The Fifthteenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2013
Berkeley Prize 2013

Malvika Mehta - Proposal

Travels in Search of Equity

Architecture is one of those rare professions which affects, and is equally affected by, every facet of human life. I find that almost everything shares a relationship of some kind with this all-encompassing field of study.

Architecture is always a team effort; the architect is both blessed and burdened with the task of collaboration between stakeholders, end- user groups, policy makers, and a host of other professionals. The architect becomes a mere visionary- such is the ironic nature of an architect’s work! The architect must endure a rigorous training, mastering each discipline in all its profound depth, exploring each aspect as intensively as possible.

I would like to exploit this wonderful opportunity presented by the Berkeley Fellowship, to travel to Europe and participate in two events of contrasting but complementing natures. Put together, I am confident that they will constitute a well-rounded experience that will teach me, a student of architecture, much about this year’s pertinent theme- The Architect and the Accessible City.


My first experience will be gained at the ‘IV International Congress of Tourism for All’ scheduled to be held from 26th-28th June 2013 in Avila, Spain. This conference is organized every three years by The ONCE Foundation in conjunction with ENAT (European Network for Accessible Tourism) with a focus on imbibing the values of universal design to enhance and enrich the tourism sector.

In our final essay too, my teammate and I proposed a network of universally accessible historic sites and lines of transit to regenerate the city of Delhi and its sense of inclusion. We related the values of universal design with the ethics of stewardship and conservation.

The city of Ávila which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage City in 1985, won the first EU Access City Award in 2010. Located on a mountainous terrain, the city had to overcome particular challenges to achieve accessibility. They have since developed a network of sites for tourists, not unlike our essay proposal.

While I am strongly against the ‘commodification’ of heritage but at the same time, I understand the need for the particular commercial appeal that tourism adds to our strongly social goal. After all, the origins of tourism lie in our inextinguishable need to satisfy our ever-curious minds, as we journey to foreign lands to learn their stories, of tragedy and triumph, enshrined in built remains and cultural heritage.

For me, this Congress represents a chance to understand the delivery of design, in this case, universal design. Design is only meaningful to the society if it is brought into existence. Physical realization should be viewed equally as a duty and a joy for the architect.

I also hope to present a paper that carries forth the ideas introduced in my essay (with the permission and support of my teammate and co-author). It will be interesting to see how an audience, composed of many tourism and business specialists reacts to this concept.

[Reference:; Contact: Sonia García,]


To complement the first, my second learning experience will be at the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) Athletics World Championships to be held from 20-29 July in Lyon, France. At the onset, it may appear to be an odd choice, but what better opportunity, for a student of architecture, than this, to study a universally accessible system of infrastructure as well as interact with the physically challenged yet spirited individuals!

Here I will witness the transformation of a city as it gears up to host around 1,300 physically challenged athletes from 90 countries as they compete in 207 events. The principle of universal design, expressed in the adaptive and in some cases pre existing designs, will touch each space and system that runs the city. My teacher will be the city, and observation my tool, as I separate the layers of retrofit to learn through a before-and-after comparative analysis.

Another highlight is the volunteer program. I have filed my application for volunteering in the departments of accommodation, restoration (offer assistance to the severely disabled individuals) and transport in this order of preference. I await their response, but I am optimistic as the website states that they will give preference to those applicants, such as I, who are willing to commit their time from 13th -30th July.

Volunteering will give me a chance to observe the physically challenged from close range and scrutinize in detail the components of a comfortable ‘unchallenging’ environment. I am inspired by their spirit to not only defeat their sensory limitations but balance them with other heightened and often unique, sensory perception.

The experience at Lyon may be somewhat of a déjà vu- I was part of a similar experience when Delhi, my home, prepared to host and welcome the Commonwealth Games in 2010. The city, united by this incredible responsibility, worked hard to create the required utilities and upgrade existing ones. I consider it a special moment in my relationship with my city.

In Lyon, like in Delhi, the many preserved historic quarters are entirely at ease with the vibrant metropolis. Lyon has been called the archetype of the heritage city, dotted with structures spanning all periods since its foundation in 1st century BC.

[Reference:; Contact: Haozhe Gao, IPC Athletics Sport Manager, /]


The period of 14 days which separates the two main programs is used for a short exploration of Madrid and an intensive discovery of Barcelona, where I intend to study and enjoy as many of its plentiful offerings- Gaudi’s immense body of work, the La Rambla boulevard, Joan Miró’s surrealism, the Picasso Museum, the best of Catalan cooking and so on.

Being in the country, I cannot resist the chance to visit Nantes in West France. Only last year, Nantes received the prestigious “Access City Award” recognizing its efforts to facilitate universal accessibility. Nantes comes in second place in the European rankings, behind Berlin. [Reference:]

Nantes was settled in roughly 70 BC and flourished as the foremost French port, known for its notorious slave-trade. In 1826 it became the birthplace of the world’s first public transport service- the omnibus. When its ship building industry was relocated outside the city, Nantes transformed into a thriving student and cultural nucleus.

I am excited by the idea of exploring a city which is an embodiment of the principles of conservation endorsed in my essay. Visiting Nantes will breathe life into what currently exists as an abstract vision, of universally accessible built heritage, in my mind.


Flight schedule: [link]

25th June- Arrive in Madrid from New Delhi (return airfare= 880USD) and travel to Avila (bus ticket= 12USD);

26th -28th June- Attend Congress (fee= 130USD), living expenses @75USD/day (total 300USD), visit to the historic sites (80USD);

29th June- 1st July- Travel to Madrid and explore;

2nd - 9th July- Travel to Barcelona and explore;

10th - 12th July- Travel to Nantes via Bordeaux (net cost of tickets= 85USD), living expenses @75USD/day (total 300USD), visit museums and cultural events (80USD);

13th - 31st July– Travel to Lyon (TGV ticket= 35USD), living expenses @ 75USD/day (total 1350USD), visit museums and sports events (200USD), leave for New Delhi.

I will bear the cost of travelling, lodging and all other expenses incurred in Madrid and Barcelona.

Net budget= 1012USD (Transport) + 2440USD (other expenses) = 3452USD

NOTE: I am required to pay 130USD (or 100Euros) to participate in all conferences of the Congress at Avila, should my paper be rejected for presentation, as confirmed in my email exchange with Ms. Sonia Garcia.

I hope to record reflections and bring back memories as quick sketches, conference notes, diary entries, photographs and small objects, should I be granted this opportunity to travel.

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