Kolkata (1960-1970) / Evaluation of Salt Lake City

The implementation of the modernist inspired master plan in Salt Lake City has been seen as successful. Showing ideas from Garden City, Radiant City, etc., a clear order of streets, residential blocks and greeneries is established. Furthermore, diversity and slow developments are vital in creating a functional and vibrant community in the city.

The master plan is centralised with both linear and radial axes. A large park is located at the centre of the city surrounded by institutional buildings. The linear axis divides the city almost symmetrically into 68 blocks, with local parks located in the centre of each block to act as urban lungs. Connecting the blocks are orthogonal roads and linear streets radiating from the city centre. This creates a clear hierarchy of street typologies, forming a simple and coherent overall structure of the city accessing different programmes.

Although the city was planned rigorously with streets and blocks following a rigid grid, the heterogeneity of the city was not undermined. When zooming into the residential blocks, buildings of various scales, programmes and styles were observed. This is because of the leasehold system implemented by the government; all the lands in Salt Lake City are owned by the Urban Development Department of State Government (West-Bengal), yet instead of the government building homogeneous houses, the plots are leased to private house owners for 999 years. If the owner wants to sell the house, he needs the permission from the government. The original intention was to prevent speculation on land, but it has also brought the opportunity for private ownership where people can have their preferences in building the houses. These houses took reference from the western culture,

“The character of the buildings is quite non-contextual. The buildings were often designed by non-designer and semi-qualified architects. The ones that were designed had been borrowed imagery of the west particularly the US. Always seen as the land of opportunities. Images of California suburbia, or English mansion has been the social want and these have been quite physical manifestations of these.” — Ayan Sen, architect in Salt Lake City

The diversification has been taking place in the 40 years of ‘slow development’. Despite some of the ideas in the master plan was not implemented as expected, the slow development can be seen as a compensation reaction to the situation of the society at the given time. As mentioned in the previous entries, this approach allow organic growth to adapt to new needs of the society mainly as follow:

  • Change of land-use ratio to adapt to living patterns of the locals and changing composition of social classes
  • Construction of City Centre Mall to meet consumption demands and to be utilised as traditional public space
  • Change of industrial area to IT area in reaction to the global outsourcing trend to create job opportunities and to train young Indian generation

As a result, Salt Lake City do not have the uniformity which is often observed in satellite cities. Unlike the fast grown Rajarhat (another satellite city in India) with fully planned and gated communities for maximum efficiency, a range of structures in smaller scale including houses and market places is present in Salt Lake City.

Looking into the future of Salt Lake City, the challenge may be the change of role from a satellite city to a dense urban centre. Because of the urban sprawl of Kolkata, Salt Lake City is no longer a sub-urban area but well placed in the city. New satellite cities north-east of Salt Lake City are being developed. Therefore, the maintenance and upgrading of public spaces, residential and commercial settings within the existing satellite city framework will become one of the main issues in the future development.


ETH Studio Basel. “Salt Lake City — an Ideal City Just Completed.” November 2008.

Toskovic, Dobrivoje. “Study of Masterplan.” January 1964.


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