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Architecture, Urbanism and Sustainable Development

Architecture, Urbanism and Sustainable Development Image Tamara Horbacka

Image Tamara Horbacka

3 June 2011
by Tamara Horbacka

Tamara Horbacka FRSA, received grant funding from the British Council India through the Connections through Culture programme and the Gordon Ricketts Memorial Fund from the Royal Institute of British Architects to travel to India to conduct extensive research on the architectural, urban, social, cultural, economic and environmental conditions, impacts and challenges facing India in the 21st century. The trip took Tamara to the following destinations Delhi - Jaipur - Tilonia - Mumbai - Ahmedabad - Delhi.

The themes and areas of research touched on not only the spatial, but also the humanist and aesthetic purposes of architecture in the Indian context. These included; rapid informal and formal urbanization, social and cultural heritage (urban/rural/contemporary/historic), examples of sustainable development projects, adaptive technologies and environmental and resource conservation.

The social, sustainable and cultural values of architecture are ever more critical when viewed in context of India’s unprecedented and often uncoordinated urban growth. The pattern of large scale urbanization, technological advancement, the need to provide high density, low income social housing, appropriate sanitation, the revitalization of historic centers and the development of informal settlements, is rapidly taking shape although with often contrasting results across the different states of India. Most critically, they are often set within the context of fast depleting water resources and challenging environmental conditions.

The research visit enabled direct dialogue, interviews and meetings with leading Indian practitioners from architecture, planning, urban design and sustainable development to organizations involved in rural adaptation, women’s education, poverty reduction, climate change policy and implementation to discuss many of these issues. Infrastructure, transportation and master-planning projects were also key areas of research and site visits to many emerging projects were made in each city. In particular, the research visit gave insight into the ways in which architecture, urban planning and economic policies shape the context of people’s lives whether they be part of the informal economy, living in ‘slum’ settlements or in historic centers, such as the ‘pols’ in Ahmedabad or separated into gated communities and city districts, satellite towns and major cities.

Highlights of the research trip included visits to architectural practice, site visits and organisations to better understand the breadth and scale of projects taking place in Delhi, Mumbai and Ahemedabad, such as Balkrishna Doshi, Rajeev Kathpalia, Sangath, Vastu-Shilpa Foundation, CEPT, SEEDS India, DCOOP Architects, PUKAR, LEAD India, Dharavi, SEWA and Manav Sadhna. In addition, extensive visit’s were made to the Barefoot College in rural Rajasthan, traditional water harvesting systems in Rajasthan and Gujarat and new housing developments in smaller scale cities such as Jaipur.

The research visit enabled the development of long term partnerships to establish unique collaborative cultural programmes between India and the UK and as a catalyst for ongoing cultural dialogue and exchange.