Towards a holistic approach in the wake of sustainability

Text by: Ar. Gurpreet Shah, Urban Designer, Principal Architect, Creative Group

Urbanisation is an inevitable process in a city’s growth. With increased migration and search for better quality of life, there is also an increase in need for infrastructure to cater to the demands of the people. This has led to an urban crises, with all the major cities in the world facing the lack of adequate infrastructure and unable to manage the growth, leading our cities to their doom.

“Cities are the manifestation of human settlement, and human settlements are evolved through various eras of civilisation depending on the three basic principles of food, shelter and clothing, thus creating a comfort zone for a sustainable development.”

Man since time immemorial has developed cities for his survival. Settlements like Mohenjo – Daro or Mesopotamia were an epitome of urban planning even in those times with well-planned streets, sufficient open and public spaces for the people as well as using locally available materials and basic knowledge to plan the built structures. As architects, it is our duty to understand the underlying principles behind these cities and understand why they were considered sustainable and could promote a healthy living. We need to understand to undertake new developments in a way that they do not harm the environment but is self-reliant and promotes alternative methods for the city to grow.

Towards Sustainable Greenfield Townships Jamshedpur Master Planning: Jamshedpur is a small town at the crux of major infrastructure and city development. As part of the future urban development stipulated for the town, a Master plan for Jamshedpur 2057 was envisioned. The overall planning of the city was based on taking forward the ideology ‘A town within a park within a city.’

This model focused on converging two basic ideals for the community fabric – short distances of travel between work and home, and recreation activities for the community. Natural ‘belting’ systems were identified to act as ecological buffer zones and in between individual towns. Centres like Jubilee Park, Rivers Meet Park, the City Nursery, Museum town, Centenary Park Malls and the entire “new” Jamshedpur Riverfront community and its boardwalk, were also activated by active and passive recreation, access to the water and commercial activities.

“The idea begins by placing the industry aside from the centre of the basic model for a town, where community is at the core. The imagination was based on each town as a self-supporting model including all daily life requirements to nourish the population it supports.”

Bilaspur Township: With the Bilaspur township project, it was realized that a green approach was required as the site came under a high pollution zone due to the presence of large number of industries as well as vehicles. Existing site conditions promoted functional distribution of the different areas – Low lying lands and higher lands were zoned as a biodiversity park and residential zone respectively.

The prime consideration of the design process was the connectivity of neighbourhoods together through subways as pedestrian and cyclable pathways, segregating the traffic absolutely. The organised green is envisioned with sensitivity and care so that it becomes children friendly space, works as a central spine and the hub of human activities. The roads and walkways are lined with bioswales to collect and retain all the storm and rainwater, thus also moving towards an efficient management of resources.

Sansar Luxury Housing, Naya Raipur: The residential complex of Sansar homes takes cues from the elements of nature. The buildings on site have been oriented to create shaded green courtyards and reduce the indoor temperature. The residential unit and villas are built around the central green spine which accommodates courtyards, water-bodies, and play area for children and, gardens which can be transformed into party lawns to catch the imagination of the occupants. Commercial spaces as well as recreation facilities have been introduced in the development to provide convenience to the residents.

The contemporary vision of bringing Indian street and landscape to an elevated level has been attempted to break from banal and intimidating high-rise volumes. Use of stepped green roof terraces for apartments provides an overall tranquil environment and cool indoor temperatures and is also utilized for rain water harvesting. The public space at 4th level becomes an essential catalyst in encouraging community interaction.

Nirala Nagar, Kanpur: The architecture of the township has been planned in accordance to the existing architectural fabric to keep it in context and retain identity. The focal point of the township is the circular green space at the heart of the master plan. The central area is planned for community facilities with public, semi- public areas and commercial facilities. This enables a holistic development for the community with the entire required infrastructure thus establishing a connection and making such facilities accessible.

Reclaiming the Public Spaces through Master planning –Connaught Place and Chandni Chowk: Under- standing the complexity of the urban fabric, infrastructural morale, day-to-day surge in population and the organic functioning of various areas of Delhi, a distinguished attempt for the makeover of Connaught Place and Chandni Chowk was proposed. The initiative was taken up to showcase a transformation and redefinition of landscape spaces with multiple and multifunctional underground developments.

The Connaught Place radius is planned in the form of combining street landscaping, retail and commercial hub, bus access, multi-level car parking and the metro train access on all different levels whilst blending into the old culture by retracting features of the famous Connaught Place colonnades. This helps in integrating all the functions together while also promoting inclusivity and intermodality, creating a user friendly atmosphere.

Similarly, Chandni Cowk or Old Delhi holds deep rooted history and heritage. But today it has sadly reached a point where the Chowk is abused by human interventions, predominantly vehicular and unorganized pedestrian possessions at the peak hours. The metro system that connects Chandni Chowk with Kashmiri Gate and Chawri Bazaar runs underground. This was proposed to be interconnected with multi-level parking and proposing the commercial activities in the basement, so that the ground is left free for green spaces and having public interaction spaces.

Earlier we realize, better it would be to redefine our cities and provide human spaces creating cities for the people rather than vehicles to move. Today, Indian cities which were breathing with fresh air have turned into toxic gas chambers with polluted air, sound and water pollution, which needs to be dynamically looked for reforms.