The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Make contact at the crossroads
- Architect advocates parallel walk-through to link heritage points

Architect-visionary Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi, who gave the city the “home-plus” concept with Udayan, The Condoville, has called for “a parallel pedestrian network”. Separated from vehicular traffic and linking the heritage points through stylised nodes, it will recreate the magic of vintage Calcutta and sensitise the citizens.

Doshi was in the city on Thursday to assess works of budding architects, who were invited by Ambuja Cement Eastern Ltd to provide design solutions for the roundabout in front of Ruby General Hospital. City architects Prabir Mitra and Dulal Mukherjee and the company’s managing director Harshavardhan Neotia were the other members of the jury.

“This small exercise of beautifying a traffic island could be the starting point for such a network. The idea is to create landmarks like India Gate in Delhi, which give the city identification and recognition. If six or seven such nodal points can be established at important crossroads, the city can get a whole new chain, which should be freed of vehicular traffic,” explained Doshi, the representative for Le Corbusier in Paris and Ahmedabad.

To invent such a network, the old city masterplan has to be carefully studied, he felt. “The key to urban planning is establishing layers of connection with a hierarchy. The heritage points can be connected through a continuous walk or a guided tour of such nodal points, which should attract people like bees to a honeycomb. Underground passages can also be built to lead up to these focal points.”

Doshi is confident that efforts like this traffic circle beautification drive will have an impact on the city’s architecture, eventually leading to a better skyline. “The buildings in the vicinity will also respond, thus creating areas of interest for the pedestrian, to arrest his gaze, engage him in dialogue. Such conversation can be triggered even at the smallest of places, maybe with a birdbath, a small adda or a park-bench.”

The Padmashree architect, the creator of the Husain-Doshi Gufa, lamented that social connections were eroding and human contact decreasing as cities expand. “All the more reason why we should create such public realms to give the people avenues to meet and interact. Platforms like informal theatre or music can foster a cultural dialogue at these points as well.”

Citing the example of the Udayan sculptures, Doshi stressed the need to be sensitive to people’s needs and aspirations. “Beautification of bus-stops, providing public utilities, creating children’s parks are all vital in rejuvenating a city. Unlike European cities, where avenues or boulevards always lead to a destination, we have a tendency to leave our crossroads half-done,” he said.

The first prize in the traffic island competition (of Rs 75,000), given away by mayor Subrata Mukherjee at Swabhumi, was shared by Parinita Hati and Tamal Choudhuri. Anirban Basu bagged the second prize (of Rs 25,000).

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