Tourists in India dutifully make the rounds, visiting the spectacular temples, palaces, and forts the country has to offer. But, even when they’re practically under their feet, people often forget about stepwells, the massive subterranean (up to ten stories) structures that dot the Indian landscape.
As this video explains, stepwells, first constructed around 300 CE, were born out of a need to dependably collect and store water. They boast highly complex circulation and ornamentation, and over the years have evolved to function also as community centres and temples. But, as architecture journalist Victoria Lautman has pointed out, with the spread of industrialisation and drought (not to mention widespread demolition), stepwells are slowly becoming derelict.
For two months out of every twelve years, Allahabad in India becomes one of the most populous cities in the world – thanks to the Maha Kumbh Mela, a Hindu Festival that is the largest single-purpose gathering of people on the globe. In an article for Smithsonian Magazine, Tom Downey relates his experience of the Festival and sheds light on how a temporary city can swell to such astronomical sizes and still function as well as, if not better than, permanent cities. It is hoped that the research by Harvard Graduate School of Design at the Kumbh Mela can inform the construction of refugee camps, emergency cities and even permanent cities in the future. You can read the full article here.
Architects: The Lotus Praxis Initiative
Location: Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India
Lead Designers: Ambrish Arora (Lotus, New Delhi) & Rajiv Majumdar (Praxis, Bangalore)
Design Team: Arun Kullu, Radha Muralidharan, Anuja Gupta, Ruchi Mehta
Landscape Design: Akshay Kaul & Associates
Structural Design: BL Manjunath
Contractors: Buildkraft India & Moolchand Stone mason
Photographs: André J. Fanthome & Rajen Nandwana
Dharavi – Asia’s largest slum of one million with an average density of 18,000 residents per acre – is amidst a heated debate between its people, the government and private investors as it sits on some of India’s hottest real estate in Mumbai. While the government is grappling for solutions on how to successfully dismantle the low-rise slum and relocate its residents to a high-rise podium style typology, the investor’s profit-driven approach has placed residents on the defense, “rendering Dharavi a perfect storm of contested urbanism,” as architect, urban designer and author William Hunter describes.
In light of this, we would like to direct you to an interview by Andrew Wade of Polis in which discusses Dharavi’s dire situation and the motivation behind Hunter’s new book, Contested Urbanism in Dharavi: Writings and Projects for the Resilient City. Read the interview in its entirety here and read a recap on Dharavi’s situation here.
Designed as a sustainable master plan, the concept of water, waste, and energy management are integral to the concept of the Kanpur Riverfront Development project. Proposed by Studio Symbiosis, conservation of energy on the basis of transport management has been designed as an active design element in the master plan, which is a part of an overall scheme for rehabilitation of the Ganga river and the Ganga riverfront. More images and architects’ description after the break.
It’s hard to imagine an entire category of architecture slipping off history’s grid, and yet that seems to be the case with India’s incomparable stepwells. Never heard of ‘em? Don’t fret, you’re not alone: millions of tourists – and any number of locals – lured to the subcontinent’s palaces, forts, tombs, and temples are oblivious to these centuries-old water-structures that can even be found hiding-in-plain-sight close to thronged destinations like Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi or Agra’s Taj Mahal.
But now, India’s burgeoning water crisis might lead to redemption for at least some of these subterranean edifices, which are being re-evaluated for their ability to collect and store water. With any luck, tourist itineraries will also start incorporating what are otherwise an “endangered species” of the architecture world.
Learn more about these stepwells’ curious histories, after the break…
The Gurgaon 71 residential project proposal by Maison Edouard François represents French-style luxury living while simultaneously respecting Indian traditions. Located in Gurgaon, India, these luxurious apartments make use of noble materials such as marble and wood and have large interiors, including double height spaces, and offer 360° views onto the surrounding landscape. More images and architects’ description after the break.