Submitted by Tanya Khanna

Recapitulation: What constitutes the spirit of a city?

India Architecture News - Aug 07, 2019 - 00:04   9039 views

Recapitulation: What constitutes the spirit of a city?

Recapitulation: What constitutes the spirit of a city? Is it transmutable, much like the public spaces that the city encapsulates?

Held on 18th April, 2019 at the India Habitat Centre, the panel discussion led by historian Partho Dutta, thespian Amal Allana, and architects Verendra Wakhloo and Snehanshu Mukherjee focused on the declining state of public spaces in the national capital, and what this foretells for the notion of urbanity in the modern city.

Standing on the cusp of – what many have surmised – inevitable decay, the phenomenon of Delhi’s rapidly shrinking public spaces raised the issue of the intrinsic ‘publicness’ of these spaces. Drawing parallels between the megalopolis with small medieval towns, Ar. Wakhloo pointed out that the proverbial death of the city was correlated to the emergence of the motor car as the predominant mode of transport. Expanding upon this notion, Ar. Mukherjee added that pedestrian circulation routes of a city are its primary public spaces – which, in the case of Delhi, have essentially disappeared.

Ms. Allana explored the notion of urbanity by juxtaposing art from two different mediums, time periods and locations – illustrating the disillusionment of Delhi dwellers through the sculptures and paintings of young artists, juxtaposed against the enchantment of public life of erstwhile Bombay expressed through anecdotes about the late Ebrahim Alkazi’s plays for the public. Mr Dutta further posited that ‘micro environments that replicate activities create dynamism in public spaces’, backing his stance through examples of thriving public realms in cities that follow this urban model, such as Kolkata.

This raised the issue of the design of Lutyen’s Delhi being the idealized yet unsustainable urban model that originated from a top-down system of administration. With the floor open to discussion, this notion in equal parts accepted and contested by the audience, with the detractors claiming that the urbanity of Delhi had always been political in nature – and as such, its modalities have developed independent of typical notions of social life.

The lively discussion lay the groundwork for the next panel discussion in the series - 'One Hundred Years of Re - Imagining Delhi' in July, which will further explore the future of the city.

Chair: M.N. Ashish Ganju, collab. Greha
Communications Partner: Epistle Communications

About Architecture and Society Talk Series

'Architecture and Society' talk series is a monthly forum organised by Greha in collaboration with Epistle Communications - at the India Habitat Centre. Each month, the forum invites architects, urban practitioners, academicians and research scholars from the entire country to talk about their work. The intent of the forum is to gather students, practitioners and the public of Delhi in one space where discussions on the future of the built environment in India can take place.

About Greha

Since its inception in 1974, Greha has concentrated on the growth of knowledge in the field of environmental development, habitat design and architecture. The thrust of Greha's efforts have been towards addressing issues of the majority of the population; the focus was the marginalised people in rural and urban settlements; the vehicle was developing knowledge and methodologies concerning settlement systems more suited to our history and cultural context.

The founder members, during the early stages of their professional careers, would meet periodically to engage with majority concerns, away from the routine of the practice.

These concerns led them towards working with the poor and marginalised people in Indian society and eventually to the establishment of a school of habitat studies.

Greha registered in 1986 as a non-government, not for profit society, with the aim of generating a body of ideas, involving diverse professional talent and promoting expert contribution in development projects undertaken by public agencies.

About Epistle Communications

Epistle is a communication consultancy providing bespoke, strategic consulting services for architecture, design, planning and allied disciplines.

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