Thursday, August 09, 2007

International Financial Center? BKC, has a long way to go

Nestled uncomfortably right in the middle of Asia's largest slum is this little gleaming island of glass, steel, concrete and actually not much else.
Its one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the world. Its supposed to be the fount from which Mumbai will stake its position as an International Financial Center. Its supposedly beautiful. Its actually pretty filthy, tacky, uncomfortable and quite ... well... unimpressive. 15 minutes from two of the busiest suburban railway stations in Mumbai, Bandra and Kurla, lies this hope of emancipation from endemic congestion - the Bandra Kurla Complex.
The old section of BKC, which consists of 80's offices is well thought out, beautifully laid out and is incredibly comfortable for the Mumbai denizens who work there, though the buoildings look seedy, worn down and the usual above-vindhyas charactreristic - painted red with paan. There are shopping areas, parks, wide pathways and good connectivity to the Bandra and Kurla stations.

Which is more than what can be said for the new area on the other side of the Mithi river. Filled with buildings that started out ambitious and ended up looking tacky and pretentious, we have huge buildings which seek to look like skyscrapers ....with seven floors, lots of cheap glass, aluminium lining and flaky concrete.

The only buildings that escape the general cheapness are the IL&FS building (where thankfully, I work) and the ICICI building.

There are no stores to get stuff before you go home, the buses are way crowded by the time they get here, there being only 3 stops and 2 routes for a complex that hopes to be the destination for tens of thousands, even hundreds , no park to have a quiet lunch or post-lunch stroll. There are no great places nearby to take guests to dinner to, just a cramped ol Subway and a CCD tucked away in petrol stations. One of the routes into BKC takes you through one of the most desperate slums I've ever seen. You thought only newspaper guys got these tricked up angles where they juxtapose poverty with affluence. Here you see it with no tricky angles.
As a Business District, BKC has started out as quite a farce. But it should hopefully get better. A business district isn't made exclusively of glass offices and more glass offices with the perfunctory conference/exhibition complex.

Planners should've learned from the costly mistakes of Canary Wharf (which thankfully redeemed itself) and La Defense which is a ghost town after 6 pm despite being so beautiful.

La Defense, Paris-->

<--Canary Wharf, London
It takes far more thought to make a successful business district. Levent in Istanbul being a surprising but beautiful example as is AZCA in Madrid.

AZCA, Madrid

Levent, Istanbul