(Notes from introduction given by Prof. Chhaya)

The first exercise of the workshop was the analysis of the environs of the entire stretch of the Sabarmati River. The participants were given a Google Earth image of the entire length of the Sabarmati basin and the reading of patterns on the map was discussed. In discussion with the students, it was found that the following could be observed from the google image:

settlements, farmlands, forest areas, eroded bad lands, grazing lands (gochar), estuarine areas, wet lands, industry, linkages/ movement.

In terms of a document, the students were also required to record elevations of places, important landmarks not covered above, and distances from nearest urban centres.


Lecture by Prof.R.J.Vasavada

November 28, 2008


Please use the format above and the colour codes for composing the material on your river environs analysis. Please have your final sheets composed in the given format by tomorrow evening (November 28, 2008 – 5:00 p.m.) for uploading onto the blog.

Some key ideas suggested by Prof. Kohn

Learning from Patrick Geddes’ ideas of

– Think globally, act locally

– Folk, Work and Place grid – to understand how ‘folk’ or social issues interact with ‘work’ and ‘place’ issues.

– Marcuse’s ‘one-dimensional man’ – where economic considerations dominate all others in society.

(More on this session forthcoming)


Among the many studies and projects done by CEPT over the years, some are mentioned below.

1. Water bodies studies around Ahemedabad

There are a number of lakes around Ahmedabad that served as important sources of water for the populations around the lakes. Studies of these water bodies were done by CEPT concerning various issues such as revitalization of water bodies and topography and behaviour of the water bodies. Some interesting findings are that the lakes to the west of the Sabarmati starting from North – Wadaj, Thaltej, Vastrapur, Malav and Sarkhej tank – were topographically connected in terms of overflow. Rain waters filling up the Wadaj Talav would overflow downwards to the other talavs and subsequently reach a catchment tank before flowing into the Sarkhej tank. With rampant construction in the west of Ahmedabad today, the natural flow patterns are disrupted and consequently, roads such as Drive In road flood every monsoon.

2. Mill lands around Ahmedabad old city

Studies of closed mill properties forming a ring around the old city – a few decades back, this mill land ring had the potential to form a planning resource that could act as an interface between the congested old city and the hinterlands.

3. Studies of medieval walled city of Ahmedabad

Extensively studied with works ranging from building typology (both institutions and dwellings), topography of old city (complete absence of flooding in the streets of the old city) to technological enquiries such as earthquake resistance of old city buildings.

4. Earthquake related initiatives

Early student initiative to the Bhuj 2001 earthquake in the form of collection of relief material and establishment of a help desk. Later efforts included an extensive damage assessment survey of nearly 5000 buildings in Ahmedabad.

5. Public transport in Ahmedabad

An on-going project to design the Bus Rapid Transit System for Ahmedabad

(These notes are highlights of the introduction given by Prof.Chhaya, and not a transcript of the entire session)


AHMEDABAD : The River and the City

A Multi-Dimensional Proposal for Urban Potential in Geographical Context.

Ahmedabad will soon be 600 years old. Its history is rich. Unlike cities which have in their history the romantic drama of war and conquest, we have a more prosaic history. Yet it is not a city without its intricacies and delights, its turmoil and sadness. A many-textured, human-scaled yet stoic and determined city.

The Sabarmati Valley, similarly, is not the stuff of sagas. Low key, often devoid of water, with flat terrain over most of its course, it is not a river to excite the imagination.

Yet amazingly, both these somewhat modest features have given rise to a peculiar and distinctive culture, imprinted in all who have lived here. Perhaps in the ordinariness of characteristics, both natural and man-made, is the secret to its near-universal appeal, a feel that grows on you.

Today Ahmedabad carries its past without burden, and thinks of a future bigger than its history points at. This workshop will take the River as the intersection of past and future, man and nature, large scale and small scale, economy and community….

We will need to understand the geography of the River Valley, and the impact of the city on this geography and vice versa. This is the North-South traverse. Many strands of economic, social and cultural relations will be found to be connected to this.

We will need to understand the dynamic of the cities’ growth outwards, from the compact early form to the megacity. This is the East-West traverse.

At the critical central zone of these two is the riverfront. Potentially a new heart of the city, proclaiming what the citizens consider to be the epitome of a vision of urban life.

An opportunity to work out what we amdavadis consider necessary in our relations to each other, our relations to nature and our relations to our work.. The Sabarmati Riverfront becomes therefore the lens for considering Ahmedabad’s urban future.

The workshop will aim to propose possible visions and scenarios which weave together the strands of history and future, taking into account what already exists and what is proposed for the future.


Invited Lead Faculty: Prof. Bernard Kohn.

Faculty from various programmes at CEPT will participate.

A number of speakers will be invited to address the participants and discuss proposals.


24th November to 13th December 2008.


Students from CEPT programmes.

Students from other institutions in Ahmedabad.


Workshop on Urban and Regional Aspects of the Sabarmati River Development 2008

At the origin of CEPT in 1962, then the School of Architecture, we based the educational programme on the duality of architecture in both its spatial qualities, but also of its deep social responsibility.
Forty-six years later, the world over we are dealing qualitatively with similar issues, obviously far more reaching :
a revaluation of direction and values, and as Amartya Sen would state of social choice towards a more equalitarian society.
Before him, Tagore and Gandhi, and so many others, closely identified India’s specific heritage and direction
with this social imperative which they opposed to more materialistic tendencies which they felt could not be controlled or trusted to take in consideration all segments of society.
In the last weeks, this capitalist value system has shown its fundamental weakness. Mere economic or technical wizardry as clever as they may be are not enough, just as buildings however impressive or even beautiful they may be, fail if they do not embody what Louis Kahn expresses as a “search for meaning in community”.
Obviously this is expressed here a point of view which is personal and needs to be discussed, for as students, as future professionals, educators and as citizens, we are faced with these profound issues of responsibility to each other.
These can have a direct influence on our design decisions which as Gandhi stated must answer to how well they address equally all citizens and especially the poorest.
«…a public project is to be judged on how well it addresses all walks of life, and especially the poorest…»
At this time, Ahmedabad is now faced with a most significant urban and regional project which can be, a marvellous opportunity to express civic choices which integrate fully (or not) these social values
For CEPT, the Sabarmati project, both the river basin and the river front, is likewise an unequalled opportunity
to bring together all the disciplines which contribute to the making of meaningful environments.

Design methodology : from past to present to future :
We do not exist in isolation.
From a position in the present :
– we are aware of the influences of the past that have contributed to the making of our environment and of ourselves,
– that today, our actions in a specific field have lateral ramifications
into other areas of study,
– and obviously that they will in turn influence the future.

Proposed programme of study: Sabarmati River Basin
HOURS : 10:00 – 12:30 14:30 – 17:00
lectures, metings : 17:30

WEEK 1 nov. 24 – 29
Monday Nov 24 :
1 – Positioning ourselves :
– Why this workshop?
– Why are we concerned? & are we concerned ?
– Who we are, where we are, where we want to go?
2 – CEPT communities involvement with community over the years.
3 – The Sabarmati River Basin from its birth to the Gulf of Khambat… Wednesday Nov26 :
understanding the issues to the best of our abilities.
4 – General workshop organization

Tuesday Nov 25 :
Along the 300 kilometres length, one can conceive of a series of ecological entities.
Students in groups of 12 ( two from each faculty) can position
themselves in one geographic area, or in a “longitudinal” strand of a reccuring problem / situation / issues.

Thursday Nov 27 :
Each group outlines its approach and work methodology in terms of “folk/work/place , that is :
– the people and the social considerations and issues including
– the activities be they agricultural, crafts, industry,
– and the multitude of built and environmental factors
and their interactions with each other and in relation to the Sabarmati river.

Friday Nov 28 :
Brief presentation by each group of :
– where they are, the issues that they have chosen to address, – and where they believe they are going.
– contrasting scenarios and their consequences over time.

WEEK 2 dec.1 – 5 Monday Dec 1 :
– presentation by each group (using A3 format).
A- the exisitng situation and official projects as they stand today.
B- alternative ecological scenario. C- a “third” way ?

Tuesday Dec 4 onwards :
Focusing on Ahmedabad, and the interface of vision / issues / realities with the Sabarmati river.

WEEK 3 dec.8 – 12
Synthesis and presentation
Proposed programme of study : Sabarmati River Basin
1- Concerning the Sabarmati River Project :
– Evaluation of the original 1962 proposal, its objectives,
those who were involved…
– over the years…, how the proposal has developed,
– where we are today : presentation of the plans
2- Illustrated references of responses to rivers :
– in history, in India and elsewhere, recent approaches,
analysis and issues.
3- Mobility : Comparison of alternative public movement systems which can be opposed or complimentory to “all road” solutions :
– people friendly “soft” tramways,
– minibuses.
– consequences in time of each solution in terms of economic development, urban fabric, environmental issues, social interaction.
4- Proposed design approach :
– understanding issues,
– facing them,
– positioning ourselves.
5- The use of the pattern language :
– the pattern language constitutes an excellent “thinking” tool.
– we propose the elaboration of a series of examples of the patterns of the many day to day uses of the river, be they cultural,
religious, economic, leisure…
6- Some books which may constitute a the
beginning” of a reference base :
– Christopher Alexander “The pattern Language”,
– Patrick Geddes : the Indian proposals – 1915-1920
– Ivan Illich
– Gandhi
– Amartya Sen
– Louis I Kahn…
For the two approaches, i.e. the longview and the short view, that is :
– the Sabarmati river basin,
– and the Ahmedabad riverfronts,
we need to identify resource persons who are susceptible to be called upon, interviewed.
Resource people may be :
– professionals, political persons, institutions, individuals who are concerned.
For the Sabarmati river basin :
– Obviously, a review of whatever has been planned, done over the last forty years in terms of river basin management.
– persons in the field of ecology, water management, soil erosion,
re-forestation, pollution, water availability , water table and water purity…
For the Ahmedabad portion :
– those involved in the fields of social sciences, citizen’s participation, housing, views on the “sharing of resources” by all citizens…
Resource “people”, institutions, administrations, groups and individuals…
«de-fibering» a complex structure in order to better analyse, understand its components.
the «grid» of Patrick Geddes :
interactions of Folk / Work / Place as two way processes, where each acts and is reacted upon by the other.
during the entire workshop we should aim at working together in a spirit of exchange and sharing with a good degree of informality and humour.
We should aim at being able to communicate
in addition to exchanges in the workshop, we may aim at being able to communicate and interact with a larger public
– with the CEPT community,
– to the larger Ahmedabad community
exhibition in a public library
exhibition in a public square – market day
spring 2008
can we reach a larger public ?
conclusion of a workshop
F r a n c e
I n d i a