Heritage Responsive City: Case of Old city, Ahmedabad

Urban Heritage Precinct is referred to a living heritage embedded in urban settlements. It mainly includes architectural monuments, human habitat living in old houses, informal activities on streets, multifunctional usage of common plazas followed with traditional lifestyles and rituals. This research studies the unique habitat, by taking a case of Ahmedabad, India. Ahmadabad consists of around 55 lakhs of population and one of the fastest-growing urban economies of India. UNESCO inscribed Ahmedabad as a World Heritage City. The urban growth of the cities around the existing historic precinct, as well as the increase of the population, has led to the need to protect and preserve the heritage precincts. The research will lead to perceive How currently growing urban settlements responds to existing heritage precincts? The research further examines whether the planning framework benefits the local economic development and well-being through the inherent value of precincts.

Observations and analysis of the Heritage Precincts in Ahmedabad
The study conducted in the area of Khadia within Desai Ni Pol and Moto sutharvado Pol.
Land Ownership
The land of Heritage precincts in the area of Old City of Ahmedabad, locally called as ‘Pol’ are privately owned. The regulations and policies applied and followed are authorised by Urban Development authorities along with considering the accordance with the residents of the pol.

Current scenario

1.     Lack of maintenance and preservation of Old structures
Adverse effect on structure, through the vulnerability of natural elements like wood and moisture penetration in walls or ceilings. Unexpected repairs of plumbing, drainage, etc. Delay or no maintenance occurred due to limited craftsmen and costly construction techniques lack funds.
2.     Changing aspirations and needs of residents
Conversion of joint families to nuclear families leading to vacancy and negligence of few areas of the structure, mainly on the upper floors. Users facing ownership and rent issues.
3.     Change in property use
Change in property use from residential to commercial, which led to a change in internal planning and façade.

Current scenario in the pols of Ahmedabad

Challenges and potential

Challenges: old buildings are in dilapidated conditions and being torn down
Potential: culture & heritage potentials Tourist attraction points

Challenge: high footfall due to Commercial Street edge
Potential: local sustainable economy

Challenge: inadequate streets & conflict between vehicular & pedestrian movement Potential: presence of open spaces

The key role of stakeholders

Case of Mayor of Desai Ni Pol
The Mayor of Desai Ni Pol held various initiatives to maintain the pol and kept people actively engaged in cultural activities. To remind people of maintenance and preserving the pol houses, signage boards were introduced within precinct displaying “Preserve Heritage, Preserve Culture”. Punishable rules were introduced by people for people for throwing garbage in the pol area. Desai Ni Pol won an award of ‘Ahmedabad’s Cleanest Pol’ with Mayor’s dedicating work towards improving living environment the of pol with aid of public participation.

The above case highlights the fact that it’s crucial for citizens/users of Heritage to be aware of education regarding the management and protection of their Heritage. Maintaining the precincts and winning competitions will allow to raise funds for maintenance and repairing and will boost the encouragement of citizens.

Case of Owner of Heritage House
The owner of one Heritage House, Mr. Jagdip Mehta, bought another Heritage house located beside and combined them together. In order to protect, he renovated the house and exhibit as a Heritage Hotel. One house used as a residential and another worked for commercial use.

The above case highlights the idea of change in property use. The advertisement attracted tourists and allowed them to have the experience to live in a Heritage structure. It led to an increase in the tourist footfall in the pol. It helped the owner to generate income to protect the structure.

Bottom-Up approach

Mentioned cases highlights the Bottom-Up planning approach which is practiced in the Heritage precincts of Ahmedabad. The Bottom-Up planning approach provides advantages like
– Give full play to the value of heritage
– Inspire the vitality of the neighborhood
– Break the boundaries between private and public space in some ways
– Improving the sense of identity of the residents

Although have few disadvantages like
– No overall system consideration
– Difficult to organize
– Difficult to move on without financial support and other guidance
– Requires more time for execution

Proposed Design Strategies
Based on the above study the conclusions and learning arrived to strengthen local practices after reviewing the applicability and relevance.

Improving Planning Approach

Heritage Reuse

Open spaces around the Heritage house or spare rooms can be put on for various functions and day-parting use by creating varied experiences for tourists and citizens. Designing and organizing activities like workshop or gallery spaces, Restaurant, library, etc which will aid to generate revenue. 

Introducing Regulations to preserve Heritage
Current built form of the pol
Existing Building Use: Residential, Commercial, Educational, Hospitality. Godowns coming up in pols.
FSI: 2     Building Height: Not more than 15 mt
No Specifications in building elements Buildings aren’t built to line. Amalgamation or sub-division of plots not to be permitted.

Introducing special form based regulations (for façade) for POLS

Existing Building Use: Residential, Educational, Hospitality.
FSI: 2      Building Height: Not more than 15 mt
Specifications of windows, otla at entrance or backyard in building elements
Buildings should be built to line. Amalgamation or sub-division of plots not be permitted.

Proposals for heritage conservation:
a. Creating Awareness in owners and users of properties for cultural heritage values of their and the need for conservation.
Preparation conservation guidelines and Counselling for conservation and restoration of listed buildings to all concerned stakeholders (Heritage Dept., Local Government body (AMC)& consultants)
Facilitate availability of traditional materials and craftsmanship through skills development initiatives.

b. Provision of additional financial incentives through
Collecting funds (PPP model) 
Government fund (ward level) 
Provision of bank loan.

c. Relaxing guidelines for graded buildings
The innards are private property, and the state cannot intervene there. But the façade of a house is its public face, It contributes to the character of the settlement.

Existing & Proposed Built Form

Enhancing Public Realm

Increased ownership of private into public realm`
The public spaces within pols are experiencing an increased level of vehicular moment and are encroached by parking led to congestion and difficulty in accessing the pol which are incompatible changes to the built fabric.

Proposal to Enhance Public Realm
1. Controlling the vehicular access and highlighting pedestrian access
2. Provision of Parking space for community
3. Highlighting the Public Realm area by elevating the levels of the platform 

Heritage Precincts are of rich culture and heritage, intricately woven pols, commercial hustle-bustle. An attempt has been made to chart out an effective way of management and protection of Heritage structures, thereby enhancing the public realm.

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