With a history of more than 600 years, Ahmedabad also known as Amdavad is located in the central part of Gujarat having the river Sabarmati as a separator for Old and New Ahmedabad. Ahmedabad is blessed with architecturally rich historical monuments which also brought the identity of Asia’s first World Heritage City in the Year 2017. A wide spectrum of Architecture of Ahmedabad can be seen in the city ranging from the ancient to the modern style especially the last works of contemporary Indian Architects. This diversity is a result of various cultural, social, political, demographical, and economical influence persisting since 1411. A French traveler, Tavernier, visiting the town in the 18th Century had described it as ;

“The headquarters of manufacturing, the greatest city in India, nothing inferior to Venice for rich silks and gold stuffs curiously wrought with birds and flowers.”

Ahmed Shah laid the foundation of Ahmedabad due to which one can see an impression of Mughal Architecture in the monuments like Jama Masjid, Shaking Minarets, and Sarkhej Roza. These monuments have become the identity of the city like Sidi Saiyad Mosque with Sidi Saiyad ni Jali.  We can also witness the fusion of Hindu and Persian craftsmanship leading to the Indo-Saracenic style of Architecture. James Forbes has described in his memoirs that ;

“Until this visit to Ahmedabad I had no conception of the extent of oriental magnificence; the palaces and splendid chambers described in the Arabian nights’ entertainments, appear no longer overcharged or fabulous.”

Shaking Minarets
Source: Ahmedabadtourism.in
Jami Mosque
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Sarkhej Roza

The old city of Ahmedabad was planned as a walled city having 12 Gates to enter the city, which also became the representation of the Architecture of the city. This fortified city consists of narrow lanes leading to different ‘Pols’ that is a type of residential area having various Havelis with detailed carvings and connected houses. Such typology of housing creates a spread of shadows thus keeping the streets shaded in the hot and dry climate. In 1856 Buist had noted that ;

“Ahmedabad is still famous for its Gold, its silks and carved work, and its merchants and brokers enjoy a distinguished reputation of liberality, wealth, and enlightenment.”

Street of the old city
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Haveli with carving

The presence of Hindu Architecture is also remarkably visible in the structures like Adalaj stepwell and Swaminarayan Temples. The use of wood and stone is fairly visible having magnificent carvings in it. During the reign of Britishers, the influence of colonial architecture was prominent. The structures with colonial architecture were M.J. Library, Town Hall, IP Mission school, and Circuit House. By the time of the First World War, the textile industry was on its best form thus giving the title of “Manchester of the East” to the City of Ahmedabad. Along with that, after 1915 Mahatma Gandhi came to Ahmedabad, selecting it as his place for the national campaigns for independence movements and thus establishing Sabarmati Ashram on the banks of the river Sabarmati.

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Swaminarayan Kalupur temple
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Adalaj Stepwell

After 1947, the architecture in Ahmedabad evolved in a very different manner resulting in the modern form of Architecture. It got immense support from the enlightened business class which brought in artists, architects, educators, and outstanding contributors from various places to the city. This small town was now going to be transformed and shaped by well-known architects like Charles Correa, Louis Kahn, Le Corbusier, Alexander Calder, Buckminster Fuller, Achyut Kanvinde, Anant Raje, B.V. Doshi, etc. This modern architecture was a blend of new materials and traditions reflecting into the built forms. This marked the beginning of the expansion of the city towards the West with new institutions and residences.

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IIM
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Sanskar Kendra
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Mill owners Building
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Gandhi Ashram

In that new era of building Institutions, a wide range of institutions was built, making Ahmedabad the education hub for the nation. Vikram Sarabhai played a vital role in setting up institutions like Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Indian Institute of Management (IIM), and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). After 1991, post-liberalization a new policy of integrated development was implemented wherein the idea was raised by the government and it was executed by private companies. This led to infrastructure-driven projects for public welfare. Some of its examples are Sabarmati Riverfront development and BRTS.

Sabarmati Riverfront

In the two decades i.e from 2000 to 2020, western Ahmedabad has witnessed a trend of residences from row houses to high rise apartments whereas commercial buildings have transformed from brick & mortar to concrete & glass. The city is constantly evolving with the change in skyline due to the riverfront and the architecture is also transforming with the change in the urban fabric of the city. Along with this, the east Ahmedabad is also been addressed with new strategies and policies to retain the heritage value of the Old Ahmedabad which is also bringing in a good amount of tourism to the city.  Hence, a balance is created with a river in between!

All the images are clicked by the author otherwise, the source mentioned.

Author

Jhanavi is an architecture graduate from Nirma University in 2019 with the best awarded Research Thesis on Architectural Response to Waterfronts. Jhanavi is an Associate Architect at JCE, Ahmedabad and also recipient of research grant for the research of “Women in Architecture” from EDRC. She is a keen observer, who loves to translate the minute details into words.

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