A design challenge, set up by the University of Westminster with a vision to transform 100 disused public spaces in South Asia, saw over 1500 local undergraduate architecture students make this vision a reality across 42 cities and towns.

The public spaces brought back into active use through ‘design and build’ solutions using recycled materials, stretch across 3,000km in South Asia from Quetta to Madurai and Jaipur to Visakhapatnam. An interactive map has been developed to tell the stories of the game-changing transformations.

The range of revamped public spaces include a number of children’s play areas in Noida, Madurai, Nagpur, Bengaluru and Pune, flyover under crofts in New Delhi, Calicut and Sonipat, public spaces along train stations in Mumbai and Chennai, pedestrian footpaths in Jabalpur, Jaipur and Hyderabad, and village streets in Jammu. Dynamic pop up transformations such as an open air public library in a Delhi Bazaar and a recreational space along Elliot’s Beach in Chennai have proven the potential of urban spaces.

The International Design Challenge, part of the wider Latitudes Network at the University of Westminster in London, UK, is inspired by the Clean India Mission and the wave of citizen participation it has generated through its cleanliness drives.

The participating students from 87 local architecture colleges were tested on their creative as well as entrepreneurial skills by having to navigate through the challenges of working on publicly owned land, seeking permissions from local authorities and stakeholders, raising funds for their projects as well as bringing together local communities to build their designs.

The winning team of Project Brick by Brick from the Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur, India, consisted of Abhay Agarwal, Anurag Rathi, Shhrruti Jain and Tejaswini Deshmukh. The team have transformed an urban pocket adjacent to a school for deaf children into a children’s play area, helping to break barriers between the abled and differently abled children while bringing the local community together.

The Radical Incrementalism Award, sponsored by Kelvin Campbell of Massive Small, was given to Project Kulam. The project is an inspiring story of transforming a historic lakeside by involving members of the local community, political leaders and the local authority of a small village. The transformation was so significant that the local community performed a ritual marking the Rebirth of the Lake.

Project Kulam of University of Westminster Design Challenge in India

Project Kulam - Before and after

The winners were announced at the Annual Convention of the National Association of Students of Architecture in Jaipur. The winning team will be sponsored by the University of Westminster to visit London and will be able to showcase their project at a dedicated summer exhibition at the Central London Marylebone Campus of the University of Westminster alongside100 transformations. Three other teams will receive match funding up to £100 towards their live projects.

Aman Gupta, a student of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University in Jammu and Kashmir, part of the project The Unknown Place, said: “Thank you for giving us the chance to think, adapt, and create something for ourselves, our own people and country.”

Darshana Gothi Chauhan, Founder of the Westminster Design Competition at the University of Westminster in London, said: “The intention of the competition has always been to inspire and bring together the creative energy of students to work towards a common vision, use design as a catalyst of change and scale-up the impact of small but effective local transformations to a global scale.”

Professor David Dernie, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean at the University of Westminster, said: “We are thankful for the overwhelming response and the efforts of young creative change makers, local communities and local authorities of South Asia towards making this vision a reality. Our team, along with our collaborators, is committed to giving an international platform to these transformations and truly recognising the effort each participant has put into this process.”

The competition was established by the University of Westminster working in partnership with the National Association of Students of Architecture in India (NASA INDIA). The best examples of the transformations of these public spaces will be published in the international publications part of the Massive Small Collective.

Learn more about studying Architecture and the Built Environment at the University of Westminster.

Watch the video about the winning project called Brick by Brick.

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Brick by Brick

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Cover image: Project Tulip - Before and After

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