Sunday, December 25, 2011

200 years of Hazratganj

A prominent city based architect, Asheesh Srivastava specializes in conservation projects. A consultant and advisor to Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) he is currently involved in the restoration of Jaisalmer Palaces and of course the man in-charge of Hazratganj’s revitalization. Excerpts from an interview to M Tariq Khan

Q) What is the central theme of the Ganj makeover plan?

I would not call it a makeover. The plan is to restore and revitalize its main street and make it a Clean, Safe, and Green Hazratganj. Remember, this street is not only a central business district of the city but also a heritage precinct with 200-year-old legacy. Our effort is to bring back its glory and celebrate the true spirit of Sham -e- Awadh - a walk down the street. The approach is community-driven and backed by State Government

Q) Did you do any research or consult anyone before drafting it?

Asheesh: Yes I had detailed discussions and brain storming sessions with all the stakeholders like the Traders association, "Lucknow Connect” a citizens group, Government officials to identify issues and problems faced by the area and finding their solutions. Evolving a consensus and cooperation among the many groups and individuals who have a role in the revitalization process is the main aim of the project.
Personally I have been monitoring Hazratganj for last five years and have seen and observing change in architectural character of Hazratganj. It has been part of our training to understand and identify various issues affecting a heritage precinct and then find solutions through design: Enhancing the physical appearance of the commercial district by restoring historic buildings, controlling new construction, developing sensitive design management systems, and long-term planning.

Q) Ganjing has always been an experience on foot. How do you intend to restore the footpaths that have disappeared?

My main focus is on restoring the pedestrian nature of Ganjing. Our design aims at achieving this. We have actually introduced continuous stretches of pathway for entire Hazratganj Street. These will be the areas of public interaction. Ganjing is actually a kind of community interaction activity and can only be achieved in a pedestrian format the footpaths are not just walkways; they have all the elements of an urban space. I would also like to emphasise the concept of active living where our design encourages people to walk and enjoy the carefully designed meeting places and piazzas. The footpaths will
be designed with barrier free access to differently able persons. It will have post Op lanterns, benches and dustbins all designed in sympathetic architectural style.
Views and vistas into and out of these streets add to the important streetscape qualities of Street and are being considered while designing. The seats, trees, lamps and other street furniture will help make Hazratganj Street a very pleasant environment for people.

Q) What is the philosophy for choosing cream and pink colour scheme for Ganj buildings and blue for signage it is not blue?
There is a simple concept to use original colour scheme as it used to be before. The crème and pink colour is used because this is the original colure scheme of the area and will give authenticity to it.
Just doing it in one colour scheme and with organised signage we can achieve the cohesiveness and quality of the streetscape, which is far greater than the architectural merit of any of the individual facades.

Q) How do you intend to restore the architectural features of the arcade?

This is a complex procedure. Our Team has been documenting the architectural features of the street and luckily we have plenty of them in place and this will give us enough information to restore them. The area in general is characterised by an assortment of colonial facades, some properly adorned with decoration, others bare. The individual facades are generally narrow. When the facades are wide they are subdivided into a series of bays, thus providing continuity to the rhythm of the streetscape. The precinct as a whole is both historic and of architectural merit. I am actually trying to fill in the gaps obscured due to passage of time.

Q) Is the makeover design sustainable?

The revitalization is a continuous process. Once on move it will start the spiral effect bringing people to the area and thereby increasing economic viability of the area. If we respect our identity and our heritage I have no doubt that it will sustain. Involvement of all stakeholders in decision-making makes the process moiré sustainable as it gives sense of ownership to all.

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