Where Is YOUR Chennai?

‘Where is YOUR Chennai?’ is an installation conceptualized and presented at the 2nd edition of Chennai’s Green Bazaar on 7th December, 2014 at Spaces in Besant Nagar.

The 2nd edition of Chennai’s Green Bazaar was themed around conservation- ‘an effort to rediscover and savour traditional forms of knowledge in any form and hold onto what we know, and rediscover it, all over again. More importantly, the bazaar seeks to do this by sharing a few new stories around conservation with its passionate citizenry.’ ‘Where is YOUR Chennai?’ is an installation conceptualized to enable just that.

About the installation
The installation involved a large printed map of Chennai held taut between two posts. Participants were asked to place different colored post-its on the map in response to the following questions-
Pink post-it : Which neighbourhood do you live in?
Orange post-it: Where did you go to school?
Purple post-it: Which is your favourite spot in the city?
Yellow post-it: Identify one cultural asset that is rooted in your neighbourhood- it could be a building, a ritual, an event, an experience, anything that you feel is worth holding onto and rediscovering all over again.

The installation is based on ‘Community Asset Mapping’ as a process intended to mobilize a community to focus on what matters most by identifying and using its assets. Community asset mapping can lead to informing policies and activities through the creation of a ‘map’ of the community’s resources as perceived by the community itself. Participants were asked to map and explain the significance of what they perceive as cultural assets of their own neighbourhood in the city.The results from the session are meant to identify key cultural assets at the scale of the neighbourhood as well as ideas and opportunities to improve them.

This mapping exercise was coupled with the Neighborhood Postcard Project, a worldwide initiative sprouted from the SF Postcard Project in San Francisco to foster community connection through storytelling exchange. Following the mapping, participants were asked to fill out a postcard with a positive personal story of their neighbourhood/ community. That postcard was then mailed to a random person in the city to create a stronger connection between people and neighbourhoods. A hat tip to Hunter Franks, founder of the Neighbourhood Postcard Project; ‘Where is YOUR Chennai?’ felt complete with this addition.

The entire installation hinges on the notion that there are many positive stories that exist in the many neighbourhoods that sum up the city of Chennai and these stories need to be heard. Its title ‘Where is YOUR Chennai?’ is also an attempt to urge the participants to personalize the city for themselves while they are a part of the installation.

‘Where is YOUR Chennai?’ was featured as part of the online platform of MoMA’s Uneven Growth exhibition. Uneven Growth, the latest exhibition in MoMA’s Issues in Contemporary Architecture series addresses the increasingly inequitable urban development taking place in our cities as we move into a future that is two-thirds urbanized and shrinking on resources. ‘Where is YOUR Chennai?’ was accepted as an example of “tactical urbanisms”—temporary, bottom-up interventions that aim to make cities more livable and participatory.

Where is YOUR Chennai? from Urban Design Collective on Vimeo.

Project team: Vidhya Mohankumar, Tahaer Zoyab, Dean Anthony Srinivasan, Yusuf Chiniwala, Saroja Arunachalam
Partner Organisations: The Alternative