Old-New City

_DSC0174Written for UFP application

One of the issues that really concerned me in the recent past is the estrangement of the older cities from the success of new urban developments. This is pervasive in all Indian cities, and Hyderabad is yet another example of abject apathy of the government, and its lack of will to integrate it with the rest of the city. There is no doubt old cities are complex entities to which change cannot be brought about easily and without mighty challenges. However, their complete abandon by not just local planning authorities but even the civic authorities is disconcerting. The older cities have a rigorous underlying order by which they function, at the same time they are apparently chaotic in their appearance. The semblance of order that makes them efficient can be attributed to the people that adapt and work within them. The chaos is the result of organizational changes in the built environment to accommodate the increasing needs of the people far exceeding its capacity.

There are two major projects that come under the old city of Hyderabad. The first one is the Charminar Pedestrianisation Project that was initiated in the year 1999 because the movement of vehicles around it was said to have been causing structural damage. It was floated in the year 2000 at the cost of Rs.139 crore, but even after 16 years, it is nowhere close to completion. A month ago the minister for urban development visited the site and declared that the CPP will be completed in the next 6 months but since then nothing substantial has happened. The second major project is the Musi River Cleaning project that was proposed in 2005 to be completed within 30 months funded partly by center and state. Briefly after the installation of rubber dam, sewage treatment plant, laying grass, the project was discontinued and renewed subsequently but has missed several deadlines. The latest proposal is to redevelop Musi River inspired by the Sabarmati River Front in Gujarat, despite the fact that it is a non-perennial river. It can be easily argued that either of the proposals come under the purview of heritage and ecology, in spite of the little progress made qualitatively on ground, than because of their relative location in old city.

Hyderabad outgrew from the old walled city to the new city gradually, whereas the now extended city developed way too rapidly in the last 5 years, and has remained the sole focus of development authorities. A relentless construction activity is under way fast changing the natural landscape and urban form. The rocks formations that are peculiar to the geomorphological activity dating billion years ago haven’t been spared from the levelers and spouted buildings upon buildings in the recent past. New roads, flyovers, malls, hotels, offices and residential towers constructed at an ever increasing speed are neither democratic nor inclusive. This new economic center for the city is not without its own set of urban issues as a result of indiscriminate planning. Neither is it the only part of the city that deserves sole focus in terms of physical or economic planning. It is rather the allocation of resources that will create interdependency amongst different parts of the city that reduces the need for self-sufficiency, increasing accessibility to different people, and help to keep it undivided.

In the recent debates about urban inequality, the role of old cities is hardly ever addressed. If the first step is to understand the functioning of the old city and its human adaptability, the next step is to recognize that effective measures and resource allocation will not just bring economic benefit but also improve the quality of life. It is ironic that Hyderabad cannot by itself attract investments without tapping into the cultural heritage of the city. Yet a visit to the old city is a tell-tale of the neglect by state authorities to provide the basic facility and services to the people; instead, the city police are investing in the installation of 4000 cameras for mass surveillance. It is important that we do not forget to integrate old cities with their new counterpart to take our cities a step closer to being equal, and inclusive.

Art Alfresco | Place for art, Art for place

Project : ART ALFRESCO is ‘art outside’ buildings to provide a thorough visual experience in an urban setup. A gallery without walls gives people an opportunity to respond to art in relation to its urban fabric. The project distinguishes the area around the river highlighting the historic buildings in continuous relation to the spaces around it. Form a network of connected pedestrian paths with plazas, proximity to bus shelter, amenities while providing place for activities combining retail/small hold ventures in central urban space.

Site: The River Musi was the lifeline of the city of Hyderabad the chief source of its water. The flood of Musi in September 1908 changed its character forever, the ravaged city was rebuilt and a flood control system was introduced by creating two large lakes – Usmansagar, Himayatsagar. Today the river is dry most of the year and a dump of untreated sewage from the pipes that terminate in it. There are several bridges on the river that divides the old walled city from new extents.

Context: As a result of the flood in 1908, a City Development Trust was set up that build some of the civic buildings that flank the river site today. High Court on the south bank of the river built in 1919, opposite to which Osmania Hospital was constructed in 1927, in 1936 the Asafiya library was shifted less than a kilometer from the hospital. One of the earliest school built in 1865 was upgraded to college in 1929. The Salarjung Museum is the latest building on the south east built in 1967.

Topography:

Built Spaces : Unplanned urbanization has led to an indiscriminate building use pattern. Encroachments along the river bank are as old as 50-60 years as a result of lack of space in the dense fabric of old city and the issue of affordability. Mixed use buildings, housing units, clusters of houses with central courtyards have intense activity day long in and around them.

Vegetation: The edge of river has small cultivation, and planting. It is the source of livelihood of small farmers and landless households. Wastewater is a major source of livelihood for households practicing agriculture along this river in the urban areas of Hyderabad city.

Across street there’s unplanned planting pattern apparent with trees along the stretch of the main north south axis to frame space. Landscape in the open annexe of the civic building follows the simple geometric pattern.

Circulation and Traffic Pattern: The bridges are the main link from the old city to the new city. The east west road is the connecting link to the national highway network. The promenades across the old section have given way to the quick access road that gave a distinct character and a sense of connection to it.

The ease of pedestrian movement is an important aspect of an urban setting. There is a lack of connection in the pedestrian activity that goes around the place. The pavements have irregular widths and the pedestrian refuge lack an identifiable character. There are existing old pavilions that offer seating and a view of the river bank from one side.

Visual Connections:

Art for public defines the public realm and distinguishes the fine points in a city. Civic art stimulates the cultural life of the region giving places back to the people; it leads visitors as well as inhabitants into the discovery of a city.

Masterplan: 

  1. Distinguish the river area as a place of art alfresco.
  2. Highlight the existing landmarks.
  3. Maintain freedom of movement in pedestrians and connecting plaza or bus shelters.
  4. Create a safe urban environment for all the users.
  5. Provide for shelter from the varying weather conditions.
  6. Active civic art to create a civic dialogue for a community identity.
  7. Retain the wilderness areas near the river bed.
  8. Provide alternate to encroachments and create public space along the bank.
  9. Create an economically vibrant urban area by allowing informal activity.
  10. Create inter-connectedness in the open spaces.

Pedestrian Plaza and Open Gallery:  The site of the grand plaza lies between the Afzalgunj and the Naya pul, selected because a. central location b. visual connectivity c. access from both sides d. vantage point

The main aim of the proposal is to connect the network of footpaths and open spaces in the study area.It can serve as the central place activities going to ease the vehicular movement and relax the pedestrian activity near the road abutting river, hence paving a way for the art intervention.

The design proposal considers safety as the major issue and offers solution such as slanted railing, unapproachable ends.  The contour seating and benches alternate at intervals and provide strategic views of the place. It is raised to a height of 2 meter above the adjoining vehicular bridges. The built area is conceived as a typical shopping extension that stretches through the Charminar area.