Topic for Debate
To project Delhi as a heritage city
Delhi has an accumulated architectural heritage that is significant enough for it to be compared with other world heritage cities such as Edinburgh and Rome. However this heritage is mostly neglected which is a tremendous loss; culturally and economically. In the light of the commonwealth games that are to be held in 2010, we must choose to project Delhi's identity to the world.

What are the implications of such an initiative? Is it valid? Does it negate globalising forces shaping Delhi's cosmopolitan culture? What shall be our approach, if so for synthesising future development with the objective of conserving our heritage?

I am a final year student of TVB School of Habitat Studies, Delhi, and the above mentioned is shaping my response for the urban design studio Contrasting viewpoints are welcome and constructive criticism shall be appreciated.
Abhishek Mathur
To project Delhi as a heritage city
As far as I know, Delhi has always been projected as a heritage city. But the way it is maintained is what needs to be questioned.

If you are interested in the urban design of Delhi, you should make sure you remember that Delhi has in itself 7 different cities. You should therefore remember to address them individually.

But I do agree with you in that the common perception is that Delhi is badly managed and maintained with regards to articles of historical value. But it is still projected as being a great historical city.

This is a fact that cannot be denied.
Nirup Jayanth
To project Delhi as a heritage city

It is good to see a fellow TVB-ite contributing to meaningful discussions on ArchNet.

Having recently completed my Master's thesis on Delhi, I may have some food for thought towards your studio project. While I generally agree with you in that there needs to be a better management system for the city inclusive of a healthy conservation and heritage preservation charter, the issue is far more complex than just that.

As Nirup pointed out, Delhi has always been seen as an ancient city whose palimpsest is richly embedded with heritage dating back to at least 3,500 years. Although your posting seems more to hint at 'projecting' Delhi as a heritage city meaning 'marketing' Delhi as one in the wake of Commonwealth Games -- one only scratches the surface of the complexity in this issue. If your project is merely concerned with projection, read Kevin Lynch's Image of the City.

If we look at Delhi today, one notices distinct fractures in its urban form; the old (Mughal and before), the colonial and the post independence city (sprawl). Now there has been some recent lobbying to declare Delhi as a heritage city under the auspices of the UNESCO. The critical part here is that most politicians, bureaucrats, DDA and others want to include Lutyens' Delhi as a part of the heritage precinct. There are gross implications of this from an urban point of view. New Delhi is an inverted city -- low densities in the center and pockets of high density on its periphery -- barring the CP area. Preserving the low densities in the center has led to significant sprawl and disconnection with the old city. All hope of redensification in the center gets killed if Lutyens Delhi becomes a part of the Heritage precinct, meaning the politicians get to keep their bungalows with huge lawns continuing to be a drain of resources on the entire city. There have been no attempts to integrate the old city with the new -- DDA's track record is awful -- we all know that! Vested interests have always prevailed and now in the name of heritage and preservation they want to stop any further development in the center, preserving the enclave for rich politician types while the rest of the city sprawls without adequate public infrastructure.

Surely, the pre-colonial stuff needs to be taken care of and maintained, more so integrated with the new city as Shahjahanabad is a living city even today. Most of the development for the Commonwealth Games is centered around the Jamuna waterfront area -- they are even building on the flood planes!! For sure Delhi needs to wake up and smell the coffee, I believe that the citizens should become more involved in its changes. So many contradictions: building the metro on one hand and making fly-overs all over the place to encourage more auto use!!

I feel the whole Heritage thing is a sham, one needs to get into the fine print of what that means for the city and its sustainable evolution. Do you want Shahjahanabad to become another Hauz Khas village, gentrified for the rich? Maybe, but where do you put all the people from there: relocate on the periphery - more sprawl!!! These are just some issues to think about. If you need more info, contact me at and I would be happy to send you bits of my master's work in case it is relevant.

Anubhav Gupta
To project Delhi as a heritage city
Anubhav, hi,

You have picked up a very crucial topic. In fact anyone who saw/sees Bombay today and during the rains will also shudder to think that this is the future of any city in India. Totally politicised, with planning principles thrown out. However, there is also a major issue hurting all metros, and for that matter all cities in India - lack of rural development - hence the mad rush to urban areas for jobs.

Coming to the main topic, as a student, Abhishek, you should know that there are varius sub-cities inside Delhi:-
1. Indraprastha
2. Red Fort
3. Shajanabad
4. Civil Lines
5. Lutyens Delhi
6. Current Planned Delhi
7. Squatter settlements (not slums - Shahjanabad is also termed a slum)

You need to identify which Delhi you wish to pick up.
Anubhav - any comments?
Chitradeep Sengupta
To project Delhi as a heritage city

Thanks for joining this discussion. I agree with you entirely that metros in India need to get their acts together -more to survive sustainably in our case rather than embarking upon global goals of being competitive cites on the world map.

Although my response does bring out a distinction between the pre-colonial and post independance city, I am not entirely sure we should look at Delhi in the fragmented form that it represents today. The reason you could easily divide up Delhi in your taxonoy sheds light on the fact that indeed the city is divided and fractured. There needs to be a comprehensive overarching vision plan for the city as a whole which brings together all its parts to form that whole - surely each part deserves its own interest and begs for possible solutions bearing in mind that these solutions comply with the entire vision. There are both pros and cons to treating Delhi and its parts separately or under the auspices of one large vision - with separation we run the risk of further division; with one vision, say heritage, we run into the problem that I highlighted in my earlier posting.

As for Abhishek - it is the classical dilemma in any urban design problem - whether to start from small and go big or big and then zoom into small.

Anubhav Gupta
To project Delhi as a heritage city
Thanks for the feedback everyone,

I would like to first comment upon Nirup's observation that Delhi has been and always is projected as a heritage city. I feel that although that's what one would like to think as obvious, the architectural growth and development post-independence does not truly reflect this mindset. We are conscious of Delhi's undisputed heritage value, yet we decide to negate the implications posed by negligence in maintenance and conservation work of the same. Although one takes pride in exceptional monuments such as Qutb Minar and Humayun's Tomb, very little has been done to acknowledge the presence of equally significant heritage buildings, such as Khirki Mosque and Balban's Tomb, to name a few. Agencies such as INTACH, ASI and SDA are making an effort at their repective scales, and the public in general remains oblivious to the equally significant unprotected heritage of Delhi.

The seven cities of Delhi make an excellent case in point. They ar,e namely, Lal Kot/Qila Rai Pithora, Siri, Tughlaqabad, Jahanpanah, Ferozabad, Shergarh and Shahjahanabad. Indraprastha is still a mythological city as its evidences have not yet been authenticated and the rest of the post-independence sprawl along with Lutyen's Delhi is, acording to me, the fabric that interwines with the historical footprints of the ancient cities to form Delhi's entity.

Coming to the point that Anubhav had raised in his first posting, I agree that guidelines for development around the protected monuments need to be reviewed, specially in areas such as Shahajahanabad where preservation can only lead to further decay. Also, sensitive developmental strategies need to be pursued in the areas around the still unprotected built heritage of Delhi. It might be of interest to note that an Indian charter for unprotected sites and monuments has already been presented to INTACH Delhi Chapter by Prof. Menon. INTACH itself has recorded more than 1200 unprotected heritage sites and monuments in Delhi.

All this points towards a growing awareness and acceptance of Delhi's heritage. The point of introducing it in the light of the Commonwealth Games is to present the case for projecting Delhi as a heritage city as an opportunity rather than a whimsical demand. The impact of events such as this can be gauged by the development that took place for the Asia Games held in the 1980's. Such events put the issue of urban design in the spotlight, and one must exploit this opportunity to optimally benefit the city as a whole and not individuals. Anubahv is right about people politicising the event, but one has to take a stand and not let things go in the default direction.

I further agreee on the issues such as flyovers in the city and the urban sprawl, but one needs to counter them with a strategy. They are universal problems of the city and may have different solutions, all viable, but one has to choose them in the light of a bigger framework that outlines the holistic growth of the city and lends it its identity. Therefore, although I am fascinated by parameters exposed to me, I would still look for a strategy that shall be sensitive enough to incorporate all of them and still have a overriding statement. For now, I believe that projecting Delhi as a heritage city shall not only unify a fragmented identity of Delhi but also be able to review the developmental guidelines in the light of the 'rediscovered' heritage of the city.

By the way, I am deeply fascinated by the case of Lutyen's Delhi and it should form an integral part of the discussion. It would be quite useful to get more info on this issue.

Eager for responses,
Abhishek Mathur
To project Delhi as a heritage city

Since a lot of parameters are coming up, I would suggest that you find out, or if you already know, what is the purpose of your exercise to 'highlight' Delhi as a heritage city in light of the Commonwealth Games? Why this topic in the first place? Is it a PRO exercise for Delhi or is it for tourism, or is it for impact due to games or is it for...?

Well, whatever the case may be, I suggest that you focus.

My own point about the Commonwealth Games in Delhi is as simple as this: Another excuse to make sure that the rural crowd all the way from South to East to West to North India comes to Delhi and to Delhi alone. No reference to 'heritage', etc. Rather negative impact. More flyovers to make traffic comfortable. But what-the-hell, you'll find it difficult to cross the same flyover after maybe just 6 months. Try the Ashram Chowk or Lajpat Nagar flyovers for example.

With so much pollution still (even after CNG-ing Buses), the Tombs of ( )- well, all of them may require face-lifts.
In case it is a PRO exercise, then you need to decide if it is a permanent one or a temporary (typical sarkari) lipstick job, to be erased after the show is over. (Haven't you seen truck loads of 'murram' being laid out whenever a minister comes calling, only to be blown off by wind or washed away in the rain later.

So I think that you need to build up a matrix and find out what is it that specifically you are looking at. (Just don't take the temporary approach, your Head may not take it kindly) :) For the permanent approach, you need to study the environment impact on 'heritages' that could happen due to more urbanisation of Delhi in the next, well, 5-15 years. You need to back-calculate and take steps accordingly. This itself will guide you a lot towards solution of your exercise. Many of the solutions you may find very difficult to actually implement, but at the same time a little research on materials may bring you to simple but expensive solutions for the protection of monuments. Only then you can think of highlighting, etc.

By the way, is it your thesis?
Chitradeep Sengupta
To project Delhi as a heritage city
Hi Abhsishek (and all),

Well, I'm a non Delhi-ite and in fact belong to, a rural background, but then, I think that helps me to look at Delhi as the capital city of my nation.

And in fact that only helps to understand its problems. Because the basic problem as of now, apart from mismanagement, is the excessive and continually rising migrating population to the city.

So, as one rightly pointed that to better Delhi, we have to better India. In fact, it's altogether a different approach, in which we have to go from bigger to smaller.

Modernize and equip the surroundings and other parts of the country, and that will obviously translate into less people flocking to Delhi and hence a less burdened city. And that will not just put off the load from the city infrastructure but will also help to calm the demand of the ever-increasing population which is encroaching on even the historic landmarks.

But the problem does not end here. I recently flipped through the centuries'-old lithographs of the city and found out something startling. Even in the 18th and 19th centuries, the hallmarks like the "Jama Masjid", "Hazrat Nizamuddin's Dargah", "Isa Khan's Tomb," and other notable structures were all surrounded by unplanned shanties. The only difference is the scale of the problem, which has now evolved into monstrous proportions.

The solution lies in a comprehensive plan; look at the Delhi metro. Recently there was news that the Central secretariat station has brought with it unimagined parking problems that may be irrelevant to the issue but still show the myopic sight of the planners.

We must take into account the present-day realities and our steps to preserve heritage must not translate into destruction or stagnation for others, let's not make heritage just a showpiece for the rich few to enjoy... Rather, let's make it a happening life for the millions.

I'm doing a similar revitalization study for Orchha, presently a settlement of the proportions of a village, which was once the capital of "Tikamgarh" and has an incomprehensible amount of heritage booty lying unattended.

And I realized that the long-lasting revival of the place lies in communmity involvement. The same is true for Delhi. Clean the slums of Shahjahanabad, but not the slum dwellers. And as sports reflect the dynamism of life, we can aptly take the cue by applying this dynamism to the approach for heritage revivalism by actively involving the public.
Vidhu Saxena
To project Delhi as a heritage city
Hi to all,

First to answer Chitradeep's query, this discussion is because of a simple question raised in my urban design studio -- what is the future direction of the city of Delhi?

I had initiated the response by introducing the thought of projecting Delhi as a heritage city. My opinion is that issues such as those of migration, urban sprawl, transport problems are generic issues of any city. We can formulate different case studies that can help shape out development strategies that shall be part of a larger context. In the objective of this larger context, one has to establish Delhi's identity, that shall be able to guide our future directions. The rapid globalisation today has strongly made its presence felt in the city and people of Delhi have started to identify with these derivative or borrowed examples of architecture. There is a fear that our own cultivated and accumulated heritage may cease to exist. Even the conservation practices used to safeguard our heritage are borrowed. That is why I can observe a general unrest amongst people when they talk about conservation as they mostly are familiar with preservation rather than conservation. The western viewpoint is contrastingly different from our Indian perceptions of buildings and their maintenance. Therefore, I agreed before that development guidelines need to be reviwed in places such as Shahajahanabad where the living people are forced to remain frozen in time to protect the built heritage. That is absurd. One must also realise the presence of an intangible heritage which is manifested in people's routines, language, lifestyle etc. But we must realise that having said that we cannot only be happy in protecting the intangible and clearing the old city.

With the help of technological innovations of today, one can look for striking a balance between mantaining our cultural values and need for growth within a existing fabric. One must, however, establish firm ground on which one can progress. We cannot progress unless we know where we are going. If we are going to a global city so be it, but we have to first assert our position.

I would also like to see contrasting viewpoints for development of the city, if any. That should be fairly interesting.

Eager for responses,
Abhishek, TVBSHS
Abhishek Mathur
To project Delhi as a heritage city
Hello Abhishek,

As far as I can make out, your intended exercise is not just limited to tackle the "architecture" but in fact the whole culture and lifestyle of Delhi. And so its a complex task.

Not just because it has to deal with several aspects, but moreover each aspect has numerous angles into it. Look for example, the occupation, which deals with the government babus of new Delhi to the centuries old crafstsmen of old Delhi.

This multitude and variety is but apparent in architecture also. And to give optimum weightage to each aspect, is although ideal but still a monumental task. I do not know how far I am correct. But I think that zeroing on one particular type, or two three similar types... May allow you to deal in more depth with the issues, keeping in mind the limitation of time.
Vidhu Saxena
To project Delhi as a heritage city
Hi Abhishek

It is indeed a useful attempt to initiate this discussion. Thanks to you and others who have already started contributing to this dialogue.

The subject is rather complex and needs to be handled carefully, sensitively and sensibly. It would of great help, and create some clear space in your own perception and understanding if you could IDENTIFY and LIST down the CRITICAL ISSUES that would direct this discussion. And focus it to those aspects that would consequently inform your approach to design or rather urban design studio. Try and structure the complexities: those that are inherent to this subject and those that surround it. Let me start with one issue:

Defining 'Delhi' as historic environment or heritage. What are the aspects that give Delhi its Delhi-ness? What makes Delhi so significant and outstanding?
Navin Piplani
To project Delhi as a heritage city
Anubhav Gupta
To project Delhi as a heritage city
To All and Paromita,

ArchNet has the facility to share space under a group workspace, to start a forum this setup invite members and gether information on the subject, to share views/opinions/data. We should be in a position to influence the decision makers.
Dushyant Nathwani
To project Delhi as a heritage city
1638: A rollback

- Old Delhi to recapture part of the look that Shah Jahan gave it

His right hand furiously stirring a steaming pot of freshly made potato curry, Mohammed Shamshad recalls the tales he�s heard of the capital.

Of kings mounted on elephants that bore the royal insignia on their foreheads.

Of the majestic Red Fort and the pond opposite that shimmered silver in the moonlight, the bustling bazaar around the pond, and how they came up one after the other almost in the blink of an eye.

Stories of Shahjahanabad in its heyday transport Shamshad back to the early nineteenth century. The samosa seller has heard the tales from his parents, and they from theirs�.

Soon, Shamshad might get to relive some of this history.

Delhi plans to restore the glory of India�s former capital, the Mughal seat of power from 1638 till 1857 when the British overthrew the last emperor. Since then, Shahjahanabad has languished in neglect in the backyard of the new capital the Raj built to its south: New Delhi.

Early this March, the Delhi government and a team of senior planners and heritage conservationists decided at a meeting to leave behind decades of dithering.

Finally, the time had come for the beautiful but neglected old capital to be reborn.



The idea of re-planning Shahjahanabad � also called the Walled City or Old Delhi � isn�t new. Each of Delhi�s masterplans since Independence has cited the need to preserve the old city�s heritage. But somehow, the ideas were never followed up with action. Until now.

The plan aims to breathe new life into the suffocating old city, whose worn-out body is pockmarked with national treasures � 42 of the 170 heritage monuments preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Senior planner A.G. Krishna Menon, heading the team in charge of Shahjahanabad�s planned facelift, recognises the task won�t be easy.

�Restoring the havelis, modernising the sewerage, water and electricity supplies, improving traffic and parking... the issues are many and complex,� he says, his pen working busily on some of the draft plans at his office of director, TVB School of Heritage Studies, in Vasant Kunj.

It took Shah Jahan 11 years, from 1638 to 1649, to build his capital after shifting base from Agra. The planners, in contrast, hope to give Shahjahanabad the new � or old � look by the September 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Studies on traffic patterns at different times of the day are under way, and detailed plans are being drawn up.

Improving the living conditions for the residents � many of whom, like Shamshad, have lived here for generations � will be the focus of the new plan, according to the Delhi government.

�We need the full cooperation of the residents. The new plan has to serve the interests of the residents first and foremost,� says a bureaucrat known to be close to chief minister Sheila Dikshit.

Menon and his team will be reporting to the chief minister for the implementation of their plans while the Delhi Urban Arts Commission and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) will be assisting them in the planning process.

Shahjahanabad�s majestic havelis � residential quarters on three sides of a rectangular perimeter with a gateway on the fourth side leading into an open central area � will be renovated along their original architectural designs.

�Modern structures, by contrast, have the concept of large lawns with the house laid back in the compound. We will preserve not just the haveli character, but ensure that any rebuilding is done with the same material as the original,� says Menon.

The main streets that connect the Red Fort, the Jama Masjid and markets such as Chandni Chowk were never broad, recalls Shamshad, from the stories passed on to him.

But city planners seem to concur that the most visible deterrent against visiting Old Delhi � cycle rickshaws, cars, trucks and pedestrians jostling for space on roads choked with traffic � is a legacy of the British.

By bringing the Old Delhi railway station into the heart of the city � ramparts of the Red Fort and several spacious gardens were demolished in the process � they encouraged wholesale traders to set up shop in the locality.

With the wholesale traders came, and continue to come, armies of trucks and cycle rickshaws ferrying goods in and out of the narrow alleys, burdening a city ill equipped to deal with the sudden surge in people and vehicles.

�The old city was planned to be self-sufficient. After the railway station was built, it suddenly had to bear the burden of trade for surrounding areas like New Delhi, and with time, other parts of north India,� says professor .P. Jain, Intach convener.

The planners have identified areas outside the Walled City, but equally near the Old Delhi railway station, where they propose to shift the wholesale market.

�The distance will not be any further from the railway station. Also, for those wholesale traders who live in the Walled City, the distance will not be large,� says Menon.

With space between the shops and havelis at a premium, electricity cables dangling dangerously close to each other have led to scores of fires in the region.

A maze of underground tunnels carrying electricity wires across the old city is the proposed solution. The planners want the Delhi government to use highly mechanised digging tools that can scoop out tunnels without disrupting life on the streets above.

Parking, another hassle for those who visit the old city, will also be upgraded.

Detailed drawings have been prepared to accommodate parking facilities for cyclists, two-wheelers, auto-rickshaws and cars without substantially reducing road width. Dustbins, benches and drinking water facilities will be placed near every street corner.

A revamped underground drainage will control the sewage from spilling onto public space.

Specific boards will be put up for advertisements to eliminate the eyesore of hoardings hanging from turrets on architecturally beautiful buildings.

�The old city is now dying. The new plan could prove historic,� says professor Ranjit Mitra, head of the conservation department at the School of Planning and Architecture.

The planners say the lessons learnt from a successful rebirth of Shahjahanabad could be employed in other Indian cities with heritage buildings on narrow roads.

�Traditionally, planning for the heritage part of our cities has been neglected. For instance, in Calcutta, so much money and time has been spent planning Salt Lake, building the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, etc. Old Calcutta has been left to fend for itself,� says Menon.

For Shamshad, the plan could mean the end of a nightmare.

�The memories of Shahjahanabad�s glory are weakening with time. I don�t want my children to miss out on the wonderful heritage that is rightfully theirs.�

If Menon and his team succeed, they won�t.
Socratic Quest


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