All Indian cities are in dire need of planning: Liu Thai Ker

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Liu Thai Ker is a planner, architect and director of RSP Architects Planners and Engineers (Pte) Ltd in Singapore. Liu spent 20 years at Singapore’s Housing and Development Board starting in 1969, ten of them as chief executive officer, and oversaw the construction of half-a-million apartments in the city-state. In New Delhi for the launch of the Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems, Liu said in an interview that all Indian cities are in dire need of planning. Edited excerpts:

Where does a city needs to begin to become a good city?

Every city needs to plan. And for big cities, which have over 1.5 million population, the skill of putting roads together and putting industries in the right place becomes quite overwhelming. So any city above one or 1.5 million needs to plan according to the modern concept. But the problem is that this concept is not well understood by politicians and planners.

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AECOM to project manage new Indian city

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Aecom has won a contract to programme manage the development of a new city in India that will have a population of a million people.

The construction group will plan the city of Dholera in Gujarat – including its land uses and infrastructure – and put in place the management and governance structures to develop it out.

Dholera is the largest part of India’s planned Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), a 1,500km link of developments and infrastructure between India’s two largest cities. Dholera will cover hundreds of square kilometres and is one of seven cities planned along the DMIC route.

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Fixing India’s city-systems

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Having lost intervening centuries when cities across the world came into their own, Indian cities are struggling to play catch-up

India’s arc of urbanization went into deep freeze under the British Raj. We remained a largely agrarian, land-based economy, while around the world, cities were the catalysts of societies morphing from agrarian to industrial nations. Even today, these cities continue to trigger innovations and fuel progress across the entire spectrum of social, cultural and economic activity.

Having lost the intervening centuries when cities around the world came into their own, Indian cities are struggling to play catch-up. This is evident in Janaagraha’s Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems, which assessed India’s top eleven cities. The report was released recently.

One of the four themes was Urban Planning and Design, where Indian cities averaged 2.7 on 10, while London and New York scored 8.8. Clearly, there are major gaps in the spatial planning of our cities.

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Livable Cities: Green landscapes and election promises

Trees and green spaces are an integral part of an urban landscape. The great cities of the world boast of some of the most diverse public spaces that are green. Central Park in New York City and Hyde Park in London are just two examples that come to mind.

However in India, there is a near total lack of green urban spaces of that scale. Yes we do have the largest “national park in an urban boundary” claim by way of Borivili National Park in Mumbai, but that’s hardly the center of Mumbai; and even that is being encroached up with drastic results.

Gautam Patel makes a fantastic case of the need for more green space and how the politicians manipulate this theme come election time.

In the run up to Mumbai’s municipal elections, of the many to-be-left-unfufilled promises made by political parties, two were common: less corruption and more “infrastructure”. The latter, in our peculiar notion of what makes a ‘world-class’ city, only means more roads, more bridges. No one promised to make our city more liveable. In my constituency, apart from the familiar talk-to-the-hand and offerings for lotus-eaters, there were many odd symbols for candidates: a sewing machine, an LPG cylinder and something that looked like a pasta machine cross-bred with a meat grinder. Not one had a tree or anything that looked like it.

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Slum-free cities: Freeing slums or freeing lands?

Prof. Yatin Pandya writes an interesting editorial on the issue of slum lands in urban contexts.

Original article here.

Slums have been in perpetual state of persistence in political parlance and policy promises. From slum removal in seventies to slum-networking in 2000, there has been a paradigm shift in addressing slums in urban Indian context. By 2000, it was a realisation that formal systems – government or private, has failed in addressing affordable housing to nearly half of urban population. On the other end, individual initiatives by slum-dwellers have managed to find them basic shelters if not decent housing without any external help. What they have not been able to provide are collective infrastructure and what they do not have is legal tenure of land. The first deficiency makes them defined as slum with squalid conditions while the latter condition describe them as squatments through illegal ownership of land.

The UN defines slums as a building, a group of buildings or area characterised by overcrowding, deterioration, unhygienic conditions or any one of them endangering health, safety, or morals of its inhabitants or the community. This refers to squalid conditions of living and not the legality of land ownership. By this definition even sizeable part of old cities in India, like Shahjahanabad in Delhi or pols in Ahmedabad will get included in it, which are well-known holistic living environments.

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The Design Aesthetic of Modern Indian Cities

Indian cities have multiple aesthetics. As do all cities, and human settlements of varied sizes all around the world. This has been true right through history.

However Indian cities have a clear demarcation in terms of the urban aesthetics when looked at within the time frame of the last century.

The big four metros, all cities in existence for at least 400 years have an evolved sense of architecture and urban aesthetic that spans from the Mughal times to the British Raj. Each city got its own distinct version of style and look. However this sense of aesthetic took a nosedive post-Independence.

All of a sudden, for every great piece of architecture, there were 100 examples of very banal, characterless buildings. Entire sections of cities, or even entire small cities grew up with no sense of architectural character and style.

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Bhopal 2011: Symposium and Workshop

Twenty five years after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, almost all related issues, from its causes to its fallout and legacy remain contentious. The site of the tragedy itself, the former Union Carbide factory is still standing but the structure is fast disintegrating; faced with neglect and imminent destruction. bhopal_photograph

A strategy for the factory’s protection and revitalization needs to address the conflicting views on the factory´s position in the cityscape and mindscape of Bhopal. Over the course of two weeks in early 2011 students and experts from multiple disciplines and backgrounds will converge in Bhopal. They will work together with local citizens in an attempt to understand the tragedy and its site in its conflicting interpretations.

Through exploring the possible transformation of the site into a place of remembrance and a resource for empowering the local community the participants will also address the broader issue of how heritage sites with a troubled legacy can contribute to a better understanding of our times.

More information on their website: http://www.bhopal2011.in

Amtek Offices New Delhi: Ong and Ong Architects

Ong & Ong is a multi-disciplinary design office with various locations in South East Asia, including one in Chennai.

The Amtek Office Building proposal for New Delhi at first glance looks like an Archigram-esque living organism sited on a street

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Introducing traditional Indian science of construction, the “Vaastu Shastra,” to modern architecture, the Amtek Office Building with its entrance facing the East seems to bring the flow of energy in building designs. [design.fr]

From their website:

Located on the popular commercial strip in New Delhi, Tolstoy Marg, Amtek is distinctively outstanding even from afar. The concept of Amtek Office Building came about upon client’s request of wanting an iconic building with flexible space. This resulted in Amtek’s oval-shaped, glass-cladded facade and it is built in contrast to New Delhi’s traditional urban setting.

The external façade is fully cladded with glass to allow for maximum exposure and clarity from inside. Alumininum shading devices in the form of “armours” are cleverly constructed on the exterior to shield against its extreme climate. There is a separate lift for the sky restaurant which creates a vertical silhouette against an otherwise annular shape.

Delhi Urban Workshop

header The inaugural three – week session of the Delhi Urban Workshop, starting on  January 3, 2011, will bring together practitioners in the urban professions – architects,  urban planners, designers, administrators, engineers – as well as students, educators  and scholars and others sharing their interests.

The Workshop will explore current  urban challenges and issues facing this ancient and legendary city that  later evolved into Mughal and imperial capitals, and since Indian independence,  has become the dynamic center of an increasingly influential nation. The themes to be examined will include planning and development, transportation and  infrastructure, environmental conditions, social and economic change and metropolitan  growth.

Workshop activities will consist of lectures and discussions, field trips to key  sites and locations, visits to organizations and guided small group projects in  various parts of Delhi. Weekend trips will be made to Chandigarh and  Agra/Fatephur Sikri/Jaipur. The Workshop will be led by senior faculty from  leading universities in Delhi as well as experienced professionals, with the  participation of key staff from public and private agencies.

Workshop meetings will be held either at the striking new building of the Alliance  Francaise or the lively Habitat Center, both in the green and pleasant Lodi Estate section  of New Delhi. Participants will stay in comfortable accommodations near the meeting  place. There will be ample time to see Delhi’s fabled attractions, attend cultural events  and become familiar with the city.

The cost of the Workshop, is $3, 475 per person, double-occupancy, excluding international air travel.

www.delhiurbanworkshops.org

email: info@delhiurbanworkshops.org

IIA National Convention: Lucknow Dec 2010

iialogoThe NATIONAL CONVENTION of THE INDIAN INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS for the year 2010 is being held at Lucknow, UP on the 3rd, 4th & 5th ofDecember, 2010. This National Convention is being organized under the aegis of the UTTAR PRADESH & UTTRAKHAND chapter of the Institute.

A large number of member-delegates, eminent personalities, people from allied professions, builders and construction-professionals from all over the country will attend this convention. The convention has been named ‘IIA NATCON 2010’.

The theme of the Convention is ‘SUSTAINABILITY : Global Problems- Local Initiatives’. In today’s time nothing can be more important than the optimization of the use of natural resources and the built-environment to sustain itself on minimum use of energy and yet provide the best ambience for human functions, their comfort and development.

The main theme has been sub-divided into sub-themes namely:-

a. Role of Policies and their Implementation in achieving a sustainable built-environment.

b. Role of Design in achieving a sustainable built-environment.

c. Role of Construction Techniques in achieving a sustainable built-environment.

d. Role of Products and Materials in achieving a sustainable built-environment.

In the context of today’s world the importance of achieving a sustainable built environment can neither be denied nor belittled. Architects play an important role in the type of built environment we achieve, and that role they play to the best of their knowledge about Sustainable Architecture. It is this knowledge-bank we seek to enhance  at this convention.

This is to request all members of the Indian Institute of Architects to take that extra step and share their knowledge and make us more adept at handling Green / Sustainability concerns. We invite all members to send us material on the theme for publication in the Souvenir to be released for the Convention in the form of:-

a. Papers / Written Articles

b. Caricatures

c. Photographs

d. Cartoons, etc.

Material on other subjects of general interest to Architects may also be considered for publication. Outstanding articles / papers may get the opportunity to present the paper at the Technical Sessions of the convention.

As time is a pressing factor, it is requested that the above material reach the desk of the Convener Ar Asthana kkasthana@hotmail.com or iia.natcon2010@gmail.com latest by November 15th, 2010.

We once again request your whole-hearted cooperation which will go a long way to the benefit of all.

Thanking you

Ar. Atul Srivastav

Coordinator, Academic Programme.