Rethinking Design and Urbanity for Creating Eco friendly Sustainable Spaces

Prof. Charanjit S Shah Founding Principal Creative Group | Business Magazine

Urbanization is a huge challenge particularly in most of our Indian cities which have unauthorized, unplanned and chaotic growth.
The idea of smart cities is currently composed of real estate greed, polluted air, congested roads, haphazard parking, road rage, over crowded housing and so on. The blame game, though enjoyable, will not prevail because we are all responsible to the dismantling of humanity, and we hail from the same source – abiding traditions of indiscipline, chaotic aspirations, constitutional hurdles, professional incompetence, industrial corruption, and tropical apathy.
There is a persistent conflict between habitat and nature, inside and outside, ethics and resources. It is not possible to segregate different constituents of built environment which are all interconnected by a central nervous system and the five senses. Unlike mass produced ‘matchbox’ towers or rubber stamped, faceless apartment blocks, the purpose of architecture is to give a personal touch and an identity to the space. The human relationship is not just physical, but also in terms of psychological and emotional feelings which is completely lost in the constructions in India and perhaps globally. Quite often, in-spite of meeting all the functional requirements, using modern materials and workmanship standards, the urban form is uninspiring, lifeless and devoid of feelings. A designer has to search for the relationship between consciousness and space by creating emotionally responsive spaces.
The compartmentalized view has to be replaced by a holistic and interdisciplinary approach towards creating a smart, sustainable and aesthetically built environment. The dreams, fantasies and innovations need to be translated into design which responds to human, financial, socio – cultural and environmental contexts. The significance of smart cities lies in the interplay of infinite ideas and limited resources which include sun, air, rainfall, materials, budget and time.
Unfortunately, the current planning concerns ignore this folly and simply move on to fashionable titles for human settlements in urban areas such as ‘smart’ and ‘sustainable’ cities, etc. We define a ‘Smart City’ as a city which uses information technologies so that its critical infrastructure as well as its public services provided are more interactive and efficient to enable the citizens to be acutely aware of them.
For me, it strikes as a planning aberration because it covertly makes Man the means to let machines grow to acquire unwieldly proportions so that cities become abominations of technological advancements rather than poetic metaphors of human creativity. This tragic loss of staple diet of souls we compulsively create, and then to compensate it, unwittingly produce, at the mischievous diktat of MNCs’ hordes of eccentric entertainments to numb our senses to be pretending to remain sane in safe and sound environment.
With an example of Chandni Chowk, reformation and re-planning done in terms of interconnectivity, intermodality and green breathing public spaces are illustrated under.
Present Day scenario of Chandni Chowk
Old Delhi holds deep rooted heritage that showcases the richness in the socio-economic, cultural and architectural grounds ever since the Mughal Dynasty to the Colonial era. Chandni Chowk was and still is renowned as one of the largest undying wholesale markets in India.
Chaotic roads with no segregation of pedestrians and vehicles
Falling in a closed circuit with the Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Railway Station, and Chawri Bazaar, Chandni Chowk advocates responsibility, being the crucial area of connectivity to both stagnant and floating population. It has sadly reached a point where the Chowk is abused by human interventions, vehicular congestion, dense floating population, and air, water and noise pollution.
Chandni Chowk with important landmarks
Understanding the complexity of urban fabric, surge in population and the unorganized functioning of Chandni Chowk, Creative Group has come up with feasible intermodal transport system with technologically advanced methods. The metro system that connects Chandni Chowk with Kashmiri Gate and Chawri Bazaar runs underground.

The proposed section for underground intermodality in Chandni Chowk

Additionally, properly furnished pedestrian paths could be laid, which regularize the current pedestrian congestion. There is an important need to consider ease in vehicular movement to relieve the pressure in regards to uncontrolled pollution levels. Unorganized parking practices need to be bifurcated into two parts as passer and stationary vehicles. Buses, cars and two wheelers could be taken further underground, thereby comforting the lungs of the city.
The holistic vision is to establish a cohesive intermodal transport system that connects Chandni Chowk internally and externally underground. The greenery and richness in the character will be reinvigorated by reviving the ‘Town hall’ and other deceasing heritage buildings in and around the Mahatma Gandhi Park.
Creating pollution free, open green breathing spaces

Skywalks are also considerable methods to improve the internal circulation amongst markets and other stop points. Reintroduction of Trams, one of the greatest heritages of the ‘Walled City’ which perished decades ago, could nourish the splendor of Delhi. Separate tracks are proposed to be laid along with the pedestrian pathways above the ground level for the trams to run around Chandni Chowk, connecting important nodes. Apart from these proposals, the concept of last mile connectivity with rapid underground intermodality is envisioned to connect destinations in and around Chandni Chowk.
The urban pressure due to population, demand of transits has developed into over layering of cities with flyovers, overhead metro and foot over bridges resulting in over-shadowing the living spaces and creating the most polluted cities in the world.
The directive Principle of our national urban – planning policy should be to ruralize our cities rather than urbanize our villages. This approach would ensure that our centuries – old culture is kept vibrantly alive; Providing Urban facilities in rural fabric should be the concern. Our national trait is rusticity, not sophistication, that remains rooted in our ‘Collective Unconscious’ as a living tradition of humaneness, compassion, camaraderie, and informal lifestyle sustained by undiminishing love of Mother Nature!
About the Author
Prof. Charanjit S Shah is the Founding Principal of Creative Group – a leading architecture firm striving to achieve and create living, Breathing Structures that are intelligent and Self-Sustainable. His life coverage in the field of sustainable practice has been recognized by a renowned magazine. He has also been facilitated with CBR Global Transport Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award in Mumbai.
An Architect by profession, and an educationist & academician at heart, Prof. Charanjit shares his views on Green Architecture saying, “A building should not be treated as a mass of brick and concrete but as a living organism which breathes and embodies with nature.”

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