With a heavy heart, we pay remembrance to the late Ar. Ravindra Bhan, Principal Architect at self-found Ravindra Bhan and Associates, Delhi, who passed away today at the age of 88.
Prof. Ravindra Bhan is a pioneer in the field of landscape architecture in India. Apart from this, he participated in the first-ever master planning attempt of Delhi and the very first Yamuna Riverfront Development plan.
He completed his formal architectural education with B. Arch from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A. and Masters in Landscape architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, U.S.A. He started his architectural education in the school of planning and architecture in New Delhi but left formal architectural studies to work with Ar. A. P. Kanvinde.
His work experience was as impressive as his education. He worked briefly with Skidmore, Owing and Merril, Minoru Yamasaki and Associates, famous Architect Ar. Reima Pietila from Finland and, probably the most impactful, Prof. Ian MacHarg (authored “Design with nature “ that revolutionized the approach to landscape design) back in the University of Pennsylvania where Ar. Ravindra Bhan worked with him as a senior designer for over 7 years.
Ar Bhan was selected by Ford Foundation to establish the first formal training in landscape architecture in India, at the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi which he headed for 5 years. He established his own practice in Delhi during this time.
He was awarded the Aga Khan Award for architecture and landscape architecture in 1980, among many other national and international awards, and is a member of multiple advisory councils. He was Professor and Head of Department of Landscape Architecture school of planning and architecture, New Delhi, 1972-76, and has also lectured at the University of Pennsylvania & Washington University.
Since 1980 he had been teaching as a visiting professor in the Department of Urban Design and Landscape Architecture at the school of planning and architecture in New Delhi.
Throughout his career, he has handled various projects, both in Architecture and Landscape where the design approach is guided by the site and its constraints and potentials it offered. Some of his projects include Shakti Sthal – Memorial for late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Development plans of Ayodhya Ghats, Master planning and Site development for Rabindra Sarovar, Andrews Ganj, Housing for HUDCO – Urban design and landscaping with Design of 180 units. Landscape design for Kovalam Beach Resort, Mughal Sheraton Hotel in Agra, and many more.
On this day, let’s take time out to revisit some of his influential projects that have left a mark on the people, users, urban fabric and us, as architects.
Children’s Park at India Gate, New Delhi
Contribution: Site Development & Landscaping of Children’s Park, India Gate, New Delhi
Ar Ravindra Bhan put in immense thought behind designing appropriate environments for the play of all age groups because of the changing times and the advances in science and technology which have opened up new dimensions of understanding the activity of play. His consideration for the various user groups while designing itself sets him apart as a Landscape Designer. He believed that the physical shape the play environments should take to fulfill the growing needs of the present-day children depended on many factors such as the locational, economic and social structure of the community and also differed from region to region.
Golden Temple Corridors, Amritsar
Contribution: Site Development And Landscape Of Golden Temple, Amritsar
In order to make up for the loss caused during the 1984 Operation “Blue Star” and in 1986 operation “Black Thunder”, the government undertook the development of the area around the Golden Temple. This project meant to redefine the congested narrow streets and the overall visual disorder of the oldest part of the city.
An integrated space structure with varied spaces for recreation, social and religious interaction, large open areas, cascades, fountains and reflecting pools form the 15-acre development area which with its multitude of plants, trees, and shrubs, provides a pleasant environment within an urban context. The plan creates a ring road around the temple to facilitate the Parikrama and provide the pilgrims with basic amenities and the luxury of being surrounded by a beautiful landscape.
Contribution: Site Development Of Ayodhya Ghats
After an unwarranted agglomeration spread across the dry river bed when River Sarayu changed its course, the land between the old town and the riverfront became overrun by sewer lines, telephone wires and electricity lines, creating an unsustainable divide between what used to be an integrated environment involving the river and the town.
In 1985, the irrigation Department of the Uttar Pradesh Government decided to re-organize and beautify the area by constructing an irrigation canal along with a park, connecting the River Saryu and a stretch of agricultural land beyond the town, making it one of the largest conservation reconstruction and redevelopment projects in the country
Architect and Urban designer, Rajat Ray writes; – “With an architect’s eye, professor Bhan could visualize the situation of the older ghats. he persuaded the authorities to dig up and expose the steps of the hidden ghat and buries – a difficult and long-drawn process made even more tedious by the stubbornness of officials of different departments that hand to be patiently overcome, as anything like this was not on their agenda. The discovery of old Patwari maps showing the existence of old ghats at that place played an important role.
As the ghats became visible, Bhan suggested and designed a system by which the proposed irrigation canal could flow closer to the old town edge, touching the ghats. He worked to satisfy the requirements of re-routing and adjusting the town’s service lines to remove all the obtrusive structures and also the uncalled encroachments from the area. He almost forced the authorities to implement the idea that was liked and fully supported by the local people.
The irrigation department’s park was converted into what was now constructed as Ram ki Pedi. The old ghats were repaired and water flowed over them again after a gap of one hundred and twenty-five years. The canal was thought of as a miniature version of the river. On the right bank is the old ghat edge and on the left bank, newly designed ghats, platforms, and barges were added. A high bund separates the Ram ki paid area and the main flow of the river along which more hardscaped ghats were constructed for bathing. The holding capacity was doubled to cater to the large crowd of bathers that gather during the festivals and meals.
The implementation of this unique and pioneering project owes a lot to Ravindra Bhan’s personal conviction and sense of history”
Stormwater Drainage Scheme, Churu
Contribution: To solve the severe drainage problem in Churu, Bhan proposes an Ecological solution.
Churu, an important town in Rajasthan, suffers from a lack of effective sewage and stormwater drainage systems, which causes the water to remain stagnant in the low lying areas for a long time creating unhygienic and uncomfortable situations for the residents. This scheme mainly envisages providing a drainage arrangement for Churu town to drain out rainwater during rainfall.
Proposed Drainage Scheme as per Ravindra Bhan and Associates:
To have the idea of natural slopes of streets etc. the complete town was surveyed and levels were taken with respect to assumed B.M., adopted as the top of the rail line in front of the exit gate of Railway Station. The reduced level of the top of the rail was taken at 286.205m. With the help of spot levels taken in the entire town, the contour map was prepared. Looking at the different ridgelines, the worst affected area was divided into two zones, namely-Johri Sagar zone and stadium zone, which are also termed as Zone A and Zone B respectively. Looking at the topography, it is not possible to drain out water with gravity flow anywhere. Out of the municipal limit, in the circumstances, there is no option left to provide pumping arrangements separately for each zone to pump out rainwater and sullage water. A disposal site for Zone-A has been selected in the north direction about 2 Kms away from Johrisagar near NathjikaDhora. For Zone-B, the disposal site has been selected in the west direction about 2.5 km away from the stadium.
Rectangular masonry main drains suitable for carrying rainwater for 12mm per hour rainfall intensity have been proposed along the feasible alignment as shown in the map in both the zones. Provisions have also been made for the construction of small drains in the side streets wherever required as per Municipal council practice. Wherever it was considered open drain to be unsuitable due to high depths, circular R.C.C. non-pressure pipes with manhole chambers at suitable spacing, have been proposed.
Pumping stations for Zone-A and Zone-B are proposed to be located near JohriSagar and Stadium. Each pumping station shall constitute a screen chamber, sump well, pump room, etc. The pumping sets for rainwater as well as sullage water shall be installed in the common pump room. From the pumping station, parallel pumping mains are proposed to be laid up to the highest point available in the alignment towards disposal sites. From the tail end of the pumping main, open masonry drains are proposed to be constructed up to disposal sites.
Provision has also been made for trolley mounted diesel engine driven pumping sets to pump out rainwater from the localized depressions not covered under Zone-A and B. Likewise, provision has also been made for a tractor with tanker fitted with a pump set to pump out daily sullage flow from the blocks of houses situated in the fringe of town.
Contribution: Design for the Memorial of St. Indira Gandhi
Intended to design a memorial place reminiscent of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s childhood spent in Kashmir, the brief asked for sweeping meadows, framed views, clusters of flowering trees and rolling hill rocks. Being a National monument, it also had to integrate and represent the diversity of India, and it’s coming together.
The primordial elements of nature – earth, water, rocks, and trees were the only design elements used in the project. The diversity of the country was represented by displaying large rocks (numbering almost a thousand and weighing 5 to 60 tons) of geological significance from each state and union territory of India making it the first geological park of it kind in the world and representative of the total geological crust of India.
Shivani Chaudhary is just another architect trying to make it big by breaking free from mainstream architecture. She is passionate about architecture, writing, photography, and travel. She believes in change, where change is necessary and in influencing people with her work.