Indian Police Allegedly Beat Up a City Councilor Over Slum Redevelopment

Gurgaon’s slum-dwellers are continuously displaced from their neighborhoods to make way for gated communities, office towers and high-rise condos. (Photo by Sara Goodyear)

You can practically feel the money pumping through the congested streets of Gurgaon. In this posh suburb of New Delhi, towering new condo developments and office parks are constantly under construction. What was, just 25 years ago, a collection of sleepy villages and farms is now touted as India’s ‘Millennium City’ – a high-rise, high-rolling 21st-century metropolis. But even as Gurgaon represents the apotheosis of a new lifestyle dream for many middle-class Indians, it remains home to entrenched political dysfunction and social inequity, most recently spotlighted in the brutal arrest of reformist city councilor Nisha Singh.

Nisha Singh (Credit: Sarah Goodyear)

Elected to Gurgaon’s municipal council in 2011 on a platform of government transparency and accountability, Singh is a London School of Economics–educated engineer who worked for Google before entering public service. Since entering the council, she has advocated on behalf of working-poor slum-dwellers who in fast-growing Gurgaon and many other parts of India are continually displaced from their neighborhoods to make way for luxury developments.

Last Friday, in response to constituent concerns, Singh went to a site within her district where a jhuggi, or slum, was being demolished by the regional development authority. The community, made up of homes built by the families who inhabited them, was being cleared to make way for a road leading to a new development aimed at a more affluent population.

The residents, some of whose families had settled there as agricultural laborers 50 or 60 years ago, were claiming that they were being evicted without proper compensation. According to local activists who know her, Singh wanted to observe what was happening, and was standing well apart from what developed into a violent confrontation between jhuggi dwellers and police, recording the action on her cellphone. You can see her doing this in a video posted here.

Then, according to an account released by Singh’s supporters, the police targeted her for arrest. Here is an excerpt:

[A] lady constable came up to her questioning her right to be there. Nisha explained that she was an elected councilor and that she was filming the incident and was well within her rights. The constable tried to snatch her bag and phone by force while calling for backup…. Five policewomen arrived. Two held Nisha by the arms, one pulled her hair, two others beat her on the legs and back with lathis [police clubs] and batons. They dragged her for 200 metres to a waiting vehicle.

Supporters say she was driven around for five hours, in pain and without her family or anyone else being informed of her whereabouts, before finally being taken to the hospital. Once treated for her injuries, they say she was “discharged from the hospital against medical advice” and put in jail on Saturday night.

After a petition for her release on garnered more than 5,000 signatures, Singh was let go on bail Tuesday. (The 19 protesters who were arrested at the same time are still in jail without prospect of bail, according to the Times of India.) The charges against Singh, which include rioting and attempted murder, are still pending. All 34 of her fellow city councilors, including those from opposing parties, have called for the charges to be dropped, as has Mayor Vimal Yadav. ”If the false charges against Nisha are not quashed immediately, we will take this issue to the highest authorities in the state,” Yadav said in a public statement.

Singh won her council seat as an independent candidate, but she is a member of the national Aam Aadmi Party, which was created in 2012 as a political manifestation of the India Against Corruption movement. Her affiliation with Aam Aadmi has led some observers to speculate about possible political motivations for her arrest. The events of the past week took place against a national backdrop of contention over land-acquisition laws, with Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP party calling for a relaxation of requirements that landowners consent when their property is being acquired for major projects.

I met Singh in 2012 while reporting this story for Next City in Gurgaon. Then new to the municipal council, Singh was a bright light and ally for civic activists fighting against corruption and the vast inequality that has skyscrapers butting up against slums.

Jhuggis stand in stark contrast to Gurgaon’s newly developed high-rises. (credit: Sarah Goodyear)

I interviewed her in her tranquil, comfortable home. “We seem to have forgotten that the power and responsibility to revive our institutions lies with us,” Singh told me then. “We only will have to demand and raise level of governance in India.”

After she was freed on bail Tuesday, Singh vowed that she would refuse to be intimidated by the arrest or the charges pending against her. “This was an attempt to prevent me from speaking out,” she said after her release. “I will continue to raise my voice against corruption.”


7 Futuristic Homes

The rear of the Villa Bio features an almost 50-foot-wide expanse of glass.The pool (now just a large gravel pit) echoes the panoramic window’s exact shape. The custom kitchen features a Silestone counter.

This cutting-edge home stands out from its more traditional neighbors outside Barcelona. The house’s windowless concrete walls act as beams, enabling the 50-foot-wide structure to literally hang in the balance.

Photo by Gunnar Knechtel.

On the market: 1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA

1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA
1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA

Not the most architecturally significant property we have featured, but lovers of the era will definitely fall for this 1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA.

1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA
1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA

The house dates from 1966 and at first glance, looks right out of the sales brochure. But first glances can be deceptive. This place has been renovated, but without impacting on the look and feel.

1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA
1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA

According to the agent, you now get a new ‘jazzy’ aggregate entry floor and heated concrete floors, as well as updated bathrooms and three new patios. Beyond that, we are still very much in the 1960s.

1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA
1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA

So floor to ceiling windows, exposed brick, beams, a wonderful kitchen, period light fittings and vintage cabinetry to boost the overall feel of the original era.

1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA
1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA

1,412 sq. ft. of space in total, which takes in three bedrooms, two bathrooms, reception space with an open kitchen leading off and an attached garage.

1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA
1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA

$500,000 is the asking price, which works out at around £321,000.

1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA
1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA

Images and details courtesy of Portland Modern. For more details and to make an enquiry, please visit their website.

Via Curbed

1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA
1960s Robert Rummer-designed midcentury property in Portland, Oregon, USA

muselet collection by incipit models the form of champagne cork wires

constructed from food safe painted terrocotta and wheel bent wire, this collection can double both as a display piece and serving vessel.

The post muselet collection by incipit models the form of champagne cork wires appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.


Jeppe Hein creates 18 whimsical installations for Brooklyn Bridge Park

Sculptural park benches and a maze constructed of mirrors are among the pieces created by Danish artist Jeppe Hein for an outdoor exhibition in New York (+ slideshow). (more…)


Houzz Tour: Former Train Car Now a Cozy Beach Home (24 photos)

Not many people can count a train car as their ideal place to get away from it all, but when Mark Hampshire and Keith Stephenson want to escape, they head to their converted Victorian guard’s carriage, or train conductor’s car, on the Dungeness headland in Kent, in southeast England. In the early 20th...


Dust Melbourne by Sibling

Integrating online aspects with a physical reality in this Melbourne store was the vision of design studio Sibling (photo: Tobias Titz). The interior architecture for this Melbourne concept label was conceived as a celebration of the senses by the design studio Sibling.

Green architecture

Katherine Houston

One clear and perhaps most cost-effective choice for green architecture is the installation of a green roof. By definition a green or living roof encapsulates a rooftop intentionally housing vegetation to aid the environment. A green roof can range from a basic, lightweight turf to an entire biodiversity garden with wildlife. Through felling rainforests and over fishing the oceans we have continued to increase the impact on the environment, by opting for green architecture solutions such as green roofs, we can augment biodiversity.

Today's society has an advantageous opportunity to implement a multitude of positives for the environment such as green design. Some of these benefits include: increasing biodiversity, insulation, decreasing rainwater run-off volumes, providing green space and more.

Vegetation-adorned buildings have been around for many years, comprising of basic soil and plant roofs, however the contemporary green roof initiated in Germany during the early 1970s and since has made huge advances. Many cities are either trialling or implementing green architecture to help achieve a brighter and more eco friendly future.

Even in harsh climates such as Australia, urban planning professionals in Melbourne have introduced greener initiatives to grow plants off larger buildings in the metropolitan like the Eureka Tower. A native South American plant called a Tillandsia was placed on multiple floors including the very top floor (92nd) to observe their liveability. The plants positioned on the top floor and in the most hostile environment flourished the greatest, and results have shown that they have been not just surviving but thriving for many months. Essentially nocturnal plants, Tillandsia's greatest attribute and finest contributor to green architecture comes from growing at night which vacuums up pollution from the city's peak hour traffic. They also don't require soil or watering, making these plants the next big step to more eco-friendly green roofs in Melbourne. Melbourne is already home to approximately 50 green rooftops, and this modern concept could be the solution for overcoming challenges such as the severe conditions atop high-rise buildings, which essentially reflects the environment of a cliff edge.

Due to these small plants, a city's air quality can improve greatly because this will help decrease the amount of air pollution, by reducing carbon dioxide from the increased oxygen production, also reducing the heat island effect, which has been shown as the main cause of damage to the ozone. The urban heat island effect refers to cities that have a higher average temperature than rural areas; it is a consequence of decreased green space and the large amount of hard surfaces that lead to high thermal mass.
There are initially additional costs for installing a green roof; however the long-term effects of extending the life of a roof's membrane (a roofing system preventing leaks and allowing water run-off) and decreasing both the heating and cooling maintenance costs of the building will outweigh the construction costs.

Green roofs produce excellent insulation as well as a greater external aesthetics to a building's design. These positives have a knock on affect internally by creating a lower demand for expensive and non-eco friendly air conditioning during the summer months and a reduction in heat loss during the winter to ensure the building fabrics has a part to play in the overall efficiency of the building and its environment impact.

Today, architects and engineers can measure the sustainability of their projects with BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environment Assessment Method), which is an internationally-recognised measure for the standard of sustainability design best practice, rating a building's environmental performance. Working with contractor Sir Robert McAlpine, Fletcher Priest Architects and more*, in 2009 Watermark Place, a London office and retail group, achieved a high BREEAM rating with their two floors of greenery and photovoltaic panels installed on a sedum roof. For London as a whole, the main benefits of implementing green architure would be the decrease of storm water run-off velocity and volumes, thus reducing the risk of (flash) flooding plus, and increasing a cooling effect during the summer. The City of London have already in place a biodiversity action plan that supports green architecture in the city.


Read how photovoltaic systems are aiding developing coutries here.

*Watermark Place:
Client: UBS Global Asset Management; green roof supplier: Frosts Landscape Construction Ltd.; Fletcher Priest Architects; Townshend Landscape Architects; contractor: Sir Robert McAlpine


5 Cities Get Funding to Promote Civic Engagement

Seattle is one of five cities chosen for the City Accelerator program. (Photo by Manleyaudio)

Five U.S. cities received great news this week from the Citi Foundation and Living Cities. Albuquerque, Atlanta, Baltimore, New Orleans and Seattle have been chosen to join City Accelerator, a $3 million initiative to promote municipal innovation. Each city will receive up to $170,000 in funds and/or support services to improve citizen engagement in local issues like health care, urban planning and entrepreneurship.

According to a press release, here’s what the mayors had to say about the designation.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake: “In order to make our communities safer and effectively reduce recidivism, we need to be able to partner with people who are rejoining society and support them on their path to success.

The recent death of Freddie Gray in police custody in Baltimore exposed more than problems in the city’s police department. Those gathered for protests also talked about high unemployment, neighborhood investment and widespread inequality.

Rawlings-Blake intends to use the Accelerator opportunity to help people coming out of prison gain access to services they need to rebuild their lives.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu: “From murder reduction to blight, we’ve engaged residents to improve service delivery and achieve results. Now, with City Accelerator’s help, we will be able to engage our city’s most vulnerable populations, because every life matters.

Although 50,000 people in New Orleans qualify for free healthcare, many don’t take advantage of the services. Landrieu intends to engage residents to determine what the existing barriers are and increase access.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray: “Seattle is one of the fastest-growing cities in America. People come here every day in search of jobs, opportunity and a better quality-of-life. And as we plan for the next 20 years, we want to be sure Seattle works for everybody — and that’s why it’s important we continue to try new ways to ensure everyone is engaged in the conversation.

Murray is using the Accelerator nod to focus engagement around the city’s long-range Seattle 2035 plan on everything from affordable housing to transportation planning.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry: “This is an extraordinary opportunity for Albuquerque to bring our tremendous local leaders together with significant resources to address challenges and seek solutions right here at home.”

The New Mexico city is aiming to give a boost to immigrant entrepreneurs.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed: “This initiative gives us an incredible opportunity to build upon the philanthropic and corporate partnerships established with the Westside Future Fund, which supports improvements in the health, education and welfare of residents who live in the historic Westside communities.”

The public-private Westside Future Fund targets investment in several historic Atlanta neighborhoods.

This group is the second round for City Accelerator, and Ben Hecht, president and CEO of Living Cities, hopes they’ll learn from each other and the first group (Louisville, Philadelphia and Nashville). Each set gets a different challenge. The first looked to embed a culture and practice of innovation in local government. A third cohort and a new topic will be announced in the fall.


12 Decorating Scenarios When You Should Do Nothing at All (13 photos)

A lot of interior design is about finding beautiful items to fill a space. But a huge part is knowing when to stop. Negative space is often the element that goes forgotten in a home — and it’s easy to forget, since you can’t even see it. If you feel an obsessive need to overfill your home, here’s my...


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Architect Mahmood Fallahian

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