Stuff I Do

Experiences and Encounters in Pune

Intangible Culture and the City

Posted by Sanskriti on December 21, 2009

The nature of governance of the city, the occupations of citizens, their social life, leisure and recreation, religious belief and practices all dynamically shape urban spaces – residential areas, parks, formal-informal shops and market places, places of work and worship, places to meet and express ourselves. Conversely, the physical structure of the city can help community activity flourish and can also constrain it.

The intangible fabric of citizen activity shapes and is shaped by the tangible physical structure of the city. The two are inseparable. Destroy the physical structure, and the human activity that was nurtured therein may be irretrievably lost. On the other hand, what should be done with city spaces that were the context of occupations or activities that thrived once but are not relevant any more – should we preserve them as ‘museum spaces’, or think about the reasons that have led to the decline of certain types of cultural elements.

Consider Kasba Peth the location of the earliest settlement that evolved into Pune. The old settlement pattern is still visible with occupation-based streets and localities, though it is rapidly changing. Tambat Ali still has a few families of copper crafts-persons, but only a few. The economics of the craft and patronage is changing, and so is the physical structure of the core city. But the core city has several lessons to offer in town planning. Multiple use spaces which serve as work places during the day and places for socializing and recreation in the evenings; the intimacy and warmth of paars which serve as places to meet are very much a part of the concept of New Urbanism.

As part of the UNESCO ACCU Photo Festival currently underway at Yashwantrao Chavan Natyagruha, a panel discussion on 21 Dec will explore the links between the cultural aspects (including social, economic, political life) and the physical shape of the city.  The speakers will illustrate this theme with examples, providing insights into how our city came to be. Further, through discussion, the event will explore what our city could be like in the future … what cultural elements are in play today, how will our city structure respond to the desire to be a ‘sustainable urban space’?

This type of reflection is especially relevant in the context of the rapid changes that our city is undergoing, often shaped by forces beyond the direct control of local citizens. It is also topical, given that the master plan for the old municipal limits is currently being revised, and which is likely to have far-reaching impacts on the physical structure of the core city. It’s a time to pause and consider what this will mean for the life of our city.

Festival Program

20 Dec, 11 am to 1 pm Traditional Drawing and Painting workshop for children
21 Dec, 2 pm to 5 pm Discussion: Intangible Culture and Urban Spaces
22 Dec 1 to 5 pm Workshop: Biodiversity Conservation in Pune in partnership with Eaton Technologies Pvt Ltd
23 Dec 12 to 4 Workshop: Education for Sustainability
23 Dec Community Drum Circle by Varun Venkit and Taal Inc
25 Dec ‘City and Sustainability’ Walk
To register Contact Amar between 9 am to 6 pm (M) 9028532347, (O) 020-25898447 or email

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