Mapping Privacy in Public Spaces

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In a city as dense as Mumbai, places of refuge are difficult to find. Due to crowded living conditions, many Mumbaikars find personal escapes in the public realm. But where, exactly, are these private, personal spaces, and do they share any common characteristics? A complementary project to the “Your Place, My Place, or Our Public Space?: Privacy and Spaces in Mumbai” study, this visual survey aimed to explore such spaces through a more creative, visual approach than the PUKAR study.

In an ongoing, participatory research project conducted at the Mumbai Lab between December 10, 2012 and January 13, 2013, the Lab and the Design Cell at the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies (KRVIA) invited visitors to create hand-drawn, visual responses—“memory maps”—to photographs of activities (such as reading, having a conversation, and sleeping) within a variety of public spaces in Mumbai (markets, parks, streets). A sampling of the photographs and participants’ responses to them can be found in the slideshow above.

Feedback gathered from more than 250 participants at the Lab’s six locations across Mumbai revealed that:

1) Most participants often found privacy in public spaces containing an architectural element such as street furniture or playground equipment.

2) Participants attained privacy in large open spaces such as seafront promenades and maidans (open spaces often used for sport or large gatherings).

3) A sense of belongingness, security, ownership, seclusion, personalization of the space, accessibility, and freedom of expression were essential to fostering a sense of privacy in public space.

The act of memory mapping reveals a more accurate reflection of where Mumbaikars go for their most personal and private moments, and what qualities they require for such havens. The exercise has also generated a more psychological perspective on how people think about their solitary space and time, giving participants a new understanding of their own everyday surroundings.

Project Coordinators: Kimaya Keluskar, George Jacob
KRVIA Graduates: Megashree Bhatt, Serena Fernanades, Raj Kansara

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