Two students pursuing their masters in architecture in Italy have carried out a survey for an insightful analysis of Shahjehanabad — a task that ought to have been done by the civic authorities decades ago.
Marco Chitti and Elisa Angelini, who have been in Delhi for the past six months studying the walled city of Shahjehanabad, said if planners do not intervene now, the place would soon become an impenetrable gridlock. They made a presentation at the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) headquarters on Tuesday.
The two, enrolled with the University of Ferrara, collated data from different agencies including the Delhi Development Authority and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to carry out the ground survey. The last ground survey of the Walled city was carried out in 1910 by the British.
According to them, the rejuvenation of Old Delhi is not a difficult task with an underground metro line that connects Old Delhi and the newer parts of the city. “We studied the grammar of the city and discovered that as one moves from the public spaces to the semi-public spaces to the private spaces within the havelis (inner courtyards), the sound and noise get filtered out. These characteristics are reinforced with the help of architectural elements like arched gateways, chabutras etc. These can be brought back and the city can be rejuvenated by moving trade and commerce out to the peripheral areas and promoting residential use inside,” said Elisa.
They said the population density of Old Delhi varies between 400 and 900 persons per hectare and is less densely populated than some areas of Hong Kong. The rejuvenation process, according to them, can be initiated by shifting university, college centres, library and educational centres to the 3,500 evacuee properties with the Slum and JJ Department. The goods movement along with trade can also be shifted to the periphery of the Walled City that has big roads and access points, they suggested. Required floors can then be added without destroying the courtyards. The courtyards can be used as green spaces with small fountains as in the original plan.
They have also rated the chaiwallahs of Old Delhi and five star rating has gone to a chaiwallah behind Jama Masjid who adds fresh cream to the concoction.
Historian Narayani Gupta said it was unfortunate that despite studies carried out by the School of Planning and Architecture and other educational institutions, there have been no moves to improve the living environs of the Old City.