourhood’s Public Realm in impacting the quality of life of its residents. It sought to formulate a clear project-based design strategy that would help to enhance quality, functionality, appeal and value within an existing community. The design strategy evolved clearly shows that the quality of open public spaces that promote healthy interaction, the character of the streets that are defined as the primary elements of public realm, safe places for children to play and walkable communities with adequate parking spaces contribute significantly to the well being of the people, ultimately making neighbourhoods more liveable.

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