The culture of each city is reflected in its built form and the activities performed in the public sphere. It is a continual process that one generation inherits from the previous ones. In older neighbourhoods, as cultural practices continue on streets and public spaces, they shape the character and vibrancy of these spaces. In newer neighbourhoods, we could design our public spaces in a way that would allow local residents and visitors to practice these cultural activities.
Renee Chow in ‘Changing Chinese Cities: The Potential of Field Urbanism’ talks about the traditional urban fabric of the Chinese cities which had consisted of a courtyard typology often referred to as Hutongs. However, the low maintenance of this urban fabric due to the Cultural Revolution has led to the fading out of the traditional building typologies. The hutongs which were an identity of the urban fabric of Beijing are today surrounded by or even replaced by skyscrapers and iconic buildings which resemble architectural landmarks in the Western world.
In the Indian context, we find that small community spaces such as the ashwath kattes in Bangalore, that have had significant religious and cultural importance are now being deterritorialized or encroached upon due to infrastructure development. We think that we could try to integrate such small public spaces of the city into the newer transformation processes of the city.
Even though urbanization is important, it is also takin away our natural and green places from the cities. So the notion of culture reflected through the built form needs to also focus on how unbuilt spaces also play a role. Though built form is also very important and so are the activities around it, but due to development we are also losing a lot of green places which are also habitat to animals, birds, etc in urban areas.