Selected Entries 2017

Metamorphosis of Public Spaces

Srinivas Narayan
CEPT University | Ahmedabad

The  past  few  decades bear witness to a silent but massive transformation from a rural to an urban society. The transformation has brought about a marked change in the relationship that man shares with the nature. Water tanks were essential places of gathering and socialization for the community. However, with the centralization of water systems, the intimate connection with water got lost. The tank has succumbed to the harsh reins of urbanization.

The relationships with the water bodies exist, but have become too tenuous to be perceptible. This in turn has altered definitions of community living – the inter-relations of the people, city and its water-bodies. These water bodies thus have become vulnerable and ready sites for conversion. Today, private commercial establishments, ventures, institutions like high courts and even bus depots have taken over these tanks. 

At the same time, cities of today are in need of places of gathering, rather than places of just consumption sites. Thus, the existing dry and dilapidated conditions of tanks call for intervention. The struggle for the project is at varied scales, the two most important of which is – one, revive and attempt at to provide solutions for sustenance of the tanks, and two, most importantly attempt to re-establish a connection with water and man.

How can one re-instil the importance of the tank to the people? How can architecture inform the making of this edge? How can it be made into a place that invites the city to congregate not only for special occasions but also as a place of quotidian importance of social gathering throughout the year?



The spectre of globalization is spreading its tentacles far. Cities are transforming to cope up with this rapid development and Madurai is no exception to it. Madurai is a city with a rich historical background and a strong cultural context. It is a city that has developed with water bodies (tanks, rivers) as focal points for all sorts of activities of people. Thus, these myriad water bodies interspersed within the fabric of otherwise dry city, is also an identity of Madurai. The project demonstrates an intervention at a tank site – Perumal Kovil tank, the only surviving tank in the old city of Madurai (5700 sqm with 0.015M.Cu.m of water capacity (without flood level) )


The premise of the project is that water bodies are essential places of congregation for the city. The functions that go hand in hand in experiencing the tank should be the new incentive for the tank. Consequently, the project takes a stand to define the edge by building on all sides of the tank while keeping the corners open for access. This built is porous and accommodates civic activities on the ground floor – book stores, shops for school kids, snack shops and the more private and formal spaces above. Tamil Sangam, an organisation that holds multifarious activities(to host and accommodate literary enthusiasts) in an aim to support the growth of Tamil language becomes the centrepiece of the functions at the tank. The library, as an invaluable repository of knowledge, and the public rooms that serve as a platform for discussion and debate and Open air theatre are added as extensions to the civic buildings. The corners, not only serve as archways to enter the tank, but become traffic buffers, accommodating cycle stands. A constant visual connect also is established with the tank from the surrounding parts of the city – thus transforming it from a squalid backyard to a reverberant heart of the city.


Since the focus of the project lies in shaping the relationships of man with his built environment and the tank, design process has been a back and forth process of designing the built, the unbuilt and its transitions at various seasonal instances. The project takes into account the cyclic stages of the tank in the process of its revival. (imagined scenarios from dry-dilapidated conditions, partly filled and full filled conditions).


Experience as public space is not confined by the physical boundaries of the site, these include the modification of the plinths -the foot path in and around the context. At the scale of the built, the articulation of edge condition has been the crucial act where the first line of relationship is established. –a keen eye is lent to the articulations that reflect the functions, both towards the tank and the urban edge, which it aids and accommodates.


The project attempts to strike a balance for a ‘productive site’ at the heart of the city and an unhindered public space. Architectural resolutions emerge from these explorations and the architectural expression is a reflection of the same. An attempt has been made to redefine this edge in a way to weave these quotidian activities and hubbub of the city with the sensitivities and serenity of the water body. Thus, this design intends to grow these tanks into a public space for the city, and restore it for the future as hub of vivacity and vitality.