Interview with Architect Rajeev Kathpalia
1 How has your journey been with the foundation and BV Doshi?
Very often architectural practice is taken as a means to solve an issue. The challenge is to be able to identify what really is the issue. Is it what the architect’s client has identified as the issue, or is it a larger societal, cultural issue that needs to be addressed. Every issue has its political, economic and social nuance and I believe the Foundation’s role is to search beyond the known boundaries. Schools of architecture are inevitably focused on teaching, though ideally research must happen in them to help the profession in focusing on relevant issues. Unfortunately research in Schools of Architecture is limited and hence the role of the Foundation becomes even more relevant. Doshi is first and foremost a philosopher and teacher and I believe the Foundation is born from his deep belief of questioning and sharing the results of that questioning with society.
2. In one of your research papers published in 2011- ‘Blueprint – Vision for future cities’, you stress on the significance of ‘Miniaturizing cities.’ Please explain.
We travel to quaint Italian hill towns or Greek villages nestled in the hills butting the sea on their many islands. We admire their picturesque setting and rejoice in their tranquility. It amazes me that we walk the whole day to traverse the ends of these places, lounge in the little cafes and yet are refreshed and energized. What is their secret? Of course, we are on a holiday, and the weather is lovely but I believe it is the scale, a very walkable, pedestrian scale, and their fine grain that also makes a huge difference in our perceptions of these places! Should we not work towards making pedestrian friendly city environments in India? Can we not imagine pedestrian friendly precincts linked by mass transport, a series of dense, compact areas interconnected where you would rather walk than drive? This is what the article envisions.
3. There are organizations working towards the concept of ‘Car free days’ in India. Many cities across Europe have been effortlessly enjoying Pedestrian Zones and Car free zones. Implementation in India has been facing complications, yet gradually realizing the same possibility here. What are your thoughts on this?
In the city of Ahmedabad we are involved with two projects for the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority AUDA) where the major thrust is making pedestrian friendly spaces in the city. One is to prepare Local Area Plans (LAP) for the East West Metro rail corridor. Here we asked ourselves a fundamental question – the metro rail will be built but what will be the nature of the last mile connectivity? How will people come (or vice–versa go for that matter) from their homes to the Metro station? The way Ahmedabad is presently laid out, the majority of them will have to drive their two-wheeler or car or take an auto to get to the Metro station. If this happens then it is quite likely that many will choose to continue driving to their destination rather than take the Metro. The only way this can be changed is if you can conveniently walk to the Metro station. This means that the present urban blocks, which are very large in perimeter, need to be broken up and made permeable for people to walk easily throughout, especially to the Metro station. Streets need sidewalks and the quantum of space for sidewalks needs to be much larger in proportion to what is allocated for vehicles. The other project is planning for affordable housing on the periphery of the city. This project actually has helped us in identifying the issues of impermeable urban blocks cropping up in the last project and a way to eliminate this in the formation and expansion of the city at the onset. We have found that in Ahmedabad the rural landholdings on it’s periphery which are being brought into the ambit of the urban area are actually about the right size to be sensible, permeable and walkable urban blocks. Why not plan the town planning scheme in a manner that this is taken advantage off. By interlinking these various findings we will be able to make a more “home-grown” city rather than importing ideas from Singapore or elsewhere.
4. What are the definitions and the differences among ‘Redevelopment’, ‘Revitalization’ and ‘Restoration.’?
Restoration is to restore a building to its so-called original state. A difficult task at best, since original state is a difficult state to define. Redevelopment is a term usually used in connection with a larger area and several buildings together that are being restored partially or fully. Revitalization I suppose would be the term, when a building or area is derelict or defunct and is being redeveloped. This is today’s definition of these terms, tomorrow I might change them.
Source: Zingy Homes