Sep 13, 2012

For those who are very fond of Urban Axis…

Diluting significance of urban Axis due to land constraint and transit retrofits?? 

At times you see someone being possessive or rather poetic about linearity of city architecture and geometry of urban fabric, being very peculiar about alignment of streets and visual axis, there is fair chance that he or she is an Architect and if you see someone rather sentimental or defensive about all this affair of axis and orientation, there is strong probability that you are interacting with an Urban Designer. Of course laymen also appreciate the beauty of carefully planned urban fabric and thoughtful positioning of landmark structures and public plazas etc. knowingly or unknowingly, they even travel faraway lands to witness the glory and charm of historic cities and as well as modern metropolitan cities and certainly formulas of urban patterns and  axis have great contribution in the making of a wonderful city as proven historically.

Let’s try to understand the quantum shift in the approach of city planning and redevelopment from couple of centuries back till today not to speak of future trend and try to analyze the “still un-deviated” intellectual affection for urban geometry specially axis call it inertia or stubbornness or whatever. All this in the light of mounting pressure of traffic; growing, busy and occupied population, all this in a city which is struggling everyday just to survive functionally that very day while managing the damage and backlog of many yesterdays. In a city which is going on a path very different than what perceived originally because of its changing priorities and unperceived growth, specifically in terms of transit requirements.

When Lutyen Delhi was perceived originally no one would have imagined that this very city is going to grow so much so soon that one day it will need a mass rapid transit system (MRTS) or may be more, like integrated transport system as we call it, no one thought that it will need “flyovers”? subways?? Underground transport!! Are you kidding? Elevated tracks, No way!! PRT?? What is that?? Such would have been the response of architects, Urban Designers and Planners of that time, someone go ask them, if you will, hire a time machine may be? And hence they planned wonderful avenues, boulevards, most importantly urban Axis what started as a core of city. Of course that’s the beauty and heritage of the city one can be proud of, but as city expanded the firmness and geometry of those axis and alignments got diluted, which was due to the race, race of providing accommodation and business to the exponentially growing population but still without recognizing the latent growth potential of the city otherwise they wouldn’t have planned low and medium rise land use in South Delhi and similar spatial positions at the present intermediate ring of city which they can’t really afford to! Now the focus shifted from axis to pockets, loosely arranged urban pockets, based on affordability and all. This diluting axial or otherwise geometry is also due to retrofitting, retrofitting of transit systems and development interventions and traffic management measures, like flyovers, underpass, subways, elevated tract, underground tunnel etc.

We were discussing axis, so let’s stick to the subject for a while. That colonial urban axis emerged from the need to showcase the extravagant luxury and prove their capacity, knowledge, authority and aesthetic or otherwise, while rest of the city fabric which emerged in recent decades was driven by the necessity to handle growth, priorities were different and will be different. The colonial axis was bliss to experience, still it is, while today’s axis in other parts of city is apparently agonizing an experience for many most of the time, waiting in a traffic queue today’s urban axis gives a view of more than mile long array of crawling vehicles bumper to bumper, again and again, everyday. Array of flashy car tail lights in the mirage of heat emerging from vehicles!   You can’t associate this axis with a very pleasant experience. What about aesthetic urban experience of thousands of those commuting in tens of mile underground tunnel or organic and maneuvering elevated MRT network? They don’t really come to witness the extraordinary experience which is historically associated with planned urban fabric.

Feelings attached to traditional values and formulas of what an ideal urban fabric should be have remained same while the needs and urban technologies have moved ahead. People tend to approach and appreciate modern cities and metropolis on the historically benchmarked cities and hence this disappointment. These contemporary cities demand a totally new approach of planning for preserving and nurturing its aesthetic beauty. What we seem to have achieved very convincingly historically, since centuries and beyond seems to be a big challenge today. It’s time to shed the nostalgia and comfort of proven urban design formulas and get back to drawing sheet to create new age aesthetics for new age cities in the light of new transit, growth and lifestyle needs and in the light of emerging and unexpected urban technologies and unexplored land use strategies. Though you can’t really design or plan for some urban technology or strategy which has not been invented or explored yet, but we can always keep some margin and scope today itself for future integration and urban retrofit which seem to be inevitable a phenomenon. Only one thing which is definite here is the growth, so let’s plan for growth. At least let’s try to acknowledge inevitability of growth today itself, for a better urban future, its aesthetics and character.

All said and done, fact remains that there is something really magical about the urban axis and it has repeatedly proven its worth and guess that quantum of our future city planning strategies and spatial arrangement will still revolve around it.          

“This post is dedicated to friend “Poppy” who really enjoy studying and analyzing urban axis across the world and has the habit to relate everything with the Axis phenomenon and seems he is having really good time deliberating about it with friend “Roomy”, only if he gets time free from study, if at all"
You can follow me on Twitter here
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

No comments: