BMC plans iconic buildings to attract tourists, but architects wary of commercial exploitation

Published on Oct 01, 2022 12:54 AM IST

Following a state government directive, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has come up with a unique idea to draw tourists - iconic buildings

Mumbai, India - August 15, 2022: Huge crowd at the Gateway of India on the occasion of the 75th Independence Day celebrations, in Mumbai, India, on Monday, August 15, 2022. (Photo by Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times) (Satish Bate/HT PHOTO)
Mumbai, India - August 15, 2022: Huge crowd at the Gateway of India on the occasion of the 75th Independence Day celebrations, in Mumbai, India, on Monday, August 15, 2022. (Photo by Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times) (Satish Bate/HT PHOTO)
ByLinah Baliga, Mumbai

Following a state government directive, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has come up with a unique idea to draw tourists - iconic buildings. The end users and the locations are yet to be decided as the proposal is still on the drawing board.

Municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal on September 28 directed officials to hold a joint meeting at the zonal level to discuss the various aspects. He also asked them to set up zone-wise sub-committees to encourage project proponents to come forward, give concessions in regulations, and suggest ways to overcome difficulties.

A civic official from the building proposal department said talks are on among stakeholders. “There is no definition for iconic buildings in the Development Control Regulations [DCR]. So, we are just brainstorming it.”

Explaining the objective, he said, “In a big city like Mumbai there is nothing much to attract tourists. People in Dubai look at Burj Khalifa and Palm Jumeirah as major attractions. These generate revenue as well.”

The BMC has already invited suggestions from architects and consultants for having such buildings in Wadala and Kandivali.

The basic concept is that the iconic buildings should be eye-catching, the official said. “We are taking feedback from stakeholders on the concept and the uniqueness of design. Recommendations will be sent to the state government’s urban development department.”

However, architects and environmental consultants fear that in the guise of such buildings the builder lobby will resort to commercial exploitation if relaxations in DCR and floor space index (FSI) are granted.

Architect Shirish Sukhatme said iconic buildings are not constructed but they become an icon after a period of 20-30 years. “This whole idea is absurd. As you cannot construct heritage buildings you cannot construct iconic ones either. The iconic building should be a public building. But by roping in builders for this job there will no iconic addition to the architecture.”

Sukhatme said there is already no place for dumps and drainage, and if prominent areas with additional iconic buildings start drawing crowds, it will be an additional burden on the infrastructure.

Civic sources said the manner in which the meetings are being conducted with builders it seems the BMC wants to approve such buildings without capping FSI and in disregard for height and fire requirements and overlooking DCR norms.

Architect Nitin Killawala of G7 Architects and Planners said the BMC should not end up constructing kitsch buildings. “When they say tourists, they should be clear about the end users. What sort of amenities will be there for tourists? Will it be a statue or a building? Iconic is such a loosely used word. It has to be functional and for the larger public use and accessible to common man like Gateway of India.”

Killawala further said since the government is interested in iconic buildings Raj Bhavan is a good example where an ugly tower was constructed for staff quarters marring the look.

An environmental consultant, on the condition of anonymity, said iconic buildings could not be created. “Also, what about the carrying capacity? What will be the locations chosen for tourists? The BMC must conduct a regional impact assessment. The project should not benefit the builder lobby but the general public.”

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