Monisha Pushparaj

DAAD Excursion on Urban Transformation and Placemaking:

Experience with Heidelberg University Excursion Program 

Urbanization is a global phenomenon, and cities all over are constantly undergoing transformations. As an architecture and urban design enthusiast, I had the opportunity to participate in a profound exchange program with Heidelberg University. This program not only broadened my academic horizons but also enriched my understanding of how cities can be revitalized and shaped to cater to the needs and aspirations of their inhabitants. 

Heidelberg University offered an immersive learning environment where theory and practice intersected seamlessly. My journey began with an exciting walk uphill the philosopher’s walk, which gave me a preview of how the upcoming week is going to be. 

The Interdisciplinary Collaboration was one of the most valuable takebacks for me. It was one of the most remarkable aspects of the excursion. Students and professors from diverse academic backgrounds, such as architecture, urban planning, urban geography, and anthropology, came together to explore innovative discussions on complex urban challenges. 

Beyond the classroom, site visits were an integral part of the program. We had the opportunity to explore Heidelberg’s own urban transformation and placemaking projects. These experiences brought theory to life and inspired us to approach our own projects with creativity and sensitivity to the local context. 

Engaging with stakeholders in order to truly understand the impact of urban transformation and placemaking. Our interaction with residents, community leaders, and students helped us gain insight into their perspectives, aspirations, and challenges. This vital experience taught me the importance of self-sustainable and participatory approaches in shaping the urban landscape. 

The diverse cultural backgrounds, knowledge, urban experiences, and varying urban contexts of my fellow participants enriched our discussions and debates. Learning from each other’s experiences and challenges broadened my
horizons and fostered a global outlook on urban transformation. It became evident that cities worldwide share common urban issues, but each region requires context-specific solutions. 

The exchange program profoundly impacted my personal and professional growth. It not only deepened my understanding of urban concepts but also instilled a sense of responsibility to contribute positively to the cities we live in. I developed critical thinking, adaptability, and the ability to work collaboratively with diverse teams – skills that are indispensable in the field of urban studies. 

The excursion was a transformative experience in itself. The interdisciplinary and global approach emphasized the importance of holistic solutions to urban challenges. 

As an enthusiast of heritage urban landscapes, witnessing how historical buildings were revitalized, public spaces were reimagined, and neighborhoods were transformed to cater to the community’s evolving needs gave me a vital perspective and a new lens and I am sure to put these insights to use when I try to reimagine heritage cores in India. 

Participants Bio

 Monisha Pushparaj, an architect and urban designer dedicated to harmoniously combining functionality, sustainability, and aesthetics in urban spaces. With a fresh perspective, she strive to transform cities. Urban design holds immense power to shape communities, and she wholeheartedly embrace its responsibility. Her design journey began at COSTFORD in 2015, where she discovered Laurie Baker's principles of inclusive design. Inspired by his vision, she thrive to create spaces that cater to diverse needs. Every project is an opportunity to foster harmony between people and their surroundings while promoting symbiotic relationships. Together, let's create urban environments that thrive.