KOENIGSBERGER’S BHUBANESWAR WITNESSES MANY TRANSFORMATIONS
The Foundation Day of Bhubaneswar is celebrated on 13th April. It was on this day in 1948 that India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had laid the foundation-stone for the new city. The city has now undergone various transformations and constant changes of the neighbourhood and the buildings it contains.
Urban transformation is a habitual process in the evolution of cities. It is based on the relations between the cities’ physical, social and economic processes. Bhubaneswar’s transformation from an ancient temple town to a modern city was executed by German architect Dr Otto H Köenigsberger in 1948. The initial planning was done on neighbourhood planning concept. In each neighbourhood, rows of Government quarters were built. Large Government buildings and a marketplace are at the town centre. The architect’s visualisation was of a horizontal plan in consideration with budget and general characteristics of the living style of the people.
The layout of housing was designed with parallel rows to admit sunlight and fresh air. Contemporary neighbourhoods facilitate pleasant and comfortable environment. However, the present-day neighbourhoods offer more emphasis on housing design.
Koenigsberger’s overall design for Bhubaneswar was based on the simple device of one main traffic artery, to which the neighbourhood units were attached. The town was divided into six units (residential neighbourhoods). Initially, emphsis was given to meet housing requirements of Ministers and gazetted officers, ministerial staff and Class IV employees with public utilities like market, hospital, etc. Unit-1 is the first of the six units which caters to the daily market, first public bank and police station along with different types of quarters for Government employees. Unit V is earmarked for administrative functions. Other units were planned as residential neighbourhoods. Each unit was designed to house a population of 5,000 to 6,000.
Koenigsberger suggested seven types of roads, footpaths, parkways, cycle paths, minor housing streets, major housing streets, main roads and main arteries, for seven groups of users for seven different functions. The overall widths of land earmarked for roads and streets were not determined by traffic alone but by requirements for storm water drainage services like overhead electric lines, telephone, water and the need of adequate light and air to adjoining houses. An important consideration was space for avenue trees on roads, and necessary provisions were made early in the land allotment scheme and in the estimates.
In Bhubaneswar, neighbourhoods are generally classified under four categories – pre-Independence inner city (Old Town, post-Independence (New Town – 1950), neighbourhood designed during 1970s and neighbourhood designed after 1990s.
The new Bhubaneswar town is experiencing changing dynamics in residential areas. Commercial areas in some patches of roadside plots in the neighbourhood are characterised by problems relating to limitation of space, storage, on-street loading/unloading, heterogeneous traffic and idle parking. A number of incompatible land-use is found within the neighbourhoods.
Until 1990, most of the neighbourhoods were designed with horizontal development with a few G+3 flats for Government employees. Due to high population growth after 1990, a number of private owners constructed apartment-type of houses. There are unauthorised constructions and conversion of residential zone to commercial. The examples are corner grocery shops, betel and cigarette shops, vegetable outlets and other shops. This has led to deterioration in the architectural character of the buildings.
At Bhauma Nagar, residential layout was designed in 1950. The location of the area is at the city’s central part. The plot sizes vary from 8x12m to 12x18m. The numbers of houses in this neighbourhood have increased due to construction of flats for Government employees. The roads designed at that time were wide enough to sustain the then traffic movement and parking facilities. It is served by shopping facilities, schools, a hospital and a community centre.
The existing Government quarters are of courtyard type of houses and common wall typologies. The houses were designed with rear and front courtyards. The buildings have retained their architectural expressions. However, there are modifications in the built structure to accommodate changes in family structure. A number of people constructed additional houses in the back and front yards. And the added garages for four-wheelers which were not provided during the initial phase of design. New market complex has already been added to the existing market.
The blocks of houses have conservancy lanes (gaps between two rows of houses) behind the house that serve a dual purpose. The lanes are used for sewerage line also to facilitate cleaning and repair work. The lanes are also used for movement of domestic animals and servants. The house owner purchased vegetables and other items from venders on these lanes. But nowadays, many such conservancy lanes remain unclean and create problems. Conservancy lanes are only found in the city’s old neighbourhoods planned during 1950s. The Madhusudan Nagar area designed during 1970s, and the area is close to Bhauma Nagar. There are Government flats, Government lease plots and private plots. In this area, transformations include demolition of old structures and construction of new buildings.
The Nayapalli area was developed after 1970. The neighbourhood layout varies with the period of development, land ownership status and land distribution scheme. This is a residential neighbourhood for VIPs and hence a posh area. A majority of land is under private ownership. The area also has multistoried apartments. However, the area’s proximity to the main road shows predominantly commercial land use. A large number of houses converted their ground floor for commercial use with upper floors being residential.
Chandrasekharpur was developed after 1990. It is characterised by an irregular road pattern. The lands are under the GA Department and also under private ownership.
In a neighbourhood, mixed land use has positive and negative environmental impacts. Only selective nonresidential activity in residential premises should be permitted selectively, taking into consideration the community needs, environmental impact and provision for safe and easy traffic circulation and adequate parking.
The observations of various stages of development of the neighbourhood can help to draw many lessons, which can be used in the modification process of the neighbourhood planning. Bhubaneswar is experiencing transformation in residential neighbourhoods. The integration of residential units with schools and markets has become difficult in the past few years. The lack of connections between new developments is a common problem in recent urban expansions.
The neighbourhoods developed on Government land have more open space than the areas developed on private land. In planned residential neighbourhoods under Government schemes, there is allocation of land for recreational use. Sufficient space for recreation is not available in private ownership land.
The planning for Bhubaneswar’s future requires a keen look at the existing ground realities. Besides, the present building regulations play an important role in determining the character of the neighbourhood. There is a need to understand neighbourhood dynamics by identifying stages in the process of neighbourhood change. Neighbourhood is intended to fulfil social, community as well as retail functions. A proper balance between all the facilities should be maintained for the convenience of residents.
Care needs to be taken for physical, infrastructure, city transport planning and environmental considerations of the whole region to prevent haphazard growth and scattered settlements. Open spaces, parks, recreational areas, green belts and plantation should be properly organised to provide environmental functions such as control of microclimate and environmental pollution.