As a student pursuing Masters of Urban Design in the city of New Delhi, I have been very keen on understanding the city but my eyes have been trained to look at it from the lens of an Urban Designer focussed on form, space and function.
The workshop’s interdisciplinary approach, with scholars from various backgrounds such as urban geography, anthropology, art history, cultural history and fine arts exposed me to the idea of looking at the notion of a city beyond spatiality.
I leant how multiple forces are at play when an area transforms, how temporalities in space could be understood as a function of socio-economic and ecological structures of the place, how a fully lived space is simultaneously real-and-imagined, actual-and-virtual locus of structured individuality and collective experience and agency and how abstraction of time and space can be represented through striking visuals with a trained artist’s hand in less than a second.
The five days of the workshop were intensely educational and intensely fun at the same time culminating into an unforgettable and exhilarating experience.
Introduction and Background:
The workshop is a part of the Delhi excursion that took place from 25th of February to 2nd March in Delhi as a part of the project Urban Transformation and Place making: Learning from South Asia and Germany, funded by Germany academic Exchange Service (DAAD).
The project is a collaboration of Heidelberg University in Germany, Kathmandu University in Nepal and the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) in India.
The workshop held in Delhi aimed to foster collaboration among individuals from various disciplines, including urban design, urban geography, anthropology, art history, and fine arts. The primary objective of the workshop was to document and study the urban transformation in two contrasting aspects of Delhi. These two facets were Shahjahanabad, representing the historical influence of imperialism and the establishment of capitals, and Kishangarh, representing the rural history associated with the city’s historic capitals.
Methods employed for the study:
Secondary studies, Observation, transect walks, Semi-structured interviews, Focused group discussions, structured interviews, Photographs and videos, Sketches .
About Urban Villages:
Urban villages in Delhi have a rich history that dates back several centuries. These villages were originally part of the agrarian landscape of the region but have undergone significant transformations over time due to urbanization and population growth. Here is an overview of the history of urban villages in Delhi and their regulation:
Many urban villages in Delhi have existed for centuries and were established during the medieval period. These villages were typically located near major trade routes and water sources, making them attractive for settlement and trade. Over time, as Delhi expanded and new cities were built, these villages became absorbed into the growing urban fabric.
Urbanization and Transformation:
With the rapid urbanization of Delhi during the 20th century, many of these villages faced immense pressure from population growth and the increasing demand for urban infrastructure. As a result, several urban villages in Delhi have undergone significant transformations. The agricultural lands have been converted into residential and commercial areas, leading to a mixed land-use pattern within these villages.
Due to the lack of proper urban planning and regulation, many urban villages in Delhi experienced unplanned and unauthorized constructions. This led to issues such as congestion, inadequate infrastructure, and violations of building codes. The unauthorized construction in these villages has been a major concern for city authorities.
Regulation and Redevelopment:
To address the challenges posed by unauthorized constructions and urban encroachment, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has implemented various regulations and redevelopment schemes for urban villages. One of the notable regulations is the Master Plan for Delhi, which provides a framework for planned development and regulates land use in the city, including urban villages.
In the context of urban villages in Delhi, “Lal Dora” refers to a traditional land-use classification system that grants certain exemptions from building regulations and allows for agricultural activities within the designated area. Lal Dora is a term specific to Delhi and is commonly associated with the urban villages in the city.
Origin and Meaning: The term “Lal Dora” translates to “red thread” in Hindi. It originated during the British colonial era in 1908 when red threads were used to demarcate agricultural land within villages, which were exempt from certain land-use regulations. “Lal Dora” (red thread) was used to classify and differentiate “Abadi” (habitation) villages from the existing agricultural land.
The extended village abadi was enclosed within the new peripheral boundary known as ‘phirni’.
Exemption from Building Regulations: Areas falling within the Lal Dora boundaries are exempted from certain building regulations and bylaws enforced in other parts of the city. This exemption allows for more flexibility in construction activities and enables the local residents to make modifications to their properties without seeking formal approvals from the authorities.
The Extended Lal Dora plots can be transacted legally through registered sale deeds. On the other hand, the ownership of land falling within Lal Dora is only held by way of possession and is not recorded in the revenue records.
In 1957, the Delhi Municipal Corporation issued a notification and the government listed the lands under the Lal Dora classification, within, and on, the outskirts of Delhi.
When Delhi had its first master plan (1962), about 20 villages located within the urban area were declared to be ‘urban village’, a figure which has now grown to 135.
A scheme to improve civic services was started by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in 1979/80 and then transferred to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi in 1987/88.
Present day scenario:
These areas to be labelled as ‘mixed land use’ in a city’s context and that is where many of the urban villages in Delhi find themselves.
When the MPD will be notified, the lands of these villages would be included in the residential or commercial zones and the regions without these amenities and infrastructure will be upgraded.
Kishangarh, an urban village in South West Delhi district of Delhi, India, is predominantly inhabited by the Jat community. It is situated near Vasant Kunj and is nestled amidst the Aravali hills. Kishangarh is located between Mehrauli and Vasant Kunj, approximately 4 km away from the historic Mehrauli area, which is home to the iconic Qutub Minar. The village’s other extreme is around 7.5 km from the Indira Gandhi International Airport, with Munirka located approximately 5 km away. The western boundary of Kishangarh is formed by Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, which connects the main Vasant Kunj Marg with the Outer Ring Road.
The significance of Kishangarh lies in its historical and geographical attributes. It evolved as a village primarily dependent on cultivation as the main occupation. The village is located in a land profile that creates a depression, forming a natural basin where water collects. Consequently, these lands are highly fertile and have been used for agricultural purposes.
In terms of settlement patterns, Kishangarh’s nucleus is situated away from Mehrauli. This positioning on higher ground provides better water availability compared to the surrounding areas. Additionally, the village features flat land, facilitating agricultural activities.
Historically, Kishangarh had tanks or reservoirs that served the public as a water source for agriculture. These tanks also had separate compartments for women to change clothes (although now abandoned), and there were rules prohibiting the washing of clothes in these tanks. These tanks played a significant role in the village’s water management and agricultural practices.
Selection of smaller sites for study:
About Temple Street –
This particular street and the landmarks here are of historic significance. Hence, it was chosen for the study of urban transformation.
About Metro Street –
Upcoming Kishangarh metro station is changing the real estate dynamics and the movement in this street. Hence, it was chosen for the study of urban transformation
1. Transformation in community composition:
2. Transformation of Physicality:
3. Transformation of everydayness:
4. Transformation of place attachment through ethnographic accounts:
5. Transformation of aspirations:
Diksha Jain, a student at School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, pursuing a Masters in Urban Design. I believe that design can make a difference and creative solutions can be achieved for some of the world’s greatest contemporary issues. I want to keep learning and exploring various ways of bringing about change through research and design but do so keeping in mind the kind of world we bring to bear, one that cares for its citizens and the planet they inhabit.