Where do I recognize patterns? Which patterns seem familiar to me?
The Team At the beginning of the workshop, I went into the field looking for constants. I don’t want to claim that I was able to free myself from these familiar patterns during the workshop, but I believe that the interdisciplinary work in the group helped me sharpen my eye for new patterns and to renegotiate familiar perspectives.
The Site The case of Kishingarh challenged my formal understanding of what is considered urban and put my own positionality into context. Solutions are already there and they are approved and developed by the people using them. Planning then is about empowering local knowledge and placemaking practices. Kishangarh shows how space is constantly renegotiated: the old negotiates with the new, the formal with the informal and the public with the private. The vital places do not emerge through top down planning, but through bottom-up placemaking processes. This first and foremost benefits the community. Planning should tie in with this to embed sustainable values that are sensible to the cultural context.
Takeaway Therefore planning needs to be understood as as a tool of empowerment and co- creation that must draw from the arts, social and natural sciences as well as the humanities.
We can’t just communicate quantifiable data, we need to establish subjective approaches to knowledge within and outside the scientific community. This is the only way we can explore and do critical place making. A critical engagement with place requires a critical engagement with oneself and an openness and willingness to work outside one’s disciplinary comfort zone. It might seem evident in theory but unfortunately practice oftentimes lacks the ambition to break patterns. Breaking patterns, that is what I take away from the workshop.
Placemaking and Urban Transformation
The making of home and neighbourhood amidst the forces of the global housing market
In 1962, the Delhi masterplan excluded several villages in and around the city from the planning process. The lack of regulations and an increased demand for housing resulted in severe restructuring and unique neighbourhoods. The so-called “urban villages” engaged in forms of self-provisioning by providing affordable housing, close-knit social networks and mixed use developments, making up for what formal planning has failed to supply. Our field site Kishangarh is one of many “urban villages”. Official planning institutions describe Kishangarh
as the result of a complex layering of unsafe, highly densified buildings, new high-end construction, gated societies, and illicit “JJ-clusters” (slum conditions) interspersed with traditional structures. During our field study, we asked: What is the difference between the lived
experience and the official portrayal of Kishangarh? What forms of placemaking are being brought forth that oppose that narrative? How do they manifest in physicality and experience?
Shaped by the official narrative of Kishangarh, we originally intended to investigate belonging and unbelonging of what we perceived as a constant, red thread of the place: rubbish and water bodies.
A day in the field and this intention was taught better. During the one-week workshop, my group and I, employed a case study approach to Kishangarh to see how different temporalities manifest themselves in Kishangarh, examining both the physical and lived experiences of the area. These two categories of research, which give rise to different forms of imaginaries shape the making of place (compare picture 1). To reveal the temporalities that oppose the government narrative, we employed a range of research methods, including semi-structured interviews, informal interviews, photo voice, and archive maps. The groups’ own observations are formalized through sketches and maps.
Our study focuses on the interrelation of ownership, aspiration, and place attachment in two specific street segments – (1) Temple Street and (2) Metro Street – in Kishangarh. Both the street names are fictional and made up by the group. The names derive from (1) the central location and the communal meaning of the temple complex in Kishangarh and (2) the recent development of a metro line being a transforming factor to Kishangarh.
- (1) Temple Street is characterized as a mostly residential area with a high proportion of renters and people from outside of Delhi moving in. Its physicality and typologies are more homogeneous compared to the second street segment.
- (2) Metro Street is characterized as a mixed used area, therefore its built fabric is more heterogeneous. The ground floors are mostly used for commerce. What does not have space there is being moved to the street.
Through the interviews we conducted, we identified three types of ownership: renter, owner and renter plus owner (see graphs 1-2). The study found that there is generally a higher pro- portion of renters in Kishangarh. The data from the interviews suggest that renters on (1) Temple Street most likely want to leave the place, while owners want to stay. Renters state economic reasons of feeling attached to the place, whereas owners name sentimental and communal reasons.
Data from (2) Metro Street paints a similar picture. Renters interviewed in the area either con- sider moving or want to leave. Owners and renters who do own a place on the side (e.g. shop) cite that they want to stay. Owners state economic reasons for their place attachment. Renters state besides an economic form of attachment, sentimental reasons for their place attachment. A communal form of attachment, even if not as pronounced as the economic and sentimental type, is present among all three categories of ownership.
When the data from both street segments is being combined that picture becomes even more clear and suggests an interrelation of ownership, aspiration and attachment that is influenced by economic, sentimental or communal types of attachment. The interviews suggest that the sentimental type drives from childhood memories or ancestry, the communal from family and community cohesion and presence and the most prominent type, the economic form of attachment, from financial security and ownership.
The different forms of attachment, aspiration and ownership bring forth multilayered dynamics that do manifest differently in movement and physicality of the place. We see people coming in for mostly economic and communal reasons. People moving to Kishangarh move there because they want to make a living or already do have contacts there. People chose to stay for the same reasons. They want to make profit by being an owner of running a business. Lastly, people leave because they fear or strive for personal and/or economic security or their roots are outside of Kishangarh.
This multilayered process of making a home, community making and the different forms of ownership, attachment and aspiration show in the physicality of Kishangarh, its typologies and its associated values and feelings. In comparison to (2) Metro Street, (1) Temple Street has a mostly homogenous built fabric. Our field study suggests that building typology is interrelated with ownership type. Due to low land prices in Kishangarh compared to the rest of Delhi, homeowners and developers have an interest in getting as much return as possible from their land. More recent developments, that are especially found in the street segment of (1) Temple Street, are residential buildings that try to accommodate as many flats as possible. In the segment of (2) Metro Street, the coexistence of different building styles was discernable. While wandering this area, one could observe, on the one side, a construction site being built, the homogenized style of modern building accompanied by red brick buildings display- ing individualistic style choices, as well as older buildings characterized by steel beam construction, that as one interviewee told us, will in the upcoming future be demolished. The diversity of this scenery illustrates well the multiple temporalities of the place. The contrast was even more apparent through these types of “modern” style buildings that could be found somehow anywhere in the world. Through the interviews we conducted, we could relate and associate keywords like “wealth” or ideas, that it is “suitable for the incoming population, that will surge with the construction of the metro”. One could derive from these interviews, that these building styles are to be seen as reactions or responses towards the future expectations, developments and the global property values suggesting an aesthetic of real estate which finds its way in with the promise of capital and increase in earnings. The process of home making or community making then is also associated with market dynamics.
What we see is a space that is not a fixed point in time but a place that merges different understandings and experiences of time. For one it functions as an entry point to the city of Delhi, for others as a point in their biography of homing. For some it has sentimental value, for others it offers the opportunity to follow the linearity of global market dynamics.
History, ideas of progress and future pathways join different realities and imaginaries of what Kishangarh should be, producing individual, official and collective forms of place-making that give uniqueness, opportunity but also conflict and constraints to the setting of Kishangarh. Kishangarh showed that the process of making a home is closely linked to community making
and market dynamics. The presence of community and family led to the choice of the place, being part of the housing market led to a feeling of security and stability for those not part of the housing market it led to a feeling of alienation and insecurity.
This suggests considering homing in the context of overlying processes of global housing market dynamics and of what I would call neighboring.
In planning the state-of-the-art category and scale is the neighborhood. Planning aspires to build modern, lively and equal neighborhoods. But how can we plan and build those communities if we do not understand the social processes of becoming a neighborhood or a neighbor? Is this the neighborhood and neighbor predetermined by the built structure? How is the process of neighboring interrelated with the housing market and the making of home?
This loose collection of impressions, thoughts and data of the one-week workshop in Kishangargh, Delhi is a prompt for a paradigm shift in planning and social sciences that not only should consider the process of homing but also consider the process of neighboring and its embeddedness in the dynamics of the global housing market.
On the ground and in praxis this means building on the culture that is already there by providing tools and platforms to incorporate the community’s knowledge and to embed sustainable values that allow for a resilient future of Kishangarh.
This could be organizing budling workshops that encourage the reuse of materials already there, design budlings with flexible ground floors, provision of basic infrastructure (water, streets), low barrier permission for budling, renter protection or the establishment of a community tax that must be payed by budling owners and must be invested for community purposes. Those suggestions and their potential trade-offs of course need to be considered carefully.
If I do imagine Kishangarh in 10 years from now, then it has the same thriving and vital character that I was experiencing when I was there. Planning should not strike it down but should understand and see itself as a tool of empowerment.
There needs to be a paradigm shift in planning and all related disciplines, one that takes local realities, histories, and narratives into account, to create healthy and sustainable cities and communities, not only in Kishangarh but worldwide.
Anne Morlock is a Master Student of Geography at Heidelberg University. In her studies she focuses on the interdependence of the lived and build space and its transformative potential. For that she draws attention to ecological, social as well as cultural and economic aspects. She brings these interests together in her curatorial work for the Metropolink Festival for Urban Art.