Shortlisted Entries 2020

Re-imagining the Sacred

Vatsal Shah
Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies | Mumbai

The demolition of the Hall of Nations in Delhi gave rise to various debates and questions surrounding the architectural practice. One of the dominant sets of conflict that emerged out of these debates was the conflict between the terms ‘modern’ and ‘heritage’. Even though the words modern and heritage are contradictory in terms, they seem to complement each other to bring out principles that shaped thought and ideas. It is this precise conflict that the thesis attempts to address by exploring various architectural responses and possibilities. 

There has been a massive shift in the rate at which urban fabrics are evolving in present times. The massive urge for development often tends to supersede the relevance and cultural significance of some built forms, some have been lucky to escape this trap and have been preserved. In both cases whether the built form achieves the status of ‘heritage’ or not, the common phenomenon one experiences is of urban decay and the inability to deal with urban evolution with passage of time. 

The position of conservation practice in contemporary times has been very uncertain. There needs to be a shift of focus from mere material-based restorations towards a larger understanding of history by adapting to tools that enable ideas of continuity. 

The project tries to seek these answers in the modernist urban fabric of the city of Chandigarh. The city which has almost been frozen in the Corbusian memory and yearns for new vision that can accommodate for the urban evolution in the present time. The fundamental idea of the project is about transformation of the city centre by re-urbanization of the vast empty spaces that are available including the massive plaza and rejuvenating the dysfunctional spaces in the existing built forms. The concept of re-urbanization is understood as a process of urban infill which will redefine the mixture and composition of open and built spaces, thus populating the previous empty spaces and embracing a new layer of urban activities in the city centre. The intent is not only to build new infrastructure on site but also to create relations with the dysfunctional spaces in the existing fabric. 

The project recognizes the Open Grid in the existing plan as an element that can act as a base for the new palimpsest layer of urban evolution.The old cultural magnets namely the cinemas, have deteriorated over a period of time and shifting of many administrative magnets have left a functional void in the city centre. In order to fill that void, there is a need to introduce new sets of institutes that provide hybridity in terms of their functional output. Resulting in an evolution from the past identity of the city centre, being mainly a commercial and administrative hub to becoming an amalgamation of social, cultural and administrative spaces for the city of Chandigarh. Also, on the other hand making accommodations for public infrastructure in the form of amphitheatres, informal markets, performing spaces, play areas etc. that could fill the vast areas of the public plaza and generate new relations and interactions.