PLAN AWARDS TEXT-second draft
‘..India has always moved ahead with the awareness that the seeds of a solution lie within the problem itself.” -Aman Nath, ‘architecture and attitude’
The big story
India has more than 4000 cities, each with its unique DNA, so there can never be a single solution to their problems; architecture should always about ‘place’. In the contemporary context of India, any vision for redevelopment must address the regional and local identity along with the national goals. Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state-placed fourth in the world if declared a country, in a population-wise taxonomy. Its capital Lucknow, is one of best exemplifications of syncretism in its architecture and culture; therein lies its heritage value.
The local folktale
Riparian settlements have always been places of intersection of challenges and opportunities in many a nation; India is no exception. Where the Gomti meandered around a plateau, Hussainabad was strategically establishe. It expanded to form the city of Lucknow, encapsulated the flourish marking the zenith of the rule of the Nawabs, began to decay in the following centuries and till recently remained its Achille’s heel with traffic woes, visual anarchy and abuse.
In India, heritage is perceived as an inheritable valuable resource that cannot be ‘consumed’ but must be handed over to future generations, preferably with enrichment. This ‘preserved’ past is dynamic; with the ‘value addition’ of each of the subsequent generations. The redevelopment envisages enriching the life of the city through design, respecting and retaining its essence and not blindly emulating the past. It returns the city, enhancing its value, to its rightful owners-the people.
Architecture-the main feature of built environment capturing cultural and social values and producing narratives and histories of the state of human society is employed, through interventions that generate prototypical solutions to the predicaments of many a heritage city in India. As architecture is not just to be looked at but to be in, the semantics attempts to recreate for tourists and for ordinary residents going about their business of the day, the pageantry that accompanied the erstwhile royalty’s processional route. The precinct at Hussainabad is seen as a microcosm of Lucknow’s urbanity and Lucknow in turn, as a microcosm of India’s heritage fabric.
The comprehensive development is along a 1.3 km linear spine called ‘space’, between-the Chota Imambara and the Bada Imambara, with a series of monuments dotting the in-between; it meanders to embrace the river and networks with other edifices in the vicinity. Fundamentally, it involves quasi pedestrianisation and a traffic bifurcation that goes around the heritage monument-Rumi Darwaza, rather than through it and re-connects with the ‘lost in translation’ river Gomti. Cobbling ensures that the previously overwhelming vehicular traffic slows down. Backed by 2-15m wide footpaths laid in a herring-bone pattern evocative of the past, streets are a walker’s paradise. The transition from vehicles to walking is enabled at an underground parking facility, 200m away from the spine; not visually hampering the historical canvas and sporting the look of a landscaped, stepped terrace at the ground level with panoramic views.
The articulation:The spine is seen as space that kick-starts a journey, an all encompassing visual and visceral experience on foot-evocative of one of the most primordial rhythms known to human beings. Removing barriers that had been erected to cater to a false sense of security, have made the spaces adjacent to the spine inclusive and connective. Thus the narratives of as many as ten spectacular monuments get woven into the matrix of present day urbanity. In particular, the massive open space housing a step-well (now filled with water) mediates conversation between the ‘seven storeyed’ Satkhanda-the city’s own ‘tower of Pisa’ built by the erstwhile Nawab and the Clock Tower- an ambassador of true Victorian-Gothic style of British architecture. The former dump yard infested with bramble and anti-social elements is now a flourishing urban plaza where life does not end when the day ends. Employing light and sound shows, projection mappings on the monument surfaces, etc. as tools of experience design, spaces designed as theme parks supported by the familiar riot of colours that accompanies seasonally flowering plants, are meant to be filled and experienced as public squares but with their sanctity respected. The green footprint largely provides relief to a typically asphyxiating modern Indian city.A similar plaza around the Rumi Darwaza and as a ‘forested’ food court on the datum to the river exemplify Jane Jacob’s premise of a city’s ‘uniqueness quotient’ attracting people to ‘want to go there again and again and linger’. New institutions as the proposed Museum of Hussainabad add character to the narrative, etching them permanently in the cognitive memories of people through entertaining mechanisms.The nodes on the spine decode history through an integrated but diverse material palette of the urban flooring. Pavements are in three types of sandstones-the Red Agra and two varieties of Mandana, the vehicular zone in cobbled yellowish coloured local sandstone; where the two literally and metaphorically merge, the visual palette of the red rooting for the pedestrian and the vocabulary of the unitary cobble create cobbled red stone! The additional layering of the spine through the street furniture- lighting, signage, seating, installations and more, is functional, attractive, informative and playful even while taking clues from the legacy of the past. The sequential silhouettes of the light poles emulating the Rumi Darwaza profile presents a contemporary frame to history. Designed primarily for signage, its base is treated as a page out of the city’s less chronicled story book.
archohm is an architecture and design studio in noida, the national capital region of india. Archohm was founded by architect sourabh gupta in the new millennium. today the firm has evolved into a well known design practice with projects and initiatives addressing a wide array of issues, scales and typologies. from master planning of cities to designing their street signage, from farmer markets to cultural haats, hospitals to hospitality, riverfronts to residential projects, Every typology of projects with ‘design’ as its main focus making it a very versatile firm. its portfolio now spans across a diversity of sectors that include large public, social, educational, religious and cultural institutions. being socially responsible and contextually responsive is ingrained in archohm’s dna. it promotes the use of pure and indigenous materials in modern contexts, functions, forms and narratives.