Category Archives: Master Plan

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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Missed Chances and Government Bureaucracy: Louis Kahn and Gandhinagar

Government intervention and babudom are nothing new to India. It has thrived for generations and continues to do so even today. Soon after Independance there was a massive movement to bring the country on par with the Westernised world. New cities and towns was part of that scheme and Nehru, India’s first prime minister took the initiative to invite Le Corbusier to plan Chandigarh. The rest, as they say is history.

Corbusier was not the only architectural giant to leave his stamp on India. Louis Kahn, his contemporary also worked in India around the same time and would design and influence future generations of architects in India.

While Corbusier got the opportunity to design the masterplan and the important architectural pieces of Chandigarh, Kahn, did not get to do it in India. He did design the capital complex of Bangladesh, which then was a new country taking birth.

Paul John writes a very interesting article “With Kahn magic Gandhinagar would have  rivalled Chandigarh” that speaks about the missed opportunity for India and Kahn to design Gandhinagar, the new capital of the new state of Guarat.

If Chandigarh is Le Corbusier’s city, Bhubaneswar bears the German Otto Koenigsberger’s signature, Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar could have had American yogi Louis Kahn’s imprint — a strong rival to Corbusier’s Chandigarh — had the Indian and Gujarat governments allowed Kahn to design the capitol buildings. Continue reading Missed Chances and Government Bureaucracy: Louis Kahn and Gandhinagar

Height Restrictions Removed: A Boom for Skyscrapers ?

Scorpiogenius makes a compelling arguement for “Taller, Greener, Better”.

The Civil Aviation Ministry and the Airport Authority of India have trimmed down the height restrictions for constructions around our airports. This allows for buildings to sprout higher into the skies above our cities, almost double to what was permitted until yesterday.

I expect Kerala to significantly make use of this waive in the existing law. Kerala has been the only state outside the megapolis Mumbai, and to a lesser extent Gurgaon, to embrace the highrise culture. The trend which was kicked off in Cochin in the early 90s slowly spread to even the smaller Municipal towns of the state. Its become a fashion statement with even towns like Thiruvalla and Kottayam with just over 1 lakh population hosting 20+ structures.

Even though it may take some time for our local self Govts to adapt themselves to the law, it is certain that the Architects and builders would be licking their lips to make full use of it. Kerala is only second to West Bengal in population density; with 35 million inhabitants @ 825/sq km and severe scarcity of de-notified habitable land, it is common sense to understand that this model of urban development suits us best.

I’m a sucker for tallies, yo! I admire the style of urban development followed in North America and Australia which plots a highrise CBD, with suburbs harbouring midrises and housing estates. Each suburb is planned to be self-sufficient on its own for their shopping and entertainment needs, with residents travelling to city-center only for business and work. The CBD builds and rebuilds itself with major improvements necessary only in the transportation network.

Continue reading at Scorpiogenius.

Le Corbusier’s legacy lost in last 40 years

Forty years ago, we lost a kind of leadership which inspires creativity. With Le Corbusier’s passing away, a voice which talked of a new vision of the world was taken away from our midst. In the 1950s all architects in India were steeped in patterns of thought that had come to us from our British education and Indian experience. We thought about architecture and planning in terms that had evolved through 150 years of British occupation.

Corbusier through his works in India opened up new possibilities which, we have not yet been able to integrate into our architecture.

This visionary had to fight our conventions of thought. He proposed cities where buildings were lifted off the ground on ‘pilotis’ or pillars and simultaneously terraces became gardens.

Huge vistas of green would have opened up on the ground and regained the lost open space on the terraces again. Concrete, his chosen material would have made this possible.

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Wadala Tower and Interstate Bus Terminal to be India’s Tallest Building.

Work on the Rs 4,000-crore, 531-mt tall iconic tower to come up at Wadala is slated to start in October. It will be the world’s seventh

tallest structure with a built-up area of 60,000 lakh sq ft, the largest among such buildings in the world.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) commissioner, Ratnakar Gaikwad, said permissions should be ready shortly for the project. "The building will generate Rs 2,000 crore in revenue through rent, which will go towards other development projects in the region,” said Gaikwad.

Continue reading Wadala Tower and Interstate Bus Terminal to be India’s Tallest Building.

MMRDA Priorities Lopsided

By Nauzar Bharucha for the TNN

Is the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) suffering from hubris? Its plan to set up a 101-storey iconic commercial tower in Wadala at a phenomenal cost of over Rs 4,000 crore has raised serious questions about its sense of priority among urban experts and town planners. It has already been touted as one of the 10 tallest buildings in the world.

MMRDA’s think-tank has estimated that the project will earn it a rent of Rs 1,800 crore a year by leasing out 60 lakh sq ft of build up space in the tower to corporates and MNCs. But with recent estimates showing that Mumbai is expected to be flooded with over two crore sq ft of office space by 2011, real estate experts are skeptical about the financial feasibility of MMRDA’s iconic tower.

As it is, office space is going abegging with the numero uno central business district of Nariman Point currently staring at a vacancy level of 10% to 15%. Commercial lease rentals have already crashed by 25% to 50% in different commercial enclaves of the city. And the situation is expected to worsen with excessive supply of office space flooding the market in the next two years.

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Megacities Threaten to Choke India

By PATRICK BARTA and KRISHNA POKHAREL

LUCKNOW, India — Voting is drawing to a close Wednesday in India’s largest election ever, and a slowing economy, terrorism and the rural poor have been front and center in the campaign. But of growing concern are the country’s teeming new megacities, which are swelling rapidly even as jobs dry up and funding for infrastructure disappears.

This capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh was once an orderly place known for its baroque monuments and lush gardens. Today, Lucknow has more than 780 slums, overflowing sewage pipes and streets choked by gridlock. Its population of 2.7 million, nearly triple the number in the 1980s, is adding as many as 150,000 new residents a year.

Shami Shafi, a 35-year-old laborer in Lucknow, has seen his daily income drop by half in recent months to 50 rupees, or about $1, for carrying bags of potatoes and other goods in a local market. But "I’m not going back to my village," he says. If work gets harder to find, "I’ll just go to another city."

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Think of people when you develop: activists

Express News Service
A week after the state government decided to set up a committee for ‘Slumless Mumbai’, activists have called for the need to keep inclusive development at the heart of any new policy.

On Monday, at a panel discussion held by the housing rights group Ghar Banao Ghar Bhacao Andolan, several social activists highlighted the absolute lack of people-centric development in a majority of policies of the state government. The activists who were part of the panel include Urban Studies professor at Tata Institute of Social Studies Amita Bhide, architect and urban researcher Neera Adakar, transport expert Sudhir Badami and leader of National Alliance of People’s Movement Medha Patkar.

“The problem with committees like the one that has been formed for transforming Mumbai into a ‘slumless’ city as well as existing schemes like SRA, is that it is focused on increasing the Floor Space Index. No thought is given to the fact that resettling slumdwellers in tiny flats in highrises means adding more density and straining the infrastructure,” said Adarkar. She gave the example of the Dharavi Redevelopment Scheme where slumdwellers were first promised bigger homes and then the FSI was increased in a way that the developers too get to construct more flats for selling in the open market.

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Dharavi project gets an expert panel

An expert committee has been set up to advise the government on planning, management and implementation of the Dharavi makeover project. The 11-member committee comprising architects, city planners, activists and former bureaucrats has been approved by Chief Minister Ashok Chavan.

The panel includes former chief secretary D M Sukhtankar, former IAS officer Sunder Burra, urban planner Vidyadhar Phatak, architect Shirish Patel, housing expert Chandrashekhar Prabhu, architects Arvind and Neera Adarkar, director of the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture Aniruddh Paul, Society for the Promotion of Area Research Centres (SPARC) Director Sheela Patel and SPARC founder and National Slum Dwellers Federation convener Jockin Arputham.

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