Posts Tagged ‘Alfred Yaghobzadeh’

At Smithsonian magazine, Tom Downey explains why urban planners could learn a thing or two from a Hindu religious festival that occurs every 12 years.

“I arrived by taxi at the Kumbh [in India] at sunset, expecting throngs of cars, cows and human beings blocking all access points. Instead I glided comfortably into my camp, which sat on a hilltop. I looked out over the fleeting city before me: makeshift shelters constructed on the floodplain of a river that was sure to overflow again in a few months. …

“I’d come to witness the spectacle for myself, but also to meet a group of Harvard researchers from the university’s Graduate School of Design. Led by Rahul Mehrotra, an architect from Mumbai before he went stateside to teach, they would closely analyze this unparalleled feat of spontaneous urban organization.

“ ‘We call this a pop-up megacity,’ said Mehrotra, a bearded 54-year-old. ‘It’s a real city, but it’s built in just a few weeks to instantly accommodate tens of millions of residents and visitors. It’s fascinating in its own right, of course. But our main interest is in what can we learn from this city that we can then apply to designing and building all kinds of other pop-up megacities like it. Can what we see here teach us something that will help the next time the world has to build refugee camps or emergency settlements?’ …

“The Kumbh Mela works in a way that most other Indian cities do not in part because everyone is on their best behavior: Civil servants know that their careers will be defined by these few weeks in the national spotlight; members of the public arrive with a sense of purpose and community.” More here.

I think it goes to show that when large numbers of people are basically on the same page about the importance of something, miracles happen. Loaves and fishes get shared. People pick up their litter. Everyone feels they’ve been part of something big.

Photo: Alfred Yaghobzadeh
Cooks at the Hindu festival worked to feed millions.

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