Different cities have evolved in terms of their spatial character and quality. The morphology and form characteristics have evolved in terms of layouts, density, block sizes, land-use pattern and building forms. The city of Ahmedabad is in the state of Gujrat and the population comprises both Hindus and Muslims. There are spaces that are designed for the culture of the city.
Transitional spaces refer to the connecting spaces and are also defined as the spaces located in between outdoors and indoor environments which act like a buffer zone and physical link. In Ahmedabad, the system of Pol is prevalent in the city. The system is a housing cluster in the city. These clusters are defined by caste, profession or religion. The streets in these clusters were narrow. The houses are present on the ground floor and the jewellery shops on the first floor. Pol housing system has an internal courtyard that acts as a buffer between the front and the back for maintaining privacy. A passageway was developed around the courtyard as a next stage of development. The housing system is about 300-400 years old. The streets have minimum length and thus are beneficial for shading during summers.
Next to the Muhurat Pol lies Manek Chowk which is an example of traditional public spaces that adapts to the usage in an urban context. Around 1,00,000 people visit the chowk, and the central space is visited by 30,000 pedestrians. The space plays an important role in the city as it is a central space where the culmination of different cultural aspects is investigated by different heritage buildings and user dominant space. The surroundings of the square have a high density of built-up area and thus leads to a formation of spaces such as streets and open spaces.
In the present day, the surroundings of the chowk are improved by conservation of the historic monuments, preservation of the tangible and intangible heritage aspects and improvement in traffic management and making the space more user friendly. There are new commercial centres that have opened up in the city of Ahmedabad leading to Manek chowk being a neighbourhood level retail centre. The chowk in the present day has been an evolution due to the increase in the built fabric around the square. This has also led to the interplay of internal and external spaces. Due to this, the square forms an L shape. One side of the square is bounded by the King’s tomb and the Queen’s tomb. On the other side the retail section lies such as jewellery shops on the ground floor and the stock offices on the first and second floors. The bays of the building set up a rhythm that generates uniformity. The breakdown of the façade into smaller elements led to a scope for the addition of small elements which might be temporary in nature and adds up to the importance of the physical environment of the square. The buildings in the area showcase an adaptable nature for a variety of uses. The buildings add to the nature of the square as they are modifiable and variable. The accompanying street of Manek Chowk is a linear space with a huge tree in the centre of the street.
Apart from the commercial hub, the square is used for other purposes as well. The importance of the square is also much due to the juxtaposition of small scale shops and vendors in the chowk. The square is used for pre-market activities, setting up of the market, sale and setting up of evening market which comprises eatery joints, etc. Pre-market activities include trucks carrying fresh fruits, vegetables and other food items which are dropped at the wholesale market. The other activities that take place during the day are the markets for the authentic handicrafts present near the Queen’s tomb. Apart from the handicrafts, print cloth is sold in this area. Block print workers and carts of mouth fresheners and betelnut can be found at the entrance of the Queen’s tomb. The area surrounding the King’s tomb is occupied by steel utensils and vessels shops. The activities of the square are more porous and temporary in nature. The square gets ample gradation of sun and shade. The evening activities are focused on the eating joints and for social gathering. The space is well organised for outdoor seating.
The two spatial settings are different in nature and play an important role in the cultural setup of the city. The spaces act as transitional spaces with different functions. The two spatial settings are vital in the social setting of the city. Both the spaces have a link to the history of the city and enhance the importance of the city.
- A city for reimagining redevelopment, WRI India.