This article looks at Gurgaon and its urban sprawl, aiming to narrow down to a city level, to study the diversification among the dwellers, based on class, helping us understand residential architecture and housing better.
Cities are always perceived differently by different communities. It might provide all the facilities to one sector and completely ignore the needs of the others. One might question, what is the basis of such group diversification? These communities are usually divided on the basis of religion, economic status, and location and even work designation. The city ideally should cater to every sector’s needs that help in building a ‘sense of place’ for its citizens.
Talking about the sense of a place, it often stems from the way it is perceived. Different people may perceive the same city or neighborhood in different ways. While one person may appreciate the ecological and social aspects of a neighborhood, another may experience environmental and radicalized injustice. A major factor that surely influences this, “sense of space” in an urban landscape is the class or so-called sects we have formed in this society. The way we perceive places such as streets, communities, cities or ecoregion influences and gets influenced by our well-being, the affordances of a place, sustainability, urban communities, and how various planners choose to improve cities.
Taking the example of the tech- city- Gurgaon. Life in the city of Gurgaon is a very interesting idea to demonstrate how various people perceive a city. With a heritage to its name, it is a confluence of a modern and historic era.
Through its historical lineage, Gurgaon had been a small town, mostly without any recognition or identity. Like any Indian city, its history has three sub-phases: ancient phase, medieval phase, and modern phase. Each of these phases has rendered a different effect on the town of Gurgaon. In 1966 when the state of Haryana was formed, Gurgaon was designated as one of its districts. Initially, most of the area was agricultural being an agro-based economy, with a few villages spread over its landscape. Gurgaon had green spaces and water bodies running through it, the ecology was unlike, what we see today.
Gurgaon boomed into prominence after globalization. Before that, it used to be an automobile manufacturing hub. The contemporary phase of growth has led to the formation of Old and New Gurgaon, with a major influx of people, creating a huge class disbalance. Today the city area has been divided into Old Gurgaon, New Gurgaon, and the urban villages, with metro lines and wide streets, and almost very little trace of green spaces left.
How did Gurgaon reach this dichotomy? A few entrepreneurs seized the opportunity and began to set up farmhouses and farms around the barren portions of Gurgaon. The City promised good opportunities with low land values. DLF (Delhi Land and Finance), the first among the private developers, began to buy land in hundreds of acres from farmers. Over the next several years, DLFs investment increased to thousands of acres of land. DLF took over the majority of the city.
The actual city dwellers got themselves bounded within a boundary of high-speed roads. Their land was sold out to the big real estate companies that have developed their region as a high-class, high-rise residential compound and have treated their neighborhood as a backyard dumping ground. Migration to Gurgaon has increased in recent years in search of high paid jobs. As a result of which, the government made policies to provide services to the migrating population with no regard for the issues faced by the urban villages that have been formed.
The population of the city has not only taken a numeric spurt but also has changed its cultural composition. In order to cater to the floating population from Delhi and other neighboring areas, a lot more importance was given to mobility infrastructure and as a result, the city for cars was designed. Even though the population’s cultural composition has become much more heterogeneous, the city has got its distinct urban personality, although missing out on inclusivity. Another limitation of this city is an affordable transportation system.
Today in Gurgaon, there are five-star properties to relax, big malls with high-branded shops to shop, high-speed roads to travel in cars and high-rise apartments to live. For the ‘elite’, Gurgaon is a place to live, work and play and spend on all the luxuries. But for the actual residents of Gurgaon, there is no basic infrastructure such as drainage, space to cycle or walk and space to indulge in farming.
Gurgaon as a global city is extremely successful but as a local city, it is a complete failure. Eating up of public spaces, renders the deprived class devoid of spaces to relax, whereas traveling on cycles, for errands on golf course road or any main street of Gurgaon is a hazard. The lack of footpaths and street lights make it uncomfortable for pedestrians. The basic planning of Gurgaon, which is car-centric, leads to making it a city that is never safe for its vulnerable sections; women, senior citizens, and children. Extremely large blocks with negligible or almost no interface with streets, make the street scary for women to travel at night.
For cities to be successful, it should cater to all classes of people. As urban planners or designers, we must take care of the needs of all the communities living in that area.
Aarushi Gupta is a practicing Architect and Urban Designer who is fascinated by Indian cities and their culture. Born and brought up in Delhi, she has experienced the transformation the city has undergone and how it is adapting the change. She loves to capture the small yet powerful transitions that solve the issues of common people. Writing about cities is one of her dreams that she’s going to fulfill through RTF.