CP was originally developed with private investment using what can be called an early Form Based Code. The shops and office spaces constructed using a pre-determined design and were then either sold individually or given on a 99 year long term lease. In the aftermath of National Independence, the newly formed Government of India (represented by New Delhi Municipal Council) took up the task of allotting the properties left behind by people migrating to Pakistan, to the refugees arriving from there. This gave rise to a host of litigation cases, which only kept increasing as politics, development regulations, heritage restrictions and corruption played out decade after decade of events beyond the control of any individual or organization.
Today, CP is mired in litigation and regulation so much so that there is very little clarity on the factual ownership of land parcels or shops; and construction activity is at an indefinite deadlock due to heritage regulations. A rooftop collapsed in 2016 is still in the same state in 2019, as no authority is able to chart out a process through which it can be reconstructed. It would be apt to conclude here that while planning has failed CP; CP has failed it’s planning. Unless a practical planning solution is worked out, it is only a matter of time before it will die a natural death and be replaced with something that today’s planning will self create.
Assuming there will be a return to the Social Democratic Ethos of governance and politics inspired by the Nordic Countries, the city of Delhi will see a shift from Global Capitalist Economy to Sustainable Development as advocated by the SDGs. The city will transform into a City-State with its own independent government and elected leadership. Such evolution will ensure Universal Basic Services to citizens that will go a long way in combating loss of jobs due to commercial roll-out of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in manufacturing, transport, healthcare, etc. Delhi will be more accessible to neighboring City-States within India and across continents.
The focus of the society in such a scenario would be to impart skills to the populace to ensure innovation is sustained, specially at worker level, and wealth is distributed equitably. With the evolution of the systems approach to complexity theory, the city will grow as a network of interactions with response to environmental crisis and ecology high on priority. In the aftermath of a post fossil fuel world, large scale urban projects will aim at being self sustainable through resource based development models and will rely less on city infrastructure.
Connaught Place represents a point in history when corporations and global capitalism ushered in a new era in human development. Whatever their downsides, these movements have created better living conditions for the human race (at the expense of environmental degradation, but tere is still hope and time). The built fabric of CP is deteriorating and it will die a natural death if an intervention is not made to make it relevant for the future.
As a race and nation, we are here because our history led us here, and it only makes sense to follow the continuum instead of breaking away. Intelligent interventions in CP can allow us to usher in a new era of Sustainable Development building on the foundations of Global Capitalism, both literally and metaphorically, just like it did a century ago. The legacy design will not only stay but should stay as a layer in Indian and Global history.
Irrespective of whether people who frequent or visit CP know the historical value of the place or not, it continues to attract them. In that, it is a place created by time. Intellectuals see it as a reminder of foreign rule, yet others just appreciate it for its old-world charm. Foreigners may have built the place, but the citizens of Delhi (and India by extension) have owned it up through interactions on a daily basis. For the masses, it’s just the sight of the colonnade traveling in an endless circle, that creates the nostalgia around a national capital which otherwise has another 1000 years behind it.
Not only the nation’s history, but numerous personal histories are also now associated with the palladian colonnade. In this era of globalization, the urban form of CP and the architecture of its public facade are the two differentiating elements. Whether it houses a Wenger’s or a McDonalds, people will still walk in the colonnade and shout out to the world; ‘I am here!’
CP was built as an exclusive upper-class market place. Indian National Independence changed that. While other places of colonial-era like cantonments, private institutions, and private mansions remained exclusive; CP was open to all the citizens of the country. Individuals shop owners of the colonnade, corporate offices occupying the outer circle, recreational spaces interspersed in between share space and business with petty street hawkers, haggling auto wallahs and the homeless.
The introduction Delhi Metro as a central interchange station in the central park increased public access to CP many a fold. People could now experience CP without having any business there. If there was a place in Delhi (or India) where anybody could just meet, planned or unplanned; interact and stumble upon new ideas or itineraries its Connaught Place. These interactions happening at the city level could well scale into national and global level in the future, and this is owing only to the inclusiveness of the place.
Resource based development entails that natural sources for water and energy need to be accounted for at the planning stage. Capacity of a particular land parcel shall dictate the intensity of development. In the case of the 82.7 acres that CP is spread on, we envisage a further 2 floors using the middle circus ring as the spine along which new development happens; not only due to capacity restrictions but also visual disruption.
The two additional floors are designed as stepped terraces, such that pedestrian eye level views at the street level are not affected. Glass facades along with terrace urban farming is employed to lessen the impact of new development visually. The middle circle skylight tunnel not only powers the whole development through BIPV solar energy but also helps connect all the segments of CP to make a super block which is essentially a mixed use mini smart city reincarnating the original horse-shoe form envisioned for the development. This is a departure from the popular high-rise-high-density city futures promoted by many.
As a largely self-sustainable super block in the heart of the city, accessed by the intracity underground metro rail network and intercity hyperloop; CP will continue to be the go-to place for people from all walks of life. With the additional change that people’s access will not be limited to the retail-based colonnade but also extend to the new middle circle development ring, which will house facilities such as interaction pods (both formal and informal), meeting hubs incubation centers, skill labs, co-working & co-cooking spaces and other spaces tailored to empower a population fighting for relevance in an AI-enabled world. Since ‘interactions’ are the most important aspect of a CBD and CP already has an abundance of it; being a centrally located point in the city; the same is formalized by providing infra that will allow not only intracity but intercity interactions to drive business and innovation for the future. CP is currently a transit point, future development will make it a destination as well.
The central urban forest will create a micro-ecology/ climate bringing together whatever is green, good and colorful in the city i.e. indigenous trees, clean air, and seasonal birds. Reserving natural ground for foresting, the new terraces will be given over to urban farming and plantations aimed at combating pollution by improving air quality. Super CPs’ major contribution, however, will be to become a model urban redevelopment for other CBDs in the city.
Step 1: The single most important obstacle to intervention in CP is the multiple private ownership of plots. To make any sort of comprehensive intervention, property pooling of all real estate to bring the complete precinct under one organizing public entity is essential. This entity will develop the precinct and share revenue equally among all owners; and will also control the function inside the precinct to keep the new spaces developed flexible to the requirements of the future.
Step 2: The Heritage regulations are the second most important obstacle to unlocking the real estate value of CP. By allowing conservation by Facadsim and vertical expansion as per a Form Based Code (again a reincarnation of original implementation strategy), essential new spaces will be created with the use in control of an accountable public entity.
Step 3: The central park urban forestation will be the first physical intervention using the Miyawaki’s Method. Around the same time, it is expected that the big shift to AI for road transport with electric vehicles will transform public space drastically. Construction of the super block will be taken up one quarter at a time, but will eventually form a super block acting like a self sustaining smart CBD, with its own internal AI transport system and a controlled indoor environment.
Step 4: The operations of this new space created will be based on accountable corporatism; aiming at managing resources instead of maximizing profits. The ownership will remain with the public entity which will guide and keep the corporate in check. It is expected that the big corporations of the future world will reduce their real estate inventory and opt for co-working space subscriptions, of which CP will have an abundance.