The proposal for Rethinking Khan Market by Vandana Sehgal animates a typical model town type market into an experience of ultimate recreation. It will not consume energy as much as a regular shopping mall, but will have the ambiance and synergy of one, hybridized with the openness of an Indian bazaar. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Khan Market was initiated as a small business opportunity given by the government of India to the displaced people due to partition, after independence. As a built construct, it comprised of shop cum flats, where the dual purpose of earning and residing was taken care of. Till recently, it was a friendly neighborhood market, which catered to the daily needs of the abutting government colonies.
In the last six years, how this small time market transformed into a fashion cum food hub, showcases the amazing growth of an average Indian urban space that overtakes, overlaps and oversteps spatial constraints, functional inadequacy, safety standards and the initial character. What we see today at the Khan market is that the shops have become smaller as the initial shop has been divided into two and the flats on top have been converted mostly into specialized restaurants or branded boutiques and showrooms spread in two floors accessible through narrow closed staircases.
So, the services that catered for a shop and a family, now has to take in the bulk of a heavily populated public place. The experience of ultimate shopping in Khan Market is associated with extreme parking problems, sewer stench, uneven walkways, droughts of air-conditioning vents and kitchen exhausts to name a few. These are the evident woes. What is not so apparent to many are the hazards of fire as the narrow staircase is inadequate for the exodus of the number of people sitting in the restaurants and the total disregard for the elderly and physically challenged to access them.
As architects, thinkers and lovers of Khan market, we found ourselves sketching out the possible solution for upgrading and systematizing the existing. As all ideas, this one also aspires for the ideal. The most disturbing thing about the Khan market is that the restaurants are accessed through narrow steep staircases that are not only impossible for an elderly to scale but is also difficult for a normal person to climb. This also results in a very dangerous situation, as all these would become a tinderbox in case of fire, as there is no point for the exodus of the people who are inside at that point of time.
. So, the most logical solution that comes to my mind is connecting the second floor balcony of every unit through a walkway at that level, which runs all around the c-shaped market. This walkway is accessible by staircases, lifts and one escalator and one ramp at various points of its length. So, the main access to all the restaurants and boutiques is from the second floor walkway. It becomes a space that mingles with the open balcony of every unit, broadens at the corners and intervals so that it is not monotonous and has the feel of walking among the trees.
The air-conditioning units have to be taken on the roof top and shared if possible amongst two or three units. This takes care of the hot blasts of air that greets everyone when one walks through the middle lane. All exhausts have to be directed above the terrace. Half of the terrace can be walled to house the ac plants/ units and water tanks for usage. The other half, if possible, can be used commercially if permitted by law. This could be also act as an incentive for upgrading of the market and making the proposal more viable.
The middle lane will house underground water storage tanks connected to water hydrants at regular intervals. One notices that the middle becomes inaccessible for the fire brigade, thus this provision. The street furniture and the paving have to be upgraded to make the experience of walking worthwhile. All the parking goes underground three levels in the central area enclosed by the c-shape and the top will be the central court / piazza that retains the old trees with landscape of fountains and lights. It can serve as a space for recitals and cultural events or promotions.
This proposal is conceived by Vandana Sehgal, who is an Architect, Academic and Artist. She is an Associate Professor in School of Architecture and Regional Planning, Gautam Buddha University, Greater Noida.