Our cities, ourselves

Our cities, ourselves

A travelling exhibition that showcases futuristic visions of 8 cities around the world, as they could look like in 2030.

Institute for Transport and Development Policy (ITDP) is a non-profit organization working to promote environmentally sustainable and socially equitable transport solutions worldwide. Having completed 25 years of operation, ITDP had organized an exhibition named ‘Our Cities, Ourselves’ in New York, which featured 10 cities around the world. For each city, ITDP had recruited one architectural firm to create a master plan and a series of images of a 1 square kilometer area of their assigned city, as it could appear in 2030. The master plan and images feature ITDP’s best practices for sustainable transport. Ahmedabad was one of the cities featuring in the exhibition, and the 1 square kilometer site selected was in Jamalpur area. The architecture and urban planning company selected for Ahmedabad was HCP Design and Project Management Pvt. Ltd.. The exhibition consisted of analysis diagrams for the site as it is today; and a master plan, a site section and 3D renderings of the site as it could appear in 2030.

The plans and renderings show how Ahmedabad can be made more liveable and sustainable if planning and transportation policies are aimed at: 1) retaining a mix of land uses; 2) transforming the urban morphology by densifying the built form and creating meaningful open spaces; 3) reducing the building block sizes and mandating arcades; 4) breaking large parcels of land and making them traversable; 5) creating improved public spaces like parks, plazas, playgrounds and facilities; and 6) improving the mass transit system by providing the BRT and making exclusive pedestrian and cycle routes by building sidewalks and dedicated cycle lanes.

The project team firstly defined the 1 sqkm area, whose futuristic master plan would be designed. The area was demarcated to take into consideration the traditional walled neighbourhoods, the Sabarmati Riverfront, empty mill lands and comprising roads with the possibility of developing the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS).

Aerial View of the 1 Sqkm. site in Jamalpur area, Ahmedabad (year 2010

This was followed by the team visiting the site and conducting extensive surveys to understand the area better from an urban design perspective. We tried to understand movement of people, their needs and living conditions before creating the master plan for the area. Six parameters were analysed to understand the existing situation of the area, and to propose future vision for it.

  1. Public right of ways: Existing situation involved large non-traversable urban blocks that made pedestrians and cyclists movement difficult. However, the future proposal involved creating smaller traversable blocks and increased number of right of ways. By breaking the urban blocks into smaller blocks, a better urban culture could also be formed.
  1. Land use: Existing land use comprised residential and industrial uses in a majority, with very little area left for the public realm. However, in the proposed plan, we designed for an increase in commercial, mixed use and garden land uses to support the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS); and to increase the area of the public realm.
  1. Density: the existing build density of Jamalpur comprised low-rise high-density buildings, with large chunks of unoccupied and unused industrial land. This kind of density would not support the use of public mass transit system (BRTS). Therefore, in the propose plan, the area was densified and unused land was used for development to support the mass transit network, as well to accommodate more people to live in the neighbourhood close to the riverfront.
  1. Public spaces: There was a dearth of public spaces in Jamalpur area. The area only had one small public park and public plazas, which were part of the municipal flower market. However, none of these were aesthetically pleasing or functionally meditative. Moreover, in spite of the presence of a developed riverfront lower promenade, it was inaccessible because of presence of graveyards private property abutting the riverfront land. In the futuristic proposal for Jamalpur, more public plazas, parks, playgrounds and means to accessible the riverfront promenade were created.
  1. Transport infrastructure: Public transport has always been a more sustainable means of transporting people, in comparison to motorised private vehicles. Mass public transit helps carry a large number of people together. However, it needs to be supported by a good built-up density for it to be financially viable. In Jamalpur of present day, the built-up density cannot support the BRTS. Therefore, after increasing the built-up density to accommodate more population, thereby increasing more passengers, two routes were demarcated for the BRTS. One of the routes followed the state highway and the other one connecting the eastern and western part of Ahmedabad. Moreover, since cycling is also condired to be a sustainble mode of transport, dedicated cycle and pedestrian paths were demarcated for easy movement of residents and visitors alike.
  1. Urban morphology: It is the study of the form of human settlements and the process of their formation and transformation. It helps in understanding the spatial structure of a metropolitan area/ city. The current urban morphology comprises slums, low-rise low-density residential quarters, vernacular housing and detached buildings. Slums and low-density low-rise residential quarters presented a poor quality of living; therefore they needed to be redesigned to be more liveable yet represent their building typology. Hence, the urban morphology was designed to seamlessly blend the contextual, vernacular and modern to create a new identity for Jamalpur.

Based on this detailed analysis, a master plan for the area was designed. Moreover, we wanted to understand does it mean to live in Ahmedabad – what defines ‘Ahmedabad’ and how do you identify with the city. Therefore, we created several iterations of renderings to show a future area in Ahmedabad that was modern yet representative of the city; and a place that the residents of the city could identify and connect with.

Proposed future master plan for Jamalpur (year 2030
Legend for the proposed future master plan for Jamalpur (year 2030

Keywords: Masterplanning, envisioning, futuristic planning, urban design, contextual design, transit oriented development, bus rapid transit system, walled city, Ahmedabad, futurescaping