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Oddities tower over identity

- Capital’s architectural aesthetics lost in growth boom

German architect and city planner Otto H. Koenigsberger modernised the new Bhubaneswar master plan in 1946. He was also the chief architect and planner of Mysore. Besides, Koenigsberger built the Indian Institute of Science (1943-44) and Victory Hall (1946) in Bangalore. After Independence, he became director of housing for the Union ministry of health from 1948 to 1951.

Bhubaneswar, April 12: The capital city’s shift from simple bungalows to highrises might be a remarkable achievement but the architectural aesthetics of these buildings is a disaster.

While the original town planning by Otto H. Koenigsberger in 1946 and subsequent building plans by architect Julius Vaz were outstanding, the lack of proper upkeep of the architectural signature in other growth pockets of the city (both within and outside the planned area) has drastically changed the original ideas of the planners.

Professor of architecture at the College of Engineering and Technology H.N. Dash feels with the growing demand for space, it is difficult to continue with the same style of architecture in other unplanned parts of the city. “However, we should give some respect to the old ethos when new structures are being built,” he said.

Dash said the city’s original design was prepared following the neighbourhood plan concept of Russia of 1934. Later, the Germans adopted the model and Koenigsberger introduced the same in Bhubaneswar. The plan included dividing the city into colonies called units and since the population density was low, the buildings were not too high.

Pointing out that structural planning of the major buildings of the capital was done by Vaz, the architect added that the heritage regions such as Old Town should have proper skyline control. “You cannot have a historic 11th century monument standing besides a mobile phone tower! But the authorities are least concerned. In order to judge the ethics of any big structure, the development authority should have an urban art commission which can examine it from an architectural point of view,” he said.

Chairman of the Indian Institute of Architects (Odisha chapter) Akshay Beuria said the high-density, high-rise concept had necessitated the construction of rainwater harvesting structures, low-energy-consumption and bicycle friendly eco-cities.

“There is a mismatch in the development pattern. The new Bhubaneswar is sandwiched between the Old Town area (which has ancient structures) and the unplanned part on the city outskirts. The planned area certainly has some good old buildings designed by Vaz,” said artist and writer Minaketan Patnaik.

Ananta Charan Pati, who had worked with the town planners during the early 50s, said: “The Unit I Market near the Capital Police Station was once called Gol Market as it was circular with a fountain in the centre. Today, the market’s shape is far from round and is battling encroachments.”

State co-convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage S.K.B. Narayan said the sense of architectural aesthetics in Old Town and the capital must be done in a coordinated manner. Another city-based architect said the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) was yet to have a full-time architecture wing. BDA planning member Prashant Kumar Patnaik admitted there was a codified regulation for highrise structures in the heritage zones and architectural sites within the planning area.

Archaeologist B.K. Rath, however, expressed his displeasure as Sisupalgarh, the fortified structure of the Mauryan Period on the city outskirts, was now dotted with concrete structures, which was a clear violation of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Rules.