URBAN ACTIVISM > Power of Seeing ( POS)

Placing the body’s convenience, comfort and safety at its center, Studio Abhyas launched the Power of Seeing: Humane Urban Design Project in 2006. The project facilitates school children and young adults to ADOPT a street element in their neighbourhood and document its history over and extended period of time. It involves honing the child’s observation skills, teaching documentation and presentation skills, facilitating them to share their findings with their school mates through exhibitions and presentations and if inclined, to report the same to the concerned authorities and organize themselves to effectively lobby for change.

Adopting a Street Element: The project requires that the child adopts one civic-element in his/her immediate environment, i.e. an “element” that has been designed and provided to serve  in the interest of the public, but is in effect either inconveniencing or is downright hazardous, e.g. a malfunctioning traffic light, a confusing or misleading road sign, a dangerous turn, a broken pavement, an unpainted speed-bump, an uncovered manhole, dangerously located bus stop etc.

Equipping the child with a variety of Skills: A range of observation skills and methodologies of active-seeing and documenting are taught to the student through a variety of monthly workshops, presentations and field-trips by experts from different fields: architects, urban planners, designers, journalists, photographers, writers, sociologists, government policy makers, MCD officials, etc.

Documentation and Preparation of Case Study of the Element: Each workshop equips the child to document the element through a revised perspective. After a period of six months and six workshops, the student has an informed and well documented history of the element. Each child is provided with a pre-formatted report card that has a space for a photograph of the chosen element, a grid for a map to indicate its exact location and a space to write a comment and grade the condition of the element. The card has a lip on its edge to which other such cards can be glued to make a long panel of photos taken over an extended period of time, converting the document into an exhibition panel that speaks for itself.

Installation/Exhibition: The project also aims to make these detailed case-histories (data, information, photos, media reports, personal narratives) into installations and traveling exhibitions that first rotate within schools and colleges and then may be displayed at public spaces such as Dilli Haat, Pragati Maidan, bus-stops, petrol-pumps etc., thus creating awareness about the “power of seeing” and empowering the citizens to take charge of their cities.

Reporting to Concerned Authorities or Submitting RTI Applications: The children are also facilitated to send copies of their documented case-studies to the concerned municipal authorities as well as submit RTI applications to report elements in their neighbourhoods that are faulty, inconvenient, left incomplete, or unsafe. In short, the child becomes the “seeing eye” that would not let callous and irresponsible work go unnoticed or even unreported.

Organizing to Lobby for Change: if inclined, the children would be helped to organize and lobby for emergency helpline numbers to report malfunctioning or dangerous civic amenities. These numbers would then be publicized on the boundary walls of schools and school buses.

The Workshops with Experts will lead to the following:

Educational Films: Considering that we cannot invite experts again and again to interact with children, each workshop and presentation by an expert will be very well video-documented and then converted into educational films that will constitute a major corpus of communication material to be circulated through schools and colleges (and later even translated into regional languages) introducing and explaining the Power of Seeing Project.

Educational Material & Tools: The series of workshops with experts will also result in the developing, designing and making of educational tools and toys to engage and further hone the design faculties of the young. These communication materials will become both an effective tool in explaining and sharing of the concerns of the Urban Design Project, plus further help in the developing of a prototype that could be then replicated in schools in other cities, thus broadening the outreach of the “Power of Seeing” project.

The Aims of the “Power of Seeing Project” are to:

  • first of all connect the child to his/her environment
  • instill an-eye-for-detail in the young
  • empower and equip them to become care takers of their environment and proactive agents of change
  • equip them with information and skills to re-imagine a friendly urban environment
  • facilitate a healthy interface between citizens and civic authorities where pertinent information is
    readily made available to the public.
  • lobby for centralized emergency phone numbers
  • make our streets humane and pedestrian friendly

The Project is not about pointing fingers, it is about being connected to the environment, taking care of it as one’s own and being responsible and WATCHFUL.


Concern for the urban environment further extends to the CARE OF TREES & STRAY ANIMALS. People often overlook their plight, not because they are unfeeling or callous, but because most don’t know what to do and whom to turn to when they see a tree or an animal in trouble, or for that matter when they see an open drain, an exposed electrical live wire or a dangerous turn.

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