Building a better life

We have heard of people constructing buildings, but meet Ritu Verma who builds cities for a living!

August 20, 2015 03:44 pm | Updated March 29, 2016 04:23 pm IST

Master planner: A guide at buidlding cities. Photo: Special Arrangement

Master planner: A guide at buidlding cities. Photo: Special Arrangement

What is a city? A City is a place where people live and work and play. It’s a combination of built up and natural spaces, with roads that help us move about. It is a place that provides for a better quality of life. Do you know that there are people who plan cities?

Meet Ritu Verma, an architect, Urban planner and designer who is also the Founder Director of Urban EXPLORERS, a consultancy firm involved in urban planning and design.

Envisioning the future

“For us, the city is a laboratory which we need to explore, understand, envision, and solve,” she says. It all starts with a City Masterplan. It’s a job that involves many parameters, and an objective to improve the quality of life of the citizens by solving current problems ranging from housing issues to water-logging and safety on streets. “We need to plan as to how many people can stay at a particular place in the city, where to place the hospitals, schools, offices, parks, markets, museums, zoo, airport, railway station and bus stops. We also have to add some “landmarks” like Qutub Minar or theme parks like the Kingdom of Dreams in Gurgaon. A city needs to be functional, so we will have to decide how people will travel from one place to another to live, work and play, and design the roads and metro accordingly,” she adds.

Designers like Verma are also charged with the responsibility of drawing plans for efficient transportation networks like metros, preserving built heritage and natural environment, promoting tourism and improving governance mechanisms in a city, thus making it “beautiful and happening”.

In fact, they not only design them, but also, in many ways, determine and regulate the growth of a city. “So essentially, designing a city is a visionary exercise where we plan the city or parts of it for the next five, 10 or 15 years,” she adds.

A typical day for Verma is packed with continuous research and development. Her day also includes a lot of travelling. “The more places you visit, the more you understand how a city works, thus I am an eternal student and an explorer of the world, having worked in “risky” geographies like China, Qatar, Libya,” she says.

Touring cities helps urban planners like Verma understand the topography and geography of the place. A designer also has to physically survey a site, take pictures and document it, besides interviewing people to understand the socio-economic and spatial dynamics better.

Simultaneously, the designer has to also interact with the municipality or the urban development body to understand their vision and constraints of the place.

Once back from the site the other half of the day is spent in analysing the data and making suitable policy or design recommendations in the form of reports and maps. “It’s lots of thinking, talking, writing and drawing! It can be quite intense and is not for the weak-hearted or dabblers,” she adds.

Urban Design and Urban Planning are two different courses and are available as specialised post-graduate degrees nationally and internationally.

There is a Bachelors of Planning which will qualify you for a Masters of Urban Design or Urban Planning

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