Dhamori Public Playspace
"Your team really worked hard & villagers followed you, now they are feeling that they can make the change."
-- Words of recognition for Critical Places Team by Shri Riyaj Bhai ji, 39, Dhamori resident
In India many concept plans are made, reports are generated and shelved, or well-intentioned experts develop visions and concepts that never see the light of day. In such a context, design-build projects have a paramount significance in impacting the quality of lives of the underserved. We involved the Dhamori villagers and other stakeholders to come together to envision, fund, and construct a play-space in the village entirely with donated materials. The playground not only includes a volleyball court, outdoor gym equipment, a see-saw, a slide, tire swings, a balance walk and steps - but also a colorful mural decorated with the hand-prints of the men, women, and children stakeholders. The play-space is constructed at the talaab or pond edge in Dhamori, an open space that was already being used by a few children and men for socialization.
Design + Build
Alpa Nawre , Saurabh Lohiya, Astrid Tsz Wai Wong, Leslie Johnson, Skandha Upadhyay, Kabir, Dhamori Community & Stakeholders
"How do you currently use the talaab (pond) edge?"
Fundraising Efforts: Presenting the playground idea to Dr. Dipak Sharma ji
The decision to design and construct a public play-space at the edge of the village talaab in Dhamori was made in response to feedback from participatory exercises with villagers. The enthusiasm of villagers was such that people offered to volunteer labor to help construct it, to paint tires, and to place equipment. Because the intention was clear – to co-construct a public play space – and the design ideas were simple and concrete, the design team was able to show images of play space ideas, such as tire swings and a wall mural, to local donors and receive funding for purchasing supplies and equipment. Donors in the area who could provide the tires needed were identified and approached to support the project. Donations of funds and materials were sought from different stakeholders simultaneously as design concepts were being generated. The Critical Places Team is grateful to the Landscape Architecture Foundation for supporting the team's expenses for this project.
Envisioning Workshop: Villagers draw their ideas and suggestions for the talaab edge.
The design and elements of the public space were generated based on design and program input from the villagers received during the participatory drawing workshop. The villagers were involved in not only the construction process but also engaged in the decision-making process, such as choosing the site for the public space, location of different design elements, and investigating how the different elements of the play-space could be constructed. These workshops brought people together from all age groups and diverse socio-economic backgrounds, leading to unprecedented levels of public/community engagement in this region. The contribution of youth, led by Sarpanch Abhay Vanjari was particularly notable and important to this effort.
Community Involvement: Village youth preparing the base line-work for the community art mural in the Dhamori play-space.
"The idea of hand-printing by villagers on the wall was too good and the people went crazy (with excitement) after that!"
-- Honorable Member of Parliament and Padmashree, Dr Vikas Mahatme ji
The process of creation of this public play-space with the community members was as important as the landscape itself. The act of co-construction creates a sense of collective ownership among stakeholders, leading to a greater sense of responsibility for the care of the shared, built environment. It is in these landscapes of construction that world-views and notions of identity and power get transformed. Read more about how social change is related to the process of transformation in Critical Places' co-founder Alpa Nawre's article "Between community and culture: The criticality of landscape infrastructure reuse in India."
Engaging the stakeholders in the process has led to the empowerment of some village community members by making them realize their own agency for bringing about change.
Engaging All Ages: Dhamori children toss painted tires that were drying in the sun from the roof to be used in the new walkway.
Older children constructing a tire climbing structure for the younger children.
AN INCLUSIVE PUBLIC SPACE
As the various elements of the public play-space were installed or constructed in Dhamori, the swings, the play equipment, a tire walkway, etc., each was quickly overtaken with throngs of children and adults excited to try out the new playground. This construction project could not have been successful without the villagers’ participation. The process of envisioning programs for the public play-space involved men, women and children as did the construction. Most importantly, this public contribution from women allowed them equal access to this public space which is not typical. In rural communities in India, women do not frequent public spaces. Thus, the co-designing and co-construction by both men and women, was a key enabling activity where the social-consciousness was altered in a way that allowed for more visibility and presence of women in the public realm. It led to the development of a prized public space at the edge of existing landscape infrastructure of the pond, which is appreciated and used by men, women and children alike.
A Space for All: Villagers of all ages and genders enjoy the new play space
"Only after your efforts are we are seeing this type of joyful atmosphere in our village, everybody is playing at one place and enjoying the equipment brought by your team."
-- Words of recognition for Critical Places Team by Ku Madhuri Rajendra Mahule ji, 17, Dhamori resident
The playground is a safe, dignified, and joyful public space that brings together members of the community of all ages and spheres.
Community Testimonies: Dhamori residents, of differing ages and genders, discuss their excitement for the new play space.
"We can feel the positive change in the village and in the villagers also. Before everyone used to stay at home after their work but now people of every age group find some time to visit this place."
-- Words of recognition for Critical Places Team by Ku Divya ji, 16, Dhamori resident
"You all have brought the people together and become part of the village community. Your work on the project with devotion in my adopted village Dhamori has touched my heart."
-- Words of recognition for Critical Places Team by Honorable Member of Parliament and Padmashree, Dr Vikas Mahatme ji