Shock Absorbers for the city
empathetic approach towards Town Planning Mechanisms
The stress of current fast-paced developments in cities have slowly led us to a point where we are looking at irreversible damage to nature resulting in larger problems of the climate that we will soon need to address. . The project demonstrates the potential in the relationship between the vacant lands and city that operates with the absorption of various urban stresses generated with heavy developments, diminished natural air and water quality, decreasing open spaces or limitations in enjoying a healthy public life. The project works in thresholds to offset each of these stresses with an empathetic approach towards the Town Planning mechanism where the natural systems are respected along with preserving the openness of the vacant spaces.
To reimagine the future of greenbelt development that preserves the existing quality of openness of vacant spaces and is indeterministic.
To demonstrate conditions and strategies where the urban green infrastructure not only preserves the characteristics of the vacant spaces but exhibits qualities that can soak up the urban stresses and operates to mitigate them locally.
In Ahmedabad, industrialization was at its peak and so was the migration of people to the city. The city kept growing without much planning and direction. Hence, the idea of a greenbelt seemed a suitable option for controlling Ahmedabad's urban sprawl, accommodate a growing economy, and as green lungs for the city amidst the industries. The development plans were laid out but were myopic in terms of future needs and towards the growth of urban boundaries with increasing population. Greenbelt was introduced in 1965 and was reserved for a decade till 1975. Later on, since no acquisition of land took place the un-making of the greenbelt began.
Vacant site with development coming up
cricket - weekend activities
Temporary tarpaulin homes
There has been a lack of policies for protecting the greenbelt along with an inconsistent policy framework which is constantly under amendments, ongoing compensation battles, and erratic decisions of the Development Plans for Ahmedabad. As a result, the city sprawled haphazardly, beyond the limits of the city and encroachments soon took over the lands which remained vacant for years before it was nullified. The making of the greenbelt was rather short compared to the unmaking of the greenbelt. During the time, India was still in the process of making and implementing city administration and development plans which lacked experience and foresight.
Jivraj park Greenbelt, Ahmedabad
As a result of all these factors, the city soon identified these lands as respite grounds for activities and things that were difficult to do in the otherwise dense neighbourhoods around. With the lack of open spaces, these became release points for the people who inhabited these spaces without any objections by landowners. If the TP schemes are implemented these spaces would soon be lost to the same type of dense development as opposed to now wherein these open spaces act as shock absorbers for the city’s social and cultural needs. Loss of these spaces will result in its loss of multiplicity and different identities each of the places developed over the years leaving traces of its use by the people.
Development Pressure on the Greenbelt
The existing town planning scheme is proposed for public and private development. FSI 4 has been proposed for the greenbelt development due to the upcoming TOD and to accommodate the pressures of future development.
Total area of the Jivraj park Greenbelt - 20ha (2,07,866sq.m)
Area of lake - 1.5ha (15,325 sq.m)
Area of public space around lake - 3 ha (30,745 sq.m)
Area of built proposed - 16.9 ha (1,69,450 sq.m)
Area of roads - 3.8 ha (38,420 sq.m)
Total area of government plots - 7.5 ha
Total area of Government owned land = 11.3 ha (1,13,042 sq. m)
Urban Lake condition
Comparative ratio of urban area to water bodies in the city (lakes)
Meanwhile, Ahmedabad's water bodies are also vanishing day by day. Some are a result of climate change others a consequence of the systematic exclusion of water bodies in the city. The problem here is that it is always seen as a piece of land for urban development and accordingly certain monetary value gets assigned to them. This has worked against the conservation practice and that's how a lake gets killed. There are many ways to define a lake in India. According to the National Plan for Conservation for Aquatic Ecosystems (NPCA), a water body having a minimum depth of three meters, spread over more than 10 hectares, and having no or very little aquatic vegetation, is considered as a lake. However, there is no clear def i nition including the urban lakes in the city which increases the risk of these lakes disappearing. Currently, this doesn't include the urban lakes within city limits and there is an urgency to protect and restore these lakes.
Lake with Boundary and development creeping in the surrounding. Decreasing surface water.
Desperate need to keep people out of a 'public space' even though they have no shelter.
On an average Ahmedabad receives 800mm - 900mm of rainfall during the rainy season of Monsoon from June to October. These lakes can collect rainwater by connecting the stormwater drainage of the neighbourhood. It can rejuvenate and restore the lakes around the city which otherwise goes to waste. A mechanism needs to be put in place which can protect the lakes from not only such unprecedented development but also help them restore their natural condition to act as ecological shock absorbers.
Greenbelt was made as part of a paradigm shift in order to control urban sprawl in the early 1930s. The lack of policies for protecting the greenbelt, inconsistent policy framework which is always under amendments as per the need of the time and ongoing compensation battles, and erratic decisions into the invaluable vacancy across the city.
It acted as a temporary market, pasture, playground, parking, storage and also a place for anything that is not needed in the city, ironically both people and things. These vacancies provide an opportunity for a place of abode for the communities who have no choice elsewhere.
Shock Absorbers as an invaluable resource
Greenbelt failed as a mechanism at a planning level but it gave rise to uncertain, loosely held spaces due to contestations and ownership conf l icts that are invaluable land resources as vacancies. This failure unfolded lands that act as shock absorbers for the city where the city could not take pressures of housing problems, open green spaces which was the intent of greenbelt and day to day activities like being a playground, home for animals, as a guide to driving lessons, a storage facility for construction equipment and so on. The absence of these spaces will result in the loss of multiplicity that these activities brought together and the city will need to develop infrastructure to provide for such activities to take place elsewhere.
Accommodating the excluded
These vacancies are under a threat of ongoing development highly exclusionary, rigid and overly determining. The non-normative spaces are being replaced by normative spaces. The nature of these developments as a public space is quite linear and inclusive of only a few sections of the society. These non-normative spaces have reflected the stories of people who have been using them for decades, gradually becoming a part of their identities. These vacant lots are sites where the regulations are loose, and they often become places that are claimed by the marginalised communities or result in marginalised spaces.
Multiplicity counters Capitalism
These faces are being lost to the faceless development that is taking place over these vacant lands. These faceless visions are of those who can already afford them. Capitalism has given rise to the ‘crisis of abundance’ of such spaces that has resulted in the luxury of choice of normative spaces. Moreover, the public spaces owned by the state too offer a certain degree of exclusivity. Since most of them are gated and charge nominal fees, they exhibit the authority’s dire need to protect these gardens from a section of the very people for whom they are made.
We need to stop creating a singular, clean set of identities but to celebrate its multiplicity. “When things are made clear and defined, we forget”, Walter Hood. This holds true to the development that is coming up in these vacant lands.
“Great things can happen when we exist in each other’s world” - Walter Hood
Transient character empowers the idea of adaptability
Given that the new development is inevitable, how can we create an open system through which vacant spaces can demonstrate/exhibit as an alternative to faceless and gated public spaces?
A place that is transient and allows ‘conf l ict and dissonance’ for its growth can result in a place in the constant making - a dynamic form.
'Public' made 'Visible’
We need to capture these characteristics of vacancies that offer alternative urban commons in the city reflecting its multiplicity before it's taken over by faceless developments. Let them be democratic public spaces! - not in the legal sense, but as a tactile experience. Let us be empathetic where different sections of society can coexist and learn and interact with each other. Let us make visible, the invisible people and their living stories, through these public spaces.
The intervention in these spaces needs to be minimal which does not alter the nature of publicness and maintains the openness and uncertainty of the vacant lands. The need not be imposing but rather allows these multiplicities to exist and lets the identity of people who use them unfold.
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because and only when they are created by and for everybody.” - Jane Jacobs
// vacant lands as as an invaluable resource for ecological and social shock absorbers
// Protection of Urban Lakes
// Multiplicity of uses
// Transient character enabling adaptability
Re-imagining greenbelt vacant lands as potential sites to introduce an urban wetland infrastructure that would preserve the characteristic openness of vacant lands while also integrating the larger system with the operations of an adjacent urban lake (Malav Talav).
This framework is built with a three-pronged strategy approach - f i rst being the introduction of the urban wetland infrastructure, second being the integration with the urban lake for its ecological remediation and restoration, and lastly, building in the public urban commons within the first two strategies to create non-exclusive spaces along with the infrastructure that are indeterministic providing space for future shocks.
Wetland and Public space
2.1 DEVELOPMENT DIRECTION according to the contextual needs of the wetland.
1. WETLAND as a means to preserve the vacancy through a large urban blue-green infrastructure and to strategize the integration of public space within
1.1 OPEN SPACES amidst the urban green infrastructure and in between the development
2. ACCESSIBILITY to demonstrate different conditions with respect to the wetland and storm water drainage.
Through landform modif i cations and water system integration with the existing lake as the primary steps, the project implements a wetland system integrated with the urban lake Malav Talav on the site that would overtime generate a green infrastructure around it and resulting open spaces within The characteristics of openness of these vacant lands are captured through these indeterministic linear continuous green spaces emerging along the wetland and secondary pockets of open spaces in between the buildings.
Site runoff and Wetland Conf i guration
The employed geometry of the wetland is derived with exaggerated modif i cations of the existing site level conditions to enable optimal cut and f i l l processes. Intervening further into this primary level geometries give rise to small pockets in between the wetlands and seasonal recharge ponds while the spaces in between remain open. These pockets are created around the lowest points of the wetland and would result in conditions that largely inhibits development in the surroundings.