(Excerpts from the paper “Sense & the City” published in Indian Journal ‘Context’)
Close interaction with the people, administrators and political leaders of historic precincts in Hyderabad and Shahjahanabad, Delhi, revealed a great enthusiasm among all to improve their general standard of living. But the notion of ‘space’ as perceived by the public officials is radically different from that of the public itself. The former habitually sees it as a commodity; while the latter freely lets the socio-cultural forces dictate its usage. This difference in perceptions often hinders redevelopment due to a deficiency in understanding the cultural economics and evolution of the city core. As a result, most livelihoods become vulnerable to these deficient perceptions. Conceptual approaches derived from existing and proposed regulatory and planning tools may offer solutions for sustaining the resources of historic city cores effectively.
Sustainability, indeed, is the only ideal to which a diverse population can and should, align. But in the drive for redevelopment, the very people for whom it is proposed tend to get left out of the planning process, leading to speculation. Going by the experience of working in historic city core of Hyderabad and Delhi, this ‘speculation’ has emerged to be the main obstacle to the redevelopment process.
The end users, residents, businessmen and other stakeholders of these areas are such a diverse group of people that the urgency of these ideas is overshadowed by vested interests and lack of faith in the government. While this diverse group does want change, the meaning of change differs for each. There is an overwhelming historic cultural economic force at work that requires not only design solutions, but an indigenous effort to dig into the system, understand its dynamics and bring out an economically sustainable solution tenable to all.
AN INDIGENOUS EFFORT: ECONOMY AND CULTURE
A precinct is a complex set of time and activity layers that are not simple to interpret. It helps to analyze these in a series of interrelationships and bring out their inter-dependencies to identify or isolate what needs to be planned, instigated, hoped for or predicted. Keeping space and its perception as the common factor, an experiential explanation of these inter relationships in the two city cores mentioned above forms the body of the paper. See the video below for an animated presentation of the above.