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PREETI ZACHARIAH
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CITY An exhibition that offers insights into green cities and sustainable development

windmills mounted on a cycle flutter in the airNandesh Shanti Prakash
windmills mounted on a cycle flutter in the airNandesh Shanti Prakash

How does a city grow? With steel and glass contraptions that caress the skies? With roads that can no longer hold the automobiles that are churned out by the factories that line it? When the water turns murky and the soil fetid? When trees are slashed, wild-life exterminated and people’s lives eviscerated?

And yet this need not always be so. At the exhibition titled The Post-Oil City - The History of the Future of the City held at the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum, architects and urban planners come together to create a city that is environmentally friendly and energy-efficient. By going back in History and exploring solutions that existed as far back as the 1960s, today’s urban planners have introduced concepts that support sustainable development. Some of the projects covered include Masdar (Abu Dhabi), Xeritown (Dubai), NEST town planning project in Ethiopia, the urban traffic system in Curitiba, Brazil and the “Better Place” project, currently being implemented in Israel.

“We are basically trying to figure out how to live in the city of the future once we have run out of oil,” says Elke Falat, curator of the Bangalore Garden Exhibition which is running parallel to the Post-Oil City Exhibition. “We are trying to link these international architecture and urban planning projects to a local context. Bangalore has problems other than oil scarcity — water shortage, garbage, traffic,” adds Elke. “However, instead of asking architects and engineers to come up with solutions, we are asking the artists.”

And if the eclectic, unusual displays are anything to go by, the artists are certainly on the right track. The first exhibit is a compost pit in the shape on an earthworm designed by Suresh Kumar. “We want to promote vermin-composting. All organic waste can be recycled here,” says Elke.

A series of keyboards with ragi growing out of the crevices between the keys is an unusual sight. “ Bangalore is the IT hub which is what the keyboard represents, while ragi is the staple food of Karnataka,” says its creator, Surekha. “I wanted to prove that there is space in the world for both science and nature.”

Another interesting exhibit is a hand-made quilt with a map of Bangalore in the centre of it. Conceptualised by Suresh Jayaram and executed by female migrant labourers, the different patches on the quilt are representative of the multiple cultures and identities that symbolise the city of Bangalore itself.

Some of the exhibits didn’t just offer insights into eco-friendly urban planning, but also made sure that visitors got a few take-aways. One of the most interesting exhibit was by Sunoj D. which comprised a large pile of seed balls. “They are made of mud, clay and various seeds,” says Elke. “All you need to do is plant and water it — you never know what may grow.”

Brightly coloured windmills mounted on a cycle flutter in the air and whir in endearing spirals, drawing large crowds of children to it. “Wind energy is a cheap and clean form of energy and I wanted to educate people about it. All the components of these windmills are made of eco-friendly material,” smiles Nandesh Shanti Prakash, creator of this exhibit. “Also, I wanted to create something happy,” he says, handing me one of his windmills.

However, not all exhibits have a feel-good element to it. Some offer inklings of the grim reality that looms ahead if one does not pay heed to nature’s warnings. D. Madhu’s painting had images of people in the future wearing gas masks. Raghu Kondur’s version of the city highlighted workers precariously balanced on scaffolding while chaotic traffic thundered beneath them. Mangala’s cut-outs of sparrows plastered to steel antennae highlighted how the existence of these birds are threatened by the chrome and glass buildings of the future, while Dimple Shah’s wood and concrete box offered a 360 degree view of the city.

There were also several audio-visual presentations on a variety of topics. Bhavani G. S.’s Embedded Water threw light on the amount of water that went into making most products and the dire water scarcity in our country, while Ayisha Abraham’s spliced series of images offered a glimpse of a Bangalore that once was.

“Art and science are intrinsically linked to each other,” says Elke. “We are so happy that we were given this platform to display the two together.”

PREETI ZACHARIAH

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