The urbanism in India shares a duality in developing the concept of cities. Modern urbanism was started with the Nehruvian vision of new India after independence which results in the city of Chandigarh. Afterwards, few more cities get developed with the same vision as New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai which became the power centers of politics and economics. A lot of known architects had worked in these cities by developing the new traditional modern architecture in India. But there is one more flipside of this evolution i.e. the cities like Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Gurgaon, Pune who are boomed with the architecture of impatient capitalism. These are the non-contextual settlements decorating with the high-rise IT towers of glasses which are itself contrasting to this country in terms of architecture and climate. Now around 300 cities in the country have been established with an urbanism of confusion to cater the 400 million people. Present architects and planners in India are facing a threat of these upcoming new cities which are increasing at a faster rate without any context and relation to the traditions of India which holds a history of 3000 years. These cities are suffering a lot of migration of resources and populations all around the country in search of food and shelter. Ultimately it results in a formation of crowded lands with full of unhygienic situations. The heartbreaking reality is that we are facing the scarcity of land and we must accept it. We are doing more and more constructions by removing the green areas which eventually disturbing the balance of nature and results in atmospheric abnormalities.
This is common for the western countries as well. They are also struggling to overcome the requirements of the new overcrowded generations marching into the cities of opportunities. The planners in these countries have explored every possibility and started developing the spaces underground which is itself a new type of concept at the start of the 19th century. Le Corbusier gives directions towards this concept in his city of tomorrow by adding the layers underground to control the urban mobility of the future cities. His predictions were overwhelming and give the breadth to the exhausted cities. Western architects exploited this opportunity by developing a lot of projects sub-ground or underground. This was started particularly on a “clean-slate” environment without any history.
But this was never a new concept in India. The land of India is filled with numerous astonishing sub-ground architectural marvels which have not been exploited popularly till now. Maybe because we always look up for cityscape, but never looks down. Since the land is less and global warming is a threat, this is the time to go back and understand our precious historic civilizations in detail which has a lot of meanings in underground living.
Desired research questions
1. What are the principles of sub-ground traditional architecture in India?
2. What are the abnormalities of contemporary public spaces in the contextual cities of India?
3. What are the consequences of the neglection of working on sub-ground spaces by Indian architects and planners?
4. How can the traditional vocabulary of public spaces be reinterpreted in contemporary times with the help of underground constructions?
Aims & objectives
The aim of this research is to develop a platform for further discussion on the possibilities of designing such modern public spaces may be a maidaan or plaza by taking forward the principles of traditional stepwells and famous rock-cut temples of India which could give the identity to the cityscape of Indian cities and control the green vs built ratio. I would also like to understand the phenomena of stereotomics related to such structures.
The objective of this study is to explore the principles and notions of various traditional sub-ground or underground structures available in India and then understand the present architectural interpretations of these public spaces by modern architects and planners. This will be done through understanding the scenario of underground architecture in the context of different countries.
Scope & limitations
In the proposed study, I will only investigate the probability of sub-ground structures in public spaces through the various examples of ancient constructions in India. Also, this study will be limited to the understanding of architectural perspectives of such structures and will not go into the engineering and conservation related to it.
There are two types of structures i.e. the superstructures and substructures which has been taught to us in books. But when it comes to the realization of these structures then we are just concerned about the above structures and their elevations. The maximum effort made is to provide a parking space in the underground. We are struggling for sustainable cities and keep looking for earthy materials, but we don’t want to build sub-ground. Our history has a lot to explore about this terminology. The initial settlements in India such as Hampi, Warangal, Ellora, etc. are some mindboggling examples of sub ground architecture. There are around 3000 stepwells present in all over the country of which most of them are even yet to discover by archeologists. There is a lot of underground constructions done in the most astonishing forts of India by ancient rulers. These constructions have some significances which are related to the spirituality and myth of culture contributing towards the most generous spaces in terms of climate and security. These spaces share a concept of duality i.e. a world within a world. We are living in the three-time zones in India, the anchors of past, desires of future and truth of present. So, our architecture should celebrate all of them.
This study will focus to develop the parameters based on the literature study of principles and stereotomy of these ancient timeless spaces. Then the modern architecture of public spaces of India and other countries with similar context like the city of Cappadocia, few cities in Nigeria etc. will be examined based on these parameters. Taking forward this to analyze the modern physical form and an image of this successful underground public spaces.
The term “underground” is sometimes misinterpreted as an “Underworld” which is the symbol of negative vibes and criminal world. This makes such spaces isolated from the above world. The learnings from this research will help to examine the causes which result in the neglection of working on sub-ground architecture by architects and planners as there is hardly any modern construction done in modern India based on these valuable heritage. Further, this study will also contemplate on the non-contextual public spaces available in this country.