Ahmedabad (Amdavad)

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A bit of a culture shock (although I’ve been to India once before) to say the least.  The traffic, the noise, the dirt, the heat, the animals (cows, goats) the poverty (naked and hungry children on the street), the wedding celebrations, are a constant stimuli on the senses.  The choas is back in full swing on these travels.
So, why Ahmedabad (I pose this question while asking myself at the same time)?

I think it’s necessary to see and live in some of the older parts of cities in order to truly understand what makes the new ones so different.  Before I left Dubai, I spent a significant amount of time in Deira, the older, more livable/walkable, part of the city.  It is the area that sprouted up around the old fishing village near the creek.  Deira was described to me as the old area of the town where the workers live.  I found it to be much more of a vibrant and egalitarian place to be.  It was the closest thing to a city that I could find in Dubai.  Comparably, Ahmedabad has much more going on, on so many more levels.  Not surprisingly, it has a much longer and complex history.

I’m here for the architecture and the company.  It’s good to get a break from the towers of glass and steel, and experience some architecture that is sensitive to local climate.  In the past few days I’ve spent time exploring an old step-well, Corbusier’s Sarabhai house, and Louis Khan’s Indian Institute of Management (IIM).  I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to travel to study buildings that are part of the original architectural cannon as well as those now built by architects who were influenced by that same set of canonical buildings.

I’m spending the day at HCP Design and Project Management (Berkeley CED Alum, Bimal Patel’s Architecture and Planning firm).  The firm is involved in several city-wide projects that suggest some ‘new city thinking.’  There is a project to upgrade the (poor) infrastructure of the city.  140km of the city’s streets are being outfitted with plantings, curbs, and clearer divisions for 2,3, and 4 wheeled traffic.  They call it Integrated Street Development.  And…they are working on a project to make a large man-made lake on the city’s south side “foster entirely new uses.”  It is a comprehensive plan that proposes “facilities for the informal sectior.”  Anyway, more on the indian public after I meet with Patel.

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