Sabarmati Riverfront Development: An Exercise in ‘High-Modernism’? By: Krishna Balakrishnan


Source: Presentation by SRFDCL & HCP Design at India Urban Conference 2011

Using the case of the Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project (SRDP) in Ahmedabad, this paper illustrates how the conceptual category of the ‘riverfront’, as seen in London and Paris in particular, has shaped the imagination of what an urban river ‘should’ be in India. The paper examines the lengths to which the project goes to fit a monsoon fed river-scape into this predefined conceptual category of a ‘riverfront’. The paper argues that the SRDP can be understood as a manifestation of ‘high-modernism’ as discussed by James Scott—both in terms of the visual order it strives to create and in terms of the reliance on simplistic conceptions of the ecology and hydrology of rivers. The paper concludes with a discussion on the need for urban and landscape design professionals to understand specificities of local ecosystems and societies and to use design as a process of going beyond simplistic spatial and conceptual categories.


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