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Race Course - argument for tall building and density

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Urban DevelopmentGovernance

I have been looking for some data points to support what very few have said about the Race Course debate. The argument goes like this - a tall building is a better option than doing a green open park. IDS said this, and some opposed, without real data points or arguments for backing. To me, arguments like "lets go green", lets create "carbon sink" etc are rhetorical unless you fit them into some overall long term plan for the city.

In today's business standard, Sanjeev Sanyal argues that our new cities need to be dense and walkable. Data point given is a comparison of two similar cities - Atlanta and Barcelona. Take these

  • Similar population and profile, but Atlanta's per capita ecological footprint is 4 times that of Barcelona.
  • Atlanta has Metro network of 74 km, Barcelona 99.
  • But, longest possible distance within Atlanta is 137km, Barcelona 37.
  • So, only 4% of Atlanta's population lives within walking distance of a Metro station, compared to 60% for Barcelona

Now put a few things that Bangalore is planning in perspective. These have been opposed by the extreme greens

  • Increase FAR in areas sorrounding the upcoming Metro rail network
  • Major tall building at Majestic
  • Major tall building at race course

Most greens in our city are tempted to oppose anything that increases density. But it is worthwhile to think in wider perspective of City Planning - dense cities encourage walking, living close to work, and most important promote commercially sustainable public transport systems.

A so called carbon sink in the middle of CBD is very likely to do these two things

  • Create a few gated communities and Business Parks 25 km from CBD
  • And then, pressure to create an elevated expressway from new communities and Tech Parks to the CBD

For all you know, some of these new communities and Business Parks in the suburbs would come up on lake lands :), but leave that much imagination aside for now.

I am not sure if our City Planners are thinking the same way Sanjeev Sanyal is (in today's business standard), but if you pause and think about it, the tall buildings at Majestic and Race Course is the way to go - these are better steps towards sustainability.

So if you buy this way of thinking, pitch in and lend support to the tall building (high FAR in CBD) proposals that get lost in the noise made by the greens.


SB aka Pranav


Rithesh's picture

Mixing up issues here

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I dont intend to sound critical, but i think you are mixing up two issues here - FAR and Race Course land. Most learned greens would support the concept of high FAR and high density development - within CBD and also in townships.

But the greens including me are opposed to any structure coming up on the race course land. Depending on the connectivity and the parking facilities of the locality the FAR should be increase - places like MG road which will be connected by the Metro or regions close to the TTMs or regions along the current and the new ring road. Atleast in the short term - increased FAR can offset the increased demand for real estate in the CBD.

The idea of higher FAR should be to protect the small pockets of forests within and around CBD and not to build newer taller buildings in these pockets.

Most building in CBD - around MG road and surrounding regions are pretty old - higher FAR will encourage land owners to rebuild many of the existing structures to add more work space.
s_yajaman's picture

A tall building for what?

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I always thought IDS said no trees on the roads and more urban forest. 

A tall building better than open green space or urban forest.  Then tall building should be better than Ulsoor Lake as well.  Why do we need urban forests or lakes? 

Let's go green is rhetorical - let's build a tall building on the Race Course is equally rhetorical unless it fits in some long term plan.  This one seems to be based on the CM's whims and fancies.

Not many of us support an urban sprawl the way it has happened in the US - that causes more damage to the environment than tall buildings.  But a tall building should also come out of a need and not because there happens to be vacant land. 

I am looking for data on green cover across major cities of the world.  Singapore has left space for plenty of urban forests.  The green cover there is 46%.  They have a well developed CBD in the form of Raffles Place.   New York has Central Park.  London has Hyde Park. 

Green does not mean anti-development.  Similarly brown/grey/glass does not mean development. 




Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

Naveen's picture

Tiergarten - The Best

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Berlin's Tiergarten is perhaps the best green space I have ever seen - beats central park or hyde park anyday !

s_yajaman's picture

More questions for SB

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I am still recovering from the shock that I got reading your post :)  So some more questions.

Dense cities promote walking.  Correct.  (This assumes that walking infrastructure will also be created).  Please tell me how this tall building will promote walking and not driving. 

Dense cities promote living closer to work.  By building this tall building, are we also magically shifting ITPL and E-City closer to peoples homes?  Please enlighten us. 

Dense cities promote public transport.  Correct.  And how will this tall building in the RC do this? 

Let us assume this tall building adds a million square feet of space.  That will provide working space for 10000-20000 people.  How will this help?

There are some fairly obvious contradictions between the two outcomes you forecast when there are green spaces in the CBD. 

You might finally want to relook at your whole post which seems to have been written in an uncharacteristically hurried manner :)





Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

idontspam's picture

@SY : Let me try

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First, I would prefer the whole race course to be an urban forest and the density be increased in the vicinity of where metro stations are available. Namely MG road area.  This has to be done in a planned manner by identifying zons assigning FARs and revising them appropriately etc. NY style.

Second, I would rather not have govt get into construction business, not just that they dont do a good job aesthetically and in quality but also because tax money is not to be used for commercial buildings. On the other hand if these were going to be govt offices that is a different story. Only govt needs to build it and that too hopefully they will use some imagination and make it a green building and aesthetically pleaseing and give it to a known construction company, not PWD. The fact that it will be tall and iconic for Bangalore is a side effect IMO.

Third, A combination of the above 2. Out of 60 odd acres if 70-80% created an urban forest and the rest used for a tall govt building it will serve 2 purposes. To keep all govt departments in a single location. Since major portion of govt employees are loyal and confirmed users of public transport, it will help mive people more efficiently using shuttles and knowing the proximity to the other govt buildings in that area a ped cum PT shuttle infrastructure can be built. Try circular trams in that area for example. It will also serve as a much needed parking space for the area (see DULT parking report). 

I dont understand what EC and Whitefield have to do with this govt building?

s_yajaman's picture

It was to do with SB's post itself

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SB says support this building as tall building = higher FAR in CBD and  high FAR will lead to working closer from home, etc etc.  Wanted him to enlighten me on exactly how that would happen given that we are not exactly demolishing E-City and ITPL after completing this building :)


Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

Naveen's picture

Shd Bangalore start going vertical ?

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The point here, as I see it is - should Bangalore start going vertical as against the long-held belief that a large spread is preferred to enable more green /open spaces in the middle.

One thing is obvious - the city is going to have mass transit within a few years, & mass transits generally go with dense CBDs. Examples are many - Tokyo, NewYork, Hongkong, Taipei, etc. This does not mean that mass-transit/s must necessarily pass close to all iconic structures or vey tall buildings - more may come & some may be close to it while others may be some walk or a bus-trip /taxi ride away.

Traditionally, green groups have demanded more open /green spaces within the city when land is vacated (Central Jail, Race course, etc.) whilst the thought that if many activities are located within a smaller area with mass-transit enabling this beneficially has possibly not occurred to them, yet.

This is sort of a dilemma - the traffic jams along every radial road during peak hours is, generally because of this. If mass-transits (echos of the need for Big-10 services) are channeled to ensure that CBDs are well connected with efficient services, this can be successful & the demand by greens would be somewhat unjustified if road traffic & excessive pollution is replaced with mass-transit, but this is easier said than done as congestion pricing & parking restrictions would have to be resorted to.

Govt buildings such as Vidhana Soudha & Public Utlity building are still some of the best icons in the city. So, I do not agree with the view that govt buildings would be poor aesthetically in every case.

idontspam's picture

Lopsided green cover

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 I am looking for data on green cover across major cities of the world.  

And I am looking for it ward wise in Bangalore. I dont think we have one. Maybe the greens can do a study. On google maps, visually West Bangalore is one huge concrete wasteland with possibly zero green cover. Central Bangalore looks a little better. 

blrsri's picture

what happened to centrail jail?

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There was a plan for the tallest tower on the central jail grounds..why not a 100 storey tower there?


Else we can use the college grounds across the st which will be closest to the metro station!

asj's picture

Tall can be good, but

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I agree tall can be good. But the way this concept is used in India scares me. Here is an example - in Mumbai at Cumballa Hill, a posh living area, at the foot of what used to be a hill was a pocket of slums. The SRA and everyone to do with it housed these people in cramped up buildings that are a few floors. So far so good. The problem has only taken birth recently - three 60 floors high buildings with several hundred flats are being built on the open space that came about after rehousing the slum dwellers. So in an area that is already part of the most dense city in the world, we have managed to make way for it to become even more dense. Anyone who buys a flat for a crore or above, one has to think how many vehicles they may possess, at least one if not more. How exactly are the narrow roads of this south Mumbai area to cope with additional burden of cars - only god knows. And this is not the only example - many such developments are cropping up in Mumbai consuming every sick mill land - not one has been turned in to a open space. Look at London, people talk about Hyde Park, but there is St Jame's park, Osterley Park, Kew Botanical Gardens (celebrating 250 years of exsistence), just where I live, there is a park every 5 minutes irrespective of the direction of travel.

The question is, are we building a metro to cater to current need or future need, if so what is the saturation point? Just building high rises is no good if the density gets to a point that every thing we built is overwhelmed. 400 km of London tubes choke up during rush hour and its a city of 7 million. Has Bangalore or Pune not reached a point where further population growth is unmanagable?

And when will we think of sustainable living and not just sustainable transport? A month ago, a high rise in London caught fire, few people died, the fire brigade could not reach high enough as they did not have ladders that could go any higher - if this is the case in London, are we to believe that our cities and their disastrous disaster management plans will cope?

Mumbai and Pune and elsewhere, water cuts were needed until rains arrived - thousands are spent every day on tanker water - why build high rise icons when we can't sustain basic water supplies?

Finally, let's try to stick by statute. Bangalore will have an agreed development plan. What does this plan stipulate? If it says FSI of 1, then someone somewhere 20 years ago did so for a reason. What has changed suddenly to give up on development plans that are a statute (although every corporation across the country is full of elected corporators wanting to amend this to simply make our cities a game of monopoly where any one can buy, sell, build and effectively ruin our cities).

So, though I think high rises may be part of a solution, I am not willing to support the idea until we know for sure that every open space gained by going vertical is not going to be given away for yet another high rise.


idontspam's picture

Unstable soil and skyscrapers

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 Bengaluru is on a plateau and its soil sub strata may not withstand such a concrete monstrous edifice and may even collapse before it reaches its 50th floor.  will technology help? Dream yourself. 

Chicago is generally credited with being the original home of the steel-frame "sky-scraper," though there are now higher buildings elsewhere in America. The unstable soil of sand, clay and boulders that underlies the city is unfavourable to tall constructions, and necessitates extraordinary attention to foundations. The bed-rock lies, on an average, 50 ft. below the level of the lake (in places more than a hundred). To the rock the foundations are often sunk in caissons, the buildings resting on monster columns of concrete and steel. In other cases great "pads" of the same materials, resting or "floating" upon the clay, sustain and distribute the weight of the building

I dont know of any building that has sunk in Chicago. More recently the sail@marina in singapore has allowed for many technical innovations in the design of the towers: seismic design, construction over the MRT line, construction on a very unstable soil.

Every major skyscraper built in the world run into unstable soil condition of some form or the other and have been overcome using innovative techniques. This is where human ingenuity is at its best. Now some people are offended if I say we cant build mega or super structures so if we we cant go out and see the world at least we can watch Megastructures on TV to catch up with the real world.


Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

cut and paste -what happened to my rest of post abt soil strata?

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SB Sir

May be as Mr.Tweet says some sort of tech innovation is available to build  the 'hanchi kaddi'  tall structurers but....

- how many mw of energy will be required to pump water to the toilets in such mega structures?  Will there be rain water harvesting on top because the clouds will be nearer?

- How many scores of lifts will be required to haul thousands of people and what happens if there is a power tussle between Sri Eswarappa and BSY about power cuts to be imposed across the board? 

- Even if it is pumped from ground level, where will the water come from?  Or will those on top live without aqua?

- will there be parking space for more than 1000 vehicles (minimum) that may bring in residents/officials/honchos/ministers/menials etc.,?

-  Talk about chicago when we are in Chikkanaayakanahalli? Blah Blah.

- Try to find some power for the pumps of the farmers before squandering public money on monstrocity structures that are harmful to the climate.  

- Climate change catastrophe has been advanced from the year 2050 to 2040 now.  enough is enough.

- Dream yourselves.

- Vasanth Mysoremath

silkboard's picture

Calm please

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Srivathsa, yes, wrote this in a rush, and took potshots at the greens. But I too am a green, in fact, the whole argument is driven by green thinking.

Rithesh - right, I mixed up two things, used Race Course to draw attention, but the subjects (high FAR and whats next at Race Course) do fit.

There is no need to demolish E-City to build one in the city now, easy there. But the whole reason we have jams everywhere is because we have created job centers like those 20 km from CBD. It must have been an idea from an early traveler to the Silicon Valley - Bangalore SFO, and E-City Palo Alto or San Jose is how that early influencer would have thought. The mistake could have been less fatal if E-City was planned to be work and live, rather than work and leave place. It is very likely that the same minds would have pitched in for the 7 km long elevated expressway as well.

There are green zones in CBD today, more than fair share than what we have on the peripheries. I would go with Yeddi's promise of "4 new lalbaghs in 4 corners of the city" than another one 2 kms away from Cubbon Park.

The battle has to be to save the farm lands you are losing in the peripheral areas. It has to be to prevent (or delay) further opening up of green belt around the city which would soon be inevitable if you don't think deeper about the high FAR concept.

A dense CBD can sustain a quality public transportation system. If Metro has to depend on you and me taking morning rides to do jogs in Cubbon Park and the new Race Course Park (if thats what comes up there), not sure if that will sustain it.

Dense CBD would save the periphery of the city. It could be central CBD, or multiple CBDs - a few dense zones that connect to each other via fast modes of public transport.

I am not asking for a 100 floor skyscraper. But I don't want sprawling 100 acre wide tech campus on the outskirts of the city either. And definitely not 4 such campuses in 4 corners of the city.

Lets not get swept aside by the obvious - I take the blame for writing an unsualy sharp post there - yes, we all want green. But why is it that we have only lost greenery and not gained any in last 15 years? Yes, there are several reasons, but spreading the city around with things like not-so-vertical business parks in multiple corners of the city is a key one.

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

Otta Boy SB..good for all post

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Two more reasons for not going vertical:

If a 9/11 happens or a fire mishap happens, as it happened in the MG Rd Public Utility Bldg some time ago and absence of scientific fire fighting gadgets like smoke sensors, automatic water sprayers and known blatant violation in neglecting safety aspects for occupants and building law violations galore, can you imagine our service providers to come to even 5th floor occupants rescue mission?

The monstrous building cannot be built by government PWD men and the monstrous contractors who win the tenders at the neolithic schedules of rates for government civil works bidding. 

So, resort to PPP - all relatives of ruling political parties who get hefty advances and vanish into thin air or else go in for BOT, BOOT and keep booting the failed PPP partners.   It will be a tragedy that unfolds with such mega monstrocity structures coupled with throwing the CBD into chaos and every day funeral of workers that die to to various reasons.

- Ranting? No Sirs, hard facts of life coupled with marauding experience while auditing civil works and mega irrigation dam structures.  

- In case it is decided to neglect public opinion and go ahead with construction, neither Mr.BSY nor any of us will be alive to see its inauguration because it will take 100 years to buildi according to ISI and AGMARKs. Our kids will curse all those for having taken up such a monumental foolhardy building work with more and more taxes.

- Instead, if an organic forest is allowed to come up and nurtured carefully, we can at least breath some good air in CBD area in about 15 years time and our future generations would appreciate the good work done.

- Vasanth Mysoremath

narayan82's picture

my 2 cents

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A little birdy told me that a leadng primtime estate devloper is planning to take this land on "lease" from the govt and has managed to evict BTC in the process. So I don't think there are any Govt Buildings going to come up there! Its pure business..

Now, as I understand SB's pt - no point leaving green space in the city and then deducting double the amount of land from BNP/Reserve forests in the name of providing housing to people. I agree.

But, this monolith that is comin gup at BTC is not a resedential locality? Its going to be all commercial, which means bring in more people from the outskirts into the city (assuming most people living around BTC have jobs!) Not helping anyone IMHO!

The question of growing wider or taller is always there - and we have to grow one way or the other. But what we can do is slow down this rate. Howabout developing Tier II alternatives? What if the govt. got land say in Hubli or Mangalore and built this 250 story montrosity they are so dying to have? WHY BANGALORE? if we keep feeding bangalore and neglect other cities then its gonna topple some balance!

So while we try and expand bangalore, i thnk we need sops to get people to move to other cities. I personally don't mind - but I just dont see the same kind of infrastructure projects for facilitating connectivity, housing...etc. It seems that all the focus is in bangalore. How long can you keep miling 1 cow?

Narayan Gopalan
User Interaction Designer
Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

Till the cow bleeds red milk ...

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This is exactly what is going to happen to the holy cow namma Bengaluru. 

It looks as if  your birdy may be correct after all, because, the present scenario in Bengaluru is to expoit every inch of land under the control of Government and turn it into a gold mine while dealing with the land mafia for partially filling the government coffers and overtly for filling their own coffers either through kickbacks or through indirect dealings. 

Efforts of the vibrant civil society through a PIL got dismissed by the judiciary because they felt it is premature for the court to step in and to direct the government to act jjdicially???

The green warriors need not get disheartened because there are too many players in this game of real estate and everyone wants to have a their fingers in the pie. It would be better to fill a caveat and wait for the developments to take place.

These temporary politicians are not the rightful owners of any land because whatever they try to do can be dismissed with one stroke of the pen by the next regime.  This being the case, it is better to take public opinion and do something sensible in BTC land. 

We still have this syndrome of BLOW HOT BLOW COLD about continuing racing till the new race course is in place. Hozzzaat?

- Vasanth Mysoremath 

n's picture

Mixed use

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Agree completely with the denser concept. To take the idea further, it can be (has been?) leased long-term (life of a structure or 99 years) with a mandate from the govt. that it would be self-contained with shopping, postal, hospital, entertainment, restaurant, sports, parks and other miscellanous services included. A high-rise or cluster of buildings can be 15-20 storeys or maybe even less with a mixed commerical (bottom few floors) and residential design. As long as amenities such as elevators, sprinklers, emergency exits are provided, they should be safe enough.

Firefighting: Aha - here is where praja should pressurise govt. to invest in basic infrastructure/modification of rules. If a big share of lease amount earned goes towards hydrants, firefighting equipment, fire lane markings, personnel etc., it should go a long way in mitigating a basic requirement.

Highrises: Many high-rises built and operating w/o major problems at MG Road-Dickenson road, UB city, software parks at Whitefield, apartments by Prestige Group and so on should attest to the available experience in building them.

Waiting for the day to see colourful cloths hung (to be dried) on multiple floors ;-)

silkboard's picture

Narayan excellent point

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The point about Tier-II cities is an excellent one.

A key point about some of us making a case for dense development at CBD got lost in the noise. What is missing in green's pitch battles here and there is pushing for an approach to development, and then sticking to it. The Masterplan is supposed to be it - but seems like focus has gone away from it, wonder where all the Masterplan PILs are these days.

50 storey building in Shimoga and a business park around it - there are more and better ways to spark the "melt-away" from Bangalore to Tier-II cities - such things could certainly fit in the development theme for Bangalore.

Lets talk GoK's Tier-2 track record in separate post sometime soon, we will go way offtopic if we start that here and now.

One more thing Narayan - I would say that dense/tall building(s) with lots of jobs create sustainable public transport pattern. If you promote "work-and-live", you may end up pulling people closer to the CBD as well.

The thing is - even if you are spreading the city around, you are better off building a pattern with public transport in mind. I would say go high FAR around ORR, and support this by completing BRTS or some sort of Rail on Outer Ring Road. Or, support that Metro/High Speed Rail project with dense development plan along NH7 to airport.

Right now its a free for all. Folks seem to be free to create residences and offices where they want to, with no real regard or thought to sustainability.

And those of us who think environment, our energies are consumed in fighting for the trees while we are losing forests on the periphery. comment guidelines

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