MVRDV and StudioPOD transform an underutilised underpass into a public space

MVRDV collaborated with StudioPOD for the One Green Mile project, which reuses the abandoned space in Mumbai as a playful public space with amenities for the community.

by STIRworldPublished on : Jul 14, 2022

Mumbai, the Indian city of dreams, recently became home to an urban intervention by MVRDV, an eminent Netherlands-based architectural practice, in collaboration with StudioPOD's Mumbai office. The master plan, conceptualised by StudioPOD, envisions the transformation of a series of unused concrete urban spaces in the city into a place for the entire local community to enjoy. A 800-metre stretch below a busy flyover becomes the stage for MVRDV and StudioPOD's collaboration to reuse the underutilised urban area by adding much-needed amenities and greenery, improving mobility, and creating a visual identity of the space, which once remained abandoned and ignored.

  • A serene public space right amidst the hustle of the city’s busiest roads alongside a flyover  | One Green Mile | StudioPOD and MVDRV | STIRworld
    A serene public space right amidst the hustle of the city’s busiest roads alongside a flyover Image: Suleiman Merchant
  • Entrance to the One Green Mile public space from the main road | One Green Mile | StudioPOD and MVDRV | STIRworld
    Entrance to the One Green Mile public space from the main road Image: Suleiman Merchant

This particular patch, of the 11-kilometre road, running through the heart of Mumbai, was a source of noise pollution as well as a barrier between neighbourhoods. However, with office developments in the area, Nucleus Office Parks, a realtor of the city, tasked StudioPOD and MVRDV to develop the streetscape running alongside the flyover into a community space. "One Green Mile asks the question: what if we expected highways to give something back to the places they cut through? A flyover can provide some shade in a hot city and creates a small area of land that can't be developed with tall buildings. It's not such a crazy idea to make that into a public space." A thought put forward by MVRDV partner, Stefan de Koning, simplifies the idea and motivation of the project.

  • Sinuous bright blue strips that run across all elements creating a unique and holistic spatial experience | One Green Mile | StudioPOD and MVDRV | STIRworld
    Sinuous bright blue strips that run across all elements creating a unique and holistic spatial experience Image: Suleiman Merchant
  • Visual bright accent colour transcends all elements, from material to graphics | One Green Mile | StudioPOD and MVDRV | STIRworld
    Visual bright accent colour transcends all elements, from material to graphics Image: Suleiman Merchant
  • A hilly paved landscape makes the space more physically dynamic while elevating the two-dimensional elements | One Green Mile | StudioPOD and MVDRV | STIRworld
    A hilly paved landscape makes the space more physically dynamic while elevating the two-dimensional elements Image: Suleiman Merchant

StudioPOD developed the initial program that identified the target groups and solved the traffic and street profiles. MVRDV elevated the visual identity of the space with unique sinuous bright blue strips that run across all elements, creating a playful and holistic experience for its users. As visually accented colours play with the overall materiality and graphic design of the area, creating a unique visual identity, a hilly paved landscape transforms all elements into a three-dimensional spatial experience. The illustrations were created by St+art. Like many of their other previous street art projects, the illustrations try to reimagine urban design, by providing open access to art and engaging with the local community, which is in synchronicity with the overall redesign of the underpass.

  • Shaded seating area, one of many public “rooms'' created within the space through furniture and spatial arrangement | One Green Mile | StudioPOD and MVDRV | STIRworld
    Shaded seating area, one of many public “rooms” created within the space through furniture and spatial arrangement Image: Suleiman Merchant
  • Unique yet simple urban furniture of accent colour added to the project | One Green Mile | StudioPOD and MVDRV | STIRworld
    Unique yet simple urban furniture of accent colour added to the project Image: Suleiman Merchant
  • Lighting across the green arch creates a warm welcome to the users all evening | One Green Mile | StudioPOD and MVDRV | STIRworld
    Lighting across the green arch creates a warm welcome to the users all evening Image: Suleiman Merchant

Such a dynamic physical space accommodates various programs and activities through a series of public "rooms'' with diverse functions, such as a lounge, a gym, shaded seating areas, performance spaces, and even a reading room. Unique yet seemingly simple urban furniture with distinct lighting design, created by Lighting Concepts India, adds to the overall design of the space and make it accessible in the evenings as well. The two elements combined give the underpass an identity of its own while ensuring consistent safety.

  • Extensive network of greenery in the project, from various plantations across the space to screen and retaining walls| One Green Mile | StudioPOD and MVDRV | STIRworld
    Extensive network of greenery across the project, from various plantations across the space to screens and retaining walls Image: Suleiman Merchant
  • UGreen screens lining the boundary of the project while cooling the surrounding and reducing the noise pollution | One Green Mile | StudioPOD and MVDRV | STIRworld
    Green screens lining the boundary of the project while cooling the surrounding and reducing the noise pollution Image: Suleiman Merchant

Greenery became an essential component to integrate into such an overpowering concrete space. Planned in collaboration with Enviroscape and AMS Consultants, the integration was accomplished by planting a variety of shrubbery throughout the area. A series of screens bordering the space, a retaining wall, and a green arch at the entrance, all add to the welcoming nature of the space. These lush green plantations are not only visually enticing but also encourage the scope of the biodiversity in the area while cooling the surrounding spaces and reducing noise pollution. Such an extensive network of greenery is then supported by an engineering marvel that stores and filters Mumbai’s monsoon water to irrigate the entire One Green Mile network of plants.

Improving the urban mobility of the area as well with zebra crossings and bicycle lanes | One Green Mile | StudioPOD and MVDRV | STIRworld
Improving the urban mobility of the area as well with zebra crossings and bicycle lanes Image: Suleiman Merchant

While creating a public space within, the master plan of One Green Mile also improves the mobility of the area through better accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists and safety through bicycle lanes, zebra crossings and pavements. Along with a community hub, it also easily becomes a hub that promotes cycling in the city.

One Green Mile project adds onto the value of a flyover as it accommodates the cars above and a public space underneath | One Green Mile | StudioPOD and MVDRV | STIRworld
One Green Mile project adds onto the value of a flyover as it accommodates the cars above and a public space underneath Image: Suleiman Merchant

One Green Mile is a product of a circular economy proposal by StudioPOD and adds to the value of the flyover by utilising the space beneath. As the flyover above accommodates the cars, it achieves a new purpose of providing shelter and shade to people in a newly designed public area. With easy-to-adapt features and a focus on inclusive green spaces, this project can be easily repeated anywhere in the city. A future extension to the project is already planned over a three-kilometre stretch extending from Mumbai's Mahalaxmi Racecourse to the Dharavi Mangrove region.

One Green Mile becomes an exemplary project for all future underutilised spaces in a metropolis | One Green Mile | StudioPOD and MVDRV | STIRworld
One Green Mile becomes an exemplary project for all future underutilised spaces in a metropolis Image: Suleiman Merchant

One Green Mile project recognises the importance of open and unused areas between the built forms which are often overlooked in the city's urban fabric. These spaces are characterised by neglect, and transition that eludes any classification and are only identifiable as marginal spaces of the city. As rapid urbanisation and growth create more unused spaces in the cities, finding their alternative purpose becomes more essential. They need to be transformed into avenues with new interventions for urban up-gradation and not be a mere burden to the city.

Project Details

Name: One Green Mile
Location: Mumbai, India
Completion Year: 2022
Client: Nucleus Office Park
Programme: Public space
Architect: MVRDV
Co-architect: StudioPOD
Founding Partner in charge: Jacob van Rijs
Partner: Stefan de Koning
Design Team: Ronald Hoogeveen, Valentina Chiappa Nuñez, Jose Manuel Garcia Garcia, Prajakta Gawde
Strategy and Development: Sruti Thakrar
Copyright: MVRDV Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs, Nathalie de Vries
Consultants: St+Art India, AMS Consultants, ARKK Consulting, Lighting Concepts, Sustainancy Consultants, JW Consultants LLP, Tuner Construction Company, Enviroscape

(Text by Rashi Karkoon, intern at STIRworld)

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