Delhi - City in conflict

After partition Delhi's growth remained unchecked for nearly a decade. Developed land was in short supply and people did not have the means to afford the exorbitant rates quoted by the private developers. This led to the establishment of unauthorized colonies. After the establishment of DDA it acquired most of the land in urban Delhi and became solely responsible for the development of land.

In terms of planning one noticed a marked change. The mixed land use patterns so characteristic of our town was not incorporated. The coming in of the automobile changed the concept of distance, which was now judged on travelling time.

The first indicated vehicular oriented planning was of Lutyens Delhi in 1920's.

The coming of industry too necessitated the removal of noxious industries from predominantly residential neighborhood. Most of the planners were educated abroad and were very much influenced by the planning concepts prevalent there.

Therefore the 1962 master plan was based on having identified zones for different landuses.

According to KP Singh, the MD of DLF, the situation was much better when the ban had not been imposed on private developers because they did cater to the housing demands to a large extent.

 DDA did however allot plots to cooperative societies for the construction of group housings like Tara apartments, Yamuna aptts etc.

The expansion of Delhi has resulted in its boundaries extending beyond the Yamuna river. People tend to live further and further away from the city centre because of the lower rents prevalent in these areas. This has resulted in increased travelling distance from work to residence. More time is spent in commuting. To overcome this problem the city is now working in full swing to construct number of flyovers and to start off the metro service. In the years to come we will find the ring road signal free and the pressure would be taken off the buses in a big way with the MRTS getting added to the transportation scene.

Lutyens Delhi faces the question of redevelopment and re-densification. This areas differs markedly as compared to the rest of Delhi.

One of the major policies of the Master Plan has been the development of the District Centers however they have failed to fulfil their purpose. The reason for this could be that the DDA is only interested in preparing the plan and design with the sole object of selling the plot. No attention is paid to its location, context and zone of influence. Also once the project is complete the authorities wash their hands off completely from the project and leave it to decay with the passing time.

Today the city of Delhi is seem in three forms-

1.      The inner city i.e. The city that existed before the introduction of the Master Plan.

2.      The city of planned growth-which evolved between 1962-1982.

3.      The new city of the future

 It is important to tie the three together to make Delhi a complete and unified entity for a smooth running of the wheels.

 Urban renewal and the impact of transportation on the city's skyline

With excerpts from articles by Mr PR Mehta and Mr Suptendu Biswas

An image of a city is created by its identity. Identity is a reflection of its natural assets (such as rivers and water bodies, landform, vegetation, etc) people (race, features, costumes) and the built environment in the form of monuments, buildings and public spaces. The built environment symbolizes the achievements of a society and the available technology and space.

Natural increase in population and a continued migration has resulted in densities up to 500 persons per acre in some of the older parts of the cities. This is far beyond the acceptable environmental limits. Many of the buildings have outlived their utility. Rebuilding has been impossible because of multiple ownerships- an outcome of sub divisions of properties over the generations.

The present concept of land values leaves no provision for the urban poor. The result is the mushrooming of jhuggi jhonpri clusters and shantytowns without any urban facilities. Almost 25 per cent of the urban population lives in such tenements.

Transportation movement is the lifeline of any urban area. Nearly 50 percent of the urban population needs to move everyday for the purpose of education, work, shopping or health care. The increase in the number of automobiles has resulted in the increased level of air pollution, congestion on roads and consequent delays in commuting time. The conflict between the vehicular and pedestrian movement is increasing.

Trade and commerce are important functions in any urban area. The commercial district not only serves the city the but also a region. Experience shows that the commercial areas nearer to the important nodes of a town such as railway stations and terminals attract a great deal of inter city businesses.

Movement of men and material reaches its peak during the business hours and these areas become virtually inaccessible. Pedestrians face congestion and adequate parking is unavailable.

More often than not with the increase in demand for commercial spaces, the surrounding residential areas gradually get converted for commercial use. This causes stress on the infrastructure.

In order to decongest these districts a number of attempts such as shifting of wholesale business, creation of new business districts, restriction on material movement, restriction on redevelopment have been made in the past, but without success. The intrusion of commercial area into the residential ones has disturbed the tranquility of the latter. Enforcement of the land use plan ad building bye-laws has always been inadequate.

Instead of curbing the growth of trade it is better to plan counter development in other locations with increased level of facilities. With technology and transportation providing the link between the work place and the residence the relationship between production, value and movement from point A to point B undergoes a change. Indian cities have undergone change and transformation where the transportation network was used as a tool for shaping the city form and its imagery. Pedestrianization in the existing commercial areas can bring a qualitative change in the high intensity business districts.

According to Robertson the major problem of cities is that it creates high rise towers with windswept plazas in between. He calls for lower buildings that respect streets that create urban squares and that make people feel good to be there.

 Shahjahanabad- an image of an indigenous city.

 The image of Chandni chowk, the processional path in Shajahanabad was created by placing mass at two pivotal points in the form of the Red Fort and the Fatehpuri Mosque. The path, flanked by two parallel surfaces on either side in the form of a diminishing skyline, necessitates a slow movement pattern, responsive to the fine grain and texture of the fabric. Yet when one enters a mohalla, the sudden change in the scale of the street and its irregularity impart a residential quality. Thus the image governed by time and scale depicts the land use behind its mask.

Industrialization and the laws of economics

The transportation network during the colonial period in the form of railways had a tremendous impact on the transition from a pre industrial economy to an economy of capitalist industrialization.

This led to the destruction of village industries, the concept of land holdings and the equilibrium of the urban- rural relationship.

Moreover in city building the Britishers used the transportation network as a tool within the city- a separation to accommodate two different classes. Owing to colonization the indigenous city coexist with the colonial one to form stratified layers, exchanging an uneasy tension, which evokes a dualistic image in its space, surface and mass.

New Delhi-

Designed as the capital of the British Raj it has adopted an alien city design underlined with well-calculated gestures of political measures. Lutyens visualized a city of the twentieth century with automobiles screeching through its wider roads. Views and vistas were established through articulated positioning of the built forms on the India Gate chowk. Topology was created by involving buildings, freely positioned in spatial volume through the "interplay of concavity and convexity of surfaces." While the concave surface relieves the space at which the movement line meets, the convex dome adds the mass to the built form. The image of Lutyens New Delhi therefore gives a clue of how interplay of space-mass-surface in relation to the point, line and time (speed) can possibly link the isolated forms in space.

The basic concept of the Master plan 1962 made in the mould of modernist urban planning, was that, the traffic movement within the city should be kept minimum and a work-to-home relationship was conceived and the city started growing radially. Owing to the master plan zoning principle, the "legibility " of the city has undergone a change on the basis of the projected land use pattern. However one feature which somewhat lends legibility to the urban fabric, is the emergence of district centres mainly on the ring and radial junctions.

 This concentration of economic activity started exerting pressure on the population density, land value, land use and land holdings of the surroundings areas, and demanded suitable accessibility to its influence zone.

In the master plan 2001 there are some attempts at providing mixed uses, and increasing densities in residential areas in prime locations, proposals are made for Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) to connect the ring to the periphery and also to improve city intra-city network along the ring.

The arrival of the high technology communication system has redefined the meaning of work place, and the distance has got reduced. Communication through the visual medium has infiltrated into the private as well as the public domain. With the emergence of moving image, the reduction of scale, the usual perception has become a symbol of the complex relationship between the body and the space around it. While transportation, through its "unfoldingness," exposes us to the surroundings, the communication system reduces the "transparency" in between.

In the clutches of indiscriminate electronic mediation, the notion of territoriality transcends the individual identity to give rise to a collective homogenous image of the city in an ironical manner.

Decongestion, by itself, is a good phenomenon but by decongesting the core of the city what will we achieve? Owing to the polycentred growth, the expansion of the city is on the verge of going out of control. By reviving the mixed-use growth to its optimum potential in central areas of Indian cities, in case of Delhi within the inner Ring road area, a simultaneous movement system can be overlaid. A "centrifugality" can balance the "centripetality" of the existing movement network.

How American architect Christopher Benninger views Delhi situation-

 Delhi is a thousand suburbs in search of a city. "Its like a labyrinth". Delhi has been conceptualized as an automobile city and this is the basic flaw in its planning. Most of the working population, which lives in urban peripheries, travels the most. The city's planning has led to low structures, which accommodate few people and compromise on efficiency.

It is constantly sprawling out and this creates serious management issues.  He feels that apartments that accommodate many people and are near facilities, would be the most viable solution to the present chaotic city.

"Noida and Gurgaon are urban disasters." The reasons being that people have to travel long distances daily, top market revenue has drifted to neighboring states and they are poorly planned. "Development always moves towards cheaper land and in the process puts pressure in the already stretched city management system."

From the times of the Britishers, Delhi has had a southward drift," he says. He is fascinated how the city was deeply influenced by the garden movement. Benninger believes that the metro will change the face of the city, It would have a positive impact on the land value and the land usage. Although areas around the metro stops would become commercial hubs the places in the vicinity will become efficient high-density residential colonies.

He visualizes successful projects like the asiad village coming up once a competent metro system is built. Large underground stations, which will have a large number of people crossing everyday, could be developed as profitable shopping centers. "Designing cities is like designing an aeroplane" …it is a work of art. He is an advocate of intelligent urbanism. "Human beings are comfort seekers and here planning needs to go against it. Why encourage buying automobiles when a plethora of people cant afford it"? As there is a symbiotic relationship between transportation and density it should be something taken into account while planning.

  Time capsule


1931- New Delhi inaugurated at India gate

1937- Delhi improvement trust established

1947- influx of 500,000 refugees to the capital city

1950- birla committee appointed

1957-DDA established

1962- master plan for DDA approved

1982- 9th Asian games held. Six new stadia and seven flyovers constructed

1987- master plan for Delhi updated upto the year 2001


Plotted development over the years

1952-53                   Sunder nagar

1953-54                   Lajpat nagar, Jangpura , Malviya Nagar and Hauz khas

1955-56                   South extn

1957-58                   Defence colony

1959-60                   Maharani Bagh

1960-61         East Nizamuddin      

1962-63                   Safdar Jung Enclave

1963-64                   GK-1

1965-65                   Vasant Vihar

1966-67                   Pansheel

1970-71                   Shanti Niketan

1972-73                   GK-2

1973-74                   Gulmohar park

1974-75         Sarvodya enclave

1977-78                   New Friends colony

1980-85        UdayPark


HOMEPAGE             BACKGROUND          POST1947-BUILDINGS PART1          PART2