Towards a new Steel City

Project: Jamshedpur Masterplan 2057, Jamshedpur, Jharkhand

Architects: Creative Group 

Situated in the ecologically rich Chota Nagpur plateau and bordered by the Subarnarekha and Kharkai rivers, Jamshedpur is the most populous urban agglomeration in the east Indian state of Jharkhand. Better known as ‘The Steel City’, it is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Named after the visionary industrialist Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, it was established by his son Dorabji Tata in 1908, with the vision to create a city that could lead India towards freedom and economic independence. Considered as the birthplace of industry in India, Jamshedpur was one of the first planned industrial cities in the country. Its location was strategically chosen for the availability of water, owing to the convergence of the two rivers, the surrounding Damna Hills, and being central to a region rich in minerals, iron ore and coal—a factor that was of utmost importance for the development of the steel industry.

Since its establishment, Jamshedpur has produced approximately 40 tonnes of steel every year, amounting to nearly 40 per cent of Tata’s steel production. When Tata had established this town, he envisioned the birth of a company town, one that would be a benchmark for development based on high ethical standards. Jamshedpur has been planned incrementally over a span of 34 years, each plan having to face the challenge of blending in with the plan that preceded it, while addressing the growing requirements of the industrial township. Jamshedpur’s history and the planning paradigms of the early 20th century played a formative role in how each master plan was conceived, and consequently their impact on the city’s built form.

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. As architects, this gives us an opportunity to design for the Steel City
of India, while strategically planning its future development in a way that it does not promote the adverse effects of city planning and sets an example for future developments.

The overall planning of the city was done keeping in mind the issues to be catered— overcrowding, migration, housing shortage, poor sanitation and lack of proper infrastructure. Taking forward the ideology that ‘a built form should not be treated as a dead mass of brick and concrete, but as a living organism, allowing it to breathe with nature’, while securing the existing fabric of Jamshedpur and at the same time, planning it as a city full of resources, especially for the young professional generation, we have proposed a “town within the park within the city” model.

This model focuses on converging two basic ideals for the community fabric—short distances of travel between work and home, and recreation activities for the community… all of this keeping in mind the previous proposed planning schemes for the city, i.e. the ‘Garden City Plan’ of 1920s and 1930s. There was a tremendous amount of opportunity to develop the available green spaces in the city as active areas for the residents. This was carried out by combining the existing green network with the existing Tata Housing and natural stream corridors.

Our idea begins by placing the industry aside from the centre of the basic model for a town. This does not change the relative distance or travel time to employment centres, but rather provides its communities with better quality of life by placing them at the centre. It begins with the notion that quality of life is based on the concept of a town where community is at the core. We imagine each town as self-supporting, and include all daily life requirements such as food markets, pocket parks, community centres, medical clinics, police and all necessary public facility, commercial and open space elements to nourish the population it supports.

In the overall planning, the industry is central to the town. Workers’ housing has been arranged in colonies, with corresponding pocket parks surrounding the industry to provide the shortest distance from work to home, while all public utilities have been provided by the company itself. Commercial facilities have been strategically planned between these industrial centres and the housing.

Surrounding the concept of ‘Town’ is the concept of ‘Park’. When we looked at the city of Jamshedpur and compiled its active and passive recreational areas, it seemed clear to us that there was tremendous opportunity with the amount of green space available within the city. We began weaving the opportunity of the existing green network together with areas of aged Tata Housing (50 years or older) and natural stream corridors, until we were able to identify natural “belting” systems that could become ecological buffer zones and parkways to individual towns. In many ways, it is the inverse of the ‘Central Park’ concept, where instead of the town surrounding the park, here we have the park surrounding the town.

The basic ‘town within a park’ model multiplies and creates several parkway systems that intertwine. We have also identified city centres that overlay the Jamshedpur Command Area as resources that can be provided for the city at large. Centres like Jubilee Park, Rivers Meet Park, City Nursery, Museum Town, Centenary Park Malls and the entire “new” Jamshedpur Riverfront community and its boardwalk, were also activated by active/passive recreation, access to the water and commercial activities. The imagination was based on each town as a self-supporting model, including all daily life requirements to nourish the population it supports. The challenge of this master planning was to direct the change and blend Old Jamshedpur’s historic fabric with New Jamshedpur, and give it a new definition as a “complete city.”

Factfile

Client: TATA

Design team: Prof. Charanjit S Shah (Founding Principal) Ar. Gurpreet S Shah (Principal Architect), Ar. Fredric Shwartz Associate Architects: Fredric Schwartz Architects, Egis India, Robert AM Stern Architects and ARUP Architects

Site area: 15,814 sq m

Project status: Conceptual proposal