Kolkata (1960-1970) / Master Plan of Salt Lake City
The Rise of Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City was developed between 1958 and 1965 in reaction to the rapid population increase in Kolkata since Indian independence in 1947. Migration of around one million people from Bangladesh and East Pakistan to Kolkata in 1947 and continuous influx of refugees since then exhausted resources and infrastructures in Kolkata. This led to living conditions of extreme poverty and Kolkata was known as the ‘City of misery’. In aim of relieving population pressure, Salt Lake City was proposed by the first chief minister, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, as a satellite township on the eastern fringe of Kolkata. The “NEDECO” Plan included levelling certain area of the Salt Lakes by filling up with silt from the bed of river Hooghly, followed by the tender for urban planning of the reclaimed land. This new satellite city was supposed to be ‘a place for the middle-income group people fleeing the unbearable conditions and density of the inner city’.
The influences of the avant-garde visions of modernity and industrialization can be observed in the master plan of Salt Lake City by Yugoslav urban planner, Dobrivoje Toskovic. Toskovic was born on 3rd September 1927, graduated at the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade in 1953, obtained Master degree at the same faculty in 1978 and PhD in the field of urbanism in 1985. He was the head architect and town planner in Ivan Milutinovic of Belgrad, a waterways enterprise, when his tender for Master Plan of New Calcutta was accepted in 1964.
The Master Plan
The Master plan began with the Review of Motivations for construction of the city. Kolkata was responsible for the economic development of the West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Assam, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan, yet through decades it used to be the battlefield of natural, political, social and economic changes which slowed the development and the city was faced with poverty and over-crowdings.
Next, in the “Search for the vision”, a critical review of three cities was made: Chandigar, Ravalpindy and Brasilia. The characteristics of these cities were served as references for conceptualization of the Salt Lake City, in which three factors were selected as key ones: Urban character, New vs Old city and Inhabitants and the city growth.In creating a coherent and compact structure, standardized functions of open space and variety of residential areas, the concept of centralized city core as a culmination was reached. Around the core was a combination of three types of urban matrices – radial, orthogonal and linear, establishing “unity in diversity” and easily understandable urban structure.
The review on characteristics of employment was further conducted. Lesson from Chandigar’s lack of selection of economic activities, especially the industry, resulted in unpleasant city character was drawn. The master plan stated determined principles and certain limit of the locality at one side of the city, while catering the financial needs at the other.
According to Toskovic, Garden City was also an inspiration in the master plan.The spatial arrangement of neighbourhood units suited the Indian context, providing in one way an intimate living within their houses and, on the other hand, certain open space next to the local centre for joint activities.
ETH Studio Basel. “Salt Lake City — an Ideal City Just Completed.” November 2008.
Toskovic, Dobrivoje. Interview by ETH Basel Studio.
Toskovic, Dobrivoje. “Study of Masterplan.” Digital image. January 1964.