Selected Entries 2018

The Urban Theatre : Case of Bhadra Plaza

Pramada Jagtap
K.R.V.I.A | Mumbai

The thesis is an attempt at identifying urban artefacts in the fabric of the city and understanding how they shape public life and how social relations are shaped by such spaces. It is an attempt to restore the lost urban artefacts to reintegrate them within the city life.


Artefacts hold a rich history of the urban life that they are positioned within, hence they have the power to catalyse the development and affect civic life in its surroundings. Most of the  important public spaces of any city are formed around Urban artefacts. At this point it is important to understand how people position themselves around in the city, and how they generate their sense of place, or “Human condition”,  Cities are comprised of residential areas, commercial, older neighbourhoods, public areas, institutions, infrastructure. Together, these make up the urban life. Elements that strengthen the social order, are placed across the landscape of the city during various stages of city planning. Some elements that persist for a longer time than others, and are of cultural value to their neighbourhood and at the urban scale, become artefacts for the city. Artefacts of historical social relevance, that have failed to transgress over time and remained static need to be brought back in evolved forms amidst the ever changing context of the urban settlement they are positioned within.

Social relations and associations between people in cities are constantly evolving and there is a need for the spatial to adapt to the kinetics of the urban life.  In the case of Inner cities in India, there are a lot of heritage structures that are still used in the manner that they were intended to be or are used by the locals as a part of their daily life, whereas most lie empty, as ruins, or as monuments for tourist attraction. In the case of the latter, should one leave such artefacts to decay? Or should one restore them in an attempt to imitate their original glory, and put them up as objects to be looked at merely through tourism or to be brought back into the life of the city, and used for local benefits.


The inner city of Ahmedabad is now used to test this idea.  In this context, these artefacts can be more than merely the heritage monuments identified by the State. They are also the systems of the informal market that are spread across the walled city and other architecturally relevant structures that were added through various periods.


The bhadra plaza sits at the centre of 10 radial roads that connect the centre of the city all the way to the outskirts. The Bhadra fort, azam khan serai and premabhai hall are some important markers that stand abandoned at the plaza which is  overflowing with activity outside. This make the site an ideal location for any sort of a market . On one hand we have a historical city centre, bustling with activity, an older public space. And on the other end, we have the riverfront, the new public space planned for civic life, lying barren. The revitalisation at the plaza disregards the strategic location for the market and hence fails to create any connection between the visitors, locals or the structures around the plaza. The traditional location of a market will still invoke a sense of gathering, of bustle and of trade in the hearts and memories of locals long after the stalls have disappeared, hence, commerce is now looked at as a means of activating these structures.


The masterplan demonstrates the new circulation routes and the transgression of form and function within each of the defunct structures, while attempting to pedestrianise the precinct, Various scales and types of markets are introduced within the Premabhai, the Serai, and near the riverfront, depending on the existing typology of the structures, in order for them to become self sustaining while serving their individual functions. The interventions focus on the public spaces that can be formed inside these buildings and ways of making them accessible to the people. The plaza now stoops below ground to accommodate a subterranean market, that enhances visual connectivity for the visitors with the artefacts, and also provides a parallel route for a locals to access the market. The large public staircase that rises from the plaza and cuts into the brutal concrete facade of the Premabhai, doubles up as a space for concerts and performances. While the Serai is transformed into a stage for display of handicraft and as a space for respite in the active city centre, the other end of the plaza stops at the Fort gates, and takes you through it towards the riverfront. Pedestrian bridges run over the roads taking people from the plaza to the riverfront while activating a complex of state buildings. The new market building acts as a landscape continuing from inside the plaza, stepping down towards the river. The gesture offers a visual engagement for the people with the river as you ascend through the spaces of commerce.  The proposal comes together as a collective space where service activities cooperate with the public structures, that are thus re-inserted into the system of urban parks and city squares.