DAY 1: Introduction by Prof. Kohn – 1

November 26, 2008

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


4 Responses to “DAY 1: Introduction by Prof. Kohn – 1”

  1. nandan said

    The river has different associations to diferent communities – The meanings that the river rhine carries in germany contrasts with Tiber or the Ganges (and its folk myths). The bridge (rialto, vecchio, ellis bridge each has its own sense of existence) – river gods emerge – or the river is landscape – or commerce in an industrious sense –
    the river bank stands as much separated as its connected.

    Or a river meanders through the grand canyon for centuries and is ancient – Mythical rivers like Saraswati that flow in the mind – or a river leaves its memory behind as a footprint in the topography !!

    Rivers are violent at times – change course in their fury – lash out at the meek settlements perched on their banks and wash them away –

    Given this multifarous context – how do we imbibe our ecology of rivers into our psyche! Does it involve a new paradigm – nandan, chennai


    it involves a new paradigm ,of course. The Swaraswati and the Nile where ever it flows-MIND> BRAIN or the DELTA .But not because it involves the FOLK MYTHS..but involves SYSTEMS OF KNOWLEDGE,POLITICS OF HUMAN affinity to access riverfronts and hence TREES of growth can spread towards city..LOOSE SCALE(CHINA) or can attain- VARANASI is not the question ………………………
    …how much scope we have to respond to the associated scale the river confronts…LOCAL SCALE OF THE RIVERFRONT…WE CAN THEN TALK ABOUT A(NEW) PARADIGM..OR WILL BE IN OUR MIND….IF BUILT- AS WE SEE IT NOW in THE BANKS OF SABARMATI ….

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