Monthly Archives: April 2014

No more a child’s play

I happened to visit “Children’s Park” in New Delhi’s India Gate area and was appalled at the callousness with which the facilities have been provided there. The children’s outdoor play equipment in particular appeared to be more of torture equipment used in medieval periods rather than joyful play elements.

Since I had often played there as a child myself, it was rather disappointing to see the total lack of maintenance and the whole place seemed to convey a sense of disdain and utter disregard towards the blossoming generation.

The place was full of children of various ages and the lack of maintenance of the place clearly indicated that there was an accident waiting to happen.

I tried to read up on any documentation regarding any guidelines whatsoever in India, for child safety norms for outdoor play activity, but I was unable to find it. I did however find a detailed document from “Department of Health and Community services in Newfoundland.” (http://www.gov.nl.ca/cyfs/publications/childcare/outdoor_play_area_standards.pdf)

It was obvious to me, even before going through it that the facilities in Children’s Park would not match up to the guidelines which I had found, but mentioned below are some of the discrepancies I could recall were missing from the Park:

 

  • USE OF FINE SAND AS PROTECTIVE MATERIAL

Fine sand is not recommended as a protective surfacing material in on-site outdoor play areas. If it is possible to purchase another type of protective surfacing material, it is advisable to do so. Fine sand is difficult to maintain. In addition, it is abrasive and can cause injury to children if it gets in their eyes.

 

Lack of maintenance and signages

Lack of maintenance and signages

  • CRAWL SPACES

Crawl spaces are defined as spaces under four feet (1.2 m) high where children can access and adults cannot access. These crawl spaces must be enclosed.

 

  • SHARP EDGES OF SLIDES/ PLAY EQUIPMENT

Remove or cover any sharp points or edges. Any bolt that extends beyond the nut must be replaced with a shorter bolt, or covered with an acorn nut or plastic cap.

Swings poorly maintained

Swings poorly maintained

 

  • SWINGS, SLIDES AND SEESAWS

Swings must have no open-ended or ‘S-shaped’ hooks. Closed hooks are necessary. Make sure that no part of a play structure could trap a child’s head or limbs. Seesaws must have wooden blocks or rubber tires placed on the underside of the seats to prevent feet from getting caught. Remember that slides can become too hot for safe use. Place them in the shade or facing away from the sun.

 

Dangerous play equipment

Dangerous play equipment

  • MAINTENANCE IS A MUST

Chains for swings, rings, and hand holds, etc. must be checked frequently for smooth functioning and for signs of wear, weakness or rust. Replace them when necessary.Use non-toxic paints when repainting any children’s product. Take care of rusted parts as soon as possible. The surface of slides must be smooth and show no wear and there must be no gaps, pinch points, or rough edges in the sliding surface. Maintenance of protective surfacing materials is essential. If the required depth of surfacing materials is not maintained then these surfaces are not considered safe.

 

Here, I am not even mentioning the requirement of easily visible first aid areas, adult supervisory staff and other requirements such as checklists for daily, monthly and seasonal inspections. I could not get even a glimpse of a person in authority except for the guards at the entrance who insisted that no one could bring any home-made eatables inside the park, although you could buy some from the vendors near the gate.

A possible, but rather silly defence of the indefensible scenario described above is that they have kept the “entry free”. How horrible does that sound – A free entry to cause grievous injury to the children of this country.

Ironically this park is located in proximity to the several prestigious offices of the country, such as the President’s Residence, the highest offices of the Ministries, the highest offices of Judiciary and the Bureaucracy – Perhaps rightly so, it serves to show just how concerned we are about our children.

Another equally ironical dimension to this grotesque scenario is the thinking of some of the parents themselves. While in most places no person in their right mind will even allow a child into this park, the parents seem to take pride, when the child gets hurt, claiming that the child is “growing up” or “getting tough”.

In this era of rapid urbanization, green spaces and green lungs are scarce but invaluable assets to any city. Effective design, maintenance and a change in our mindset is vital for the survival of both the green spaces as well as the population residing in the urban areas.

Despite the tremendous developments and evolution in the field of Architecture, people still often ask this fundamental question, “What exactly does an Architect do?”, or ,” What does making a building really involve?” , or , ” If the building is being constructed on site, why does the architect need an office?”

Here are 4 info graphics which give some idea about the work going on at the back end in the process of a structure being made. *This is just a general idea, the processes may be different depending on the nature of the project.

The graphics have been divided into 4 stages :

  1. Design Stage
  2. Tender and Site Mobilization Stage
  3. Construction Stage
  4. Completion Stage
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Design Stage

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TENDER STAGE

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CONSTRUCTION STAGE

 

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COMPLETION STAGE

Did you know, that the more time and  effort one puts in BEFORE the project starts (in planning), the better the project takes shape ?

This is a very simplistic representation. A successful project depends on the active and dedicated participation and contribution of all the stakeholders.

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The Art of Seeking Professional Services

The Mayor of Hamelin Syndrome.

The Pied Piper Syndrome is a term often used to refer to people blindly following a trend, similar to the folklore about the children of Hamelin who followed the mesmerising tunes of the Pied Piper’s musical instrument. While trends have often lured architects through early movements such as the Neo classical, Gothic, Art Deco to the later Deconstructivism, Sustainable and Passive Houses, this article choses to explore another aspect of the Pied Piper narrative, one which has often been overlooked. Why did the Pied Piper choose to lure the children away in the first place? The obvious answer was that he had not been paid his dues.

The reason for not having been paid his dues, was that the Mayor of the Town felt that removing rats from the city was hardly any task worth paying for. Further, the Mayor felt that the Pied Piper could not do anything even if he was not paid. This clearly demonstrated the myopic vision of Mayor as an administrator. The Mayor was not even concerned about the fact that some rats may return in the future and that the Pied Piper’s help may be required again. Thus in a way, the Mayor triggered a tragic event which had the potential to have far reaching consequences for so many people.

A very similar situation exists commonly in India, where people take pride in “making” their own houses, factories and buildings, never mind the violation of building and safety codes and the risk to their lives as well as those of living in those spaces. Seeking professional help has mutated into a strange, self destructive habit which compromises the very basis of objective of approaching a professional.

Let us take the typical example of a person who has fever. Instead of approaching a doctor, this person will first open his medicine drawer and take whatever medicine is lying in the drawer. A few days after not recovering, he will approach a doctor. He will take medicines prescribed by the doctor for one day and on the very next day he will seek advice from a homeopath, another doctor and a spiritual healer and continue to take some of the medicines prescribed by all the people he has seen. If he does not recover( or his health gets worse), he will blame all the people he has seen and also blame it on fate.

A similar dismal situation exists in architecture as well. People and organisations often approach Architects for advice on designing a house or a township for example. Half way through the project, they feel that they can complete the project on their own. They feel they can save some money by not paying the Architect’s and other engineering consultant’s fees and often feel that they can get away with it. It is not possible to calculate the tremendous damage they have caused to their own project doing so.

Any project is dynamic entity with its own unique challenges and opportunities. The professionals such as Architects/ Engineers, need to monitor it regularly (if not in real time) and evolve on their own designs in the best interest of the project.  Discontinuing the Architect’s services half way is similar to pulling out your close relative from an operation theatre, half way through the operation while the body may still be open. It is extremely important to let the project achieve a full closure before it is made operational and open for public use. In fact, it is worthwhile to keep in touch with the technical consultants even after the project has been completed.

Abandoning Professional services should always be the last resort. In case there is a genuine dissatisfaction with the Professional services provider, it is always a good idea to let your concerns be known, before taking extreme steps. While discontinuing professional services may initially appear to be financially appealing, the long term costs often far supersede the savings.