Kolkata (1960-1970) / Public Spaces of Salt Lake City

Similar to the Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City, there is a park (Central Park) located at the centre of the city surrounded by radial streets and roads in Salt Lake City. However, the use of the park is constrained. The park is gated and is not accessible from most of the streets, but only from a gate on the southern side of the park. It opens from 7 am to 5 pm everyday with a ticket fee of INR 10. These restrictions on access to the park are to keep the park from ‘degeneration’. In India it is very common that vacant plots and parks are misused as slum or dumpsite, which is similar to the case in 19th century London. Therefore the park has to be gated and closed at night to prevent these misuses and keep the park clean.

Meanwhile, most of the programmes planned by Dobrivoje Toskovic are not realised. These include a children’s park, a cricket ground, a basketball court and a volleyball court. Only the football ground was built. This further discourages people to use the park, given that they are already prevented from using the park on daily basis because of the entrance fee.

Study of Masterplan, Dobrivoje Toskovic
Study of Masterplan, Dobrivoje Toskovic

Apart from the Central Park, there are squares and playgrounds scattered in the city to form the green belts. These spots were designed as gathering points for locals, and the greeneries were to be urban lungs to enhance the environment. However, under the management of Bidhannagar Municipality, many of the playgrounds are poorly planned without adequate facilities and lack maintenance. The result resembles that of the Central Park; the public spaces are present on the planned plot yet neither are they functioning as designed nor responding to the needs of the locals.

Local Park in Salt Lake City
Local Park in Salt Lake City

On the other hand, in contrary to the under-performing planned greenery spaces, the malls and markets provides opportunities for quality public spaces. As Charles Correa, the architect of the City Centre Mall, put it:

“A City Centre must be a very special place a microcosm of the whole metropolis, catering to multiple land-uses and diverse income profiles a kaleidoscope of contrast and color and energy. Hence we have here in the Salt Lake City Centre a wide range of different sized residencies, entertainment centres, offices, and shops-varying from the smallest dukaans to the most glamorous air-conditioned boutiques and large department stores.”

Instead of building new parks, Correa looked for opportunities to public spaces from the existing commercial typology in the area — the market place. Correa was one of the early modern Indian architects to study traditional towns, houses and streets for inspiration on new social modes.  In the City Centre Mall, he divides the building into an arrangement of commercial blocks, forming ‘streets’ and ‘courtyards’ in the circulation and transitional spaces. The mall is then like an extension of the street, creating a coherent spatial experience bringing people from the city into the building from a number of entrances. While inside the mall, people encounter the ‘courtyards’  which mimic the social experience of a market place. In particular, it has become the place for ‘Adda’, an Indian culture of ‘intellectual exchange among members of the same socio-economic strata’.

'Streets' leading to upper floors in City Centre Mall
‘Streets’ leading to upper floors in City Centre Mall
'Courtyards' in City Centre Mall
‘Courtyards’ in City Centre Mall

The approach taken by Correa not only let the public space to be planned and managed effectively as they are of smaller scale and in private ownership compare to the Central Park, but also suits the Indian context better as the locals are used to the social in traditional market places instead of parks. It has the potential to be applied to local markets as well, as these markets were built more than 20 years ago and need substantial renovation and extension.

Local Markets in Salt Lake City
Local Markets in Salt Lake City

Reference:

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

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

“The mall and the city.” The mall and the city – Livemint. Accessed December 19, 2016. http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/tj5FlJSiuihJSlvG3pLSbM/The-mall-and-the-city.html.

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