With Metro Rail, the focus is also on the huge concrete pillars that can bring in more aesthetics to the surroundings. A look at some suggestions from architects and planners by Ranjani Govind

Namma Metro in Bangalore, we wish, would go much beyond its routes and destinations and serve urban and community aesthetics too. As the entire Metro Rail tracks in the North, South, East and West corridors are set to come up along the main roads for most part, the fat concrete pillar supports that we now observe along the finished East corridor stretch (Byappanahalli to M.G.Road) call for instant attention. Hundreds of them are on their way for supporting the rest of the tracks in the coming phases.

Although these pillars look fine from a distance, the huge concrete mass hits you for its size when you walk past. Even as there are several architects who don't condemn the concrete make-up, there are designers who think these pillars are not adding aesthetics to the surroundings.

PropertyPlus brings in views and suggestions from well-known architects and planners in the city who comment on the make-up of these concrete pillars, alternative materials that would have been more prudent in the long run, and factors to be taken care of to avoid the pillars being used as poster-walls.

“Vibrant cities and infrastructure leaps can pose a challenge to architects and planners to bring in meaningful contributions, as tangible formulas for clogged roads pave way for development,” renowned architect and planner Charles Correa had commented sometime ago when he drove past M.G.Road. “But all that serpentine mass of concrete has robbed the romance of a sleek train running above a pulsating road,” he says. “At least the elevated part should have been in steel instead of the ugly concrete expressions with gigantic pillars running all along.” If the entire inter-rail network is in steel, one can dismantle it for change of routes; but with concrete, one is stuck for a lifetime, Correa had commented.

Nisha Mathew Ghosh of Mathew and Ghosh Architects

The issue of the size of any structural supporting element has to do entirely with the loads on that element. There are always many design possibilities, which have implications on cost, time etc. It is a pity that in our cities we fail to see the potential of good design (in a very comprehensive way...urban connections, social and retail possibilities and great space-making…) when such projects are undertaken for the city.

We have missed out on the great possibilities that exist in such interventions. The eternal Indian poster defacing potential problem can be only met if we either police it strictly, or provide a space for this expression, which means there is a legitimate way by which posters can be put up in certain places but it has to be nominally charged. It is like creating graffitti walls for the indisciplined!

Indrajit S. Kembhavi, Principal Architect, Kembhavi Architecture Foundation

International design of bridges, metro rails, stations are high on aesthetic index as they define the spirit and energy of the city they are based in. As far as materials are concerned, concrete itself is a highly flexible and fluid material that can be composed sinuously into varied forms and is generally the most preferred material for these types of structures. So, I feel the problem is not in the material but in the way it has been used.

There are a lot of structural steel products which are available that have a high aesthetic value and can be used for superfast construction. These could be a material of choice along important boulevards throughout the city. At this stage adding anything to the pillars will only make them look bulkier. I would envisage toning down of the concrete mass by developing landscape around it which would help not only in shift of focus but would also enable the city to grow green. Development of landscape/ streetscape with a positive composition that defines pedestrian/ vehicular/green zones below and around the Metro would act as a deterrent to the issue of vandalism.

K. Jaisim of Jaisim Fountainhead & Chairman of the Indian Institute of Architects, Karnataka Chapter

There are several ways to look at the issue. First, Namma Metro should not have been above ground. Concrete pillar sizes are a structural design problem, and I think given the problem, the solution has been tackled well. The grooves brought in the pillars make it difficult to stick posters, and visually help them look leaner. I hope it doesn't get any paint on it, as it looks better if left totally grey and quiet! But many places of intersection – the road, the overbridge and underpass, the footpath and the Metro alongside – are in direct conflict and I see no co-ordinated urban design approach.

As far as material is concerned, steel could have been a lighter, brighter and longer span alternative. Even if there is a change in the future to scrap the Metro Rail or change the routes, the recovery costs would be substantial, and the rise in steel prices at that time would have justified the change. The cost of checking the quality of concrete, and the time taken to correct these massive pillars would have more then balanced the cost. In the event of route change or design change, which is bound to happen in two decades, a mammoth cost and logistics problem lies ahead of us!

But for heaven's sake, don't add anything more to the pillars, just leave them alone! Please do not suggest anything to the powers that are doing it. It will only add to the blunders and additional cost. Instead of painting them with atrocious themes, a simple steel fencing around them with green gardens around would bring in all the aesthetics now.

Keywords: architecture