This is a vibrant new city centre – energised though the interaction of the many diverse activities it contains. There is a wide spectrum of land-uses, ranging from apartment houses and office buildings, to restaurants and shops (some located in a large air-conditioned shopping area, and others in the narrow bazaar-streets one finds throughout India).
The elements that unify all these diverse uses are the pedestrian streets that traverse from one end of the site to the other, climaxing in an open-air kund at the focal point at the centre of the main plaza. From this plaza, steps connect down to the pedestrian streets between the buildings at the Northern end of the site. Facing south, at the other end, are the apartment houses. The non-air-conditioned market is in the form of a series of stepped-back terraces, so as to increase cross-ventilation. The air-conditioned shopping centre is organized around a central atrium- and anchored by the presence of two large Department Stores at either end.
Combining shops, a wedding hall, a multiplex, offices and apartments, this City Centre in the heart of Salt Lake City in Kolkata, provides community and public spaces, both covered and open-to-sky, that are at the scale of the city, and open to all its citizens.
The system of dams now under construction in Karnataka will raise the level of the Ghataprabha river, submerging part of the existing town of Bagalkot under water. Hence the Government of Karnataka’s decision to develop New Bagalkot, presently under construction about 10 km further along the National Highway. This new town being developed for a population of 100,000 persons, will not only house the displaced inhabitants from the existing town, but is also expected to become the major new growth centre in the region, attracting the distress migration which is otherwise gravitating to other already overcrowded cities like Bangalore and Hubli. This assignment provided the opportunity to try and apply some of the same principles discussed in the planning of Ulwe (Affordability, Replicability, etc.) to a small town, far more typical of urban growth in India, using an approach that generates flexible street patterns analogous to the existing town of Bagalkot – as also to most traditional Indian towns that have grown naturally and organically over a period of time. Furthermore, as will be seen, in this approach, the composition of any particular sector does not have to be pre-determined by the planners, but can be decided from time to time, as the town grows, depending on actual demand.
The Central Business District of New Bombay, consists of three interconnected nodes, with Waghavli Lake in the centre. The southernmost of these three nodes, Ulwe, has an area of 1580 hectares. On this land, the Development Plan envisages a population of about 350, 000 people, with an estimated work force of just over 140,000 persons. Our assignment involved three tasks of preparing the Master Plan, the urban design controls, and demonstration housing for 1000 families. The project seeks to address the crucial issues of Affordability and Equity, with crucial emphasis on mass transport, coherent urban form, and housing patterns which use space as a resource.
In the crowded centres of Indian cities, pavements are used intensively: during the day they are crowded with hawkers so that pedestrians are forced onto the road, blocking the traffic lanes. As evening falls, the hawkers gather their possessions and go home – to be replaced by people unfolding their beddings for a night’s rest. These night people are not pavement dwellers (who are another group altogether), but mostly domestic servants and office boys who have to share a room in their places of work where they keep their belongings and use city pavements for sleeping. This allows them to economise on their living expenses. Furthermore, on hot sultry nights, sleeping outdoors is a more attractive proposition than the crowded airless room: that they have to do so under unhygienic conditions with the public walking right amongst (and over) them is truly reprehensible. This project in 1968 recommended to the Bombay Municipal Corporation an experimental modification in one of the city’s principal streets (Dadabhai Naoroji Road) in order to deal with both the hawkers during the day and the sleepers at night. What was proposed was a line of platforms 2m wide & 0.6m high, with water taps placed at approximately intervals of 30m. During the day these platforms would be used by the hawkers – thus clearing the pavements and the arcades for pedestrians. (The platform would also act as a safety barrier between pedestrians and vehicular traffic). In the evening, at about sunset, the taps would be turned on and the platforms washed clean by municipal sweepers. They would then provide convenient otlas (platforms) for people to sleep – out of the path of any pedestrians walking home at night.
The conceptualisation, along with colleagues Shirish Patel and Pravina Desai, of a new strategy for restructuring the city of Bombay by opening up the mainland directly across the harbour in an area where many key location decisions had already been taken regarding the provision of new docks, a major industrial belt, the highway system to the rest of the state, and so forth. In 1970, after the idea had gathered sufficient support, the State Government accepted the plan, notified the 22,000 hectares for acquisition and set up CIDCO (the City and Industrial Development Corporation) to design and develop the new urban centres, to be called New Bombay.