India: the Urban Transition

Title: India: the Urban Transition – a Case Study of Development Urbanism
Author: Henrik Valeur
Publisher: The Architectural Publisher B
Content: 344 pages
Publishing date: July, 2014
Language: English
ISBN: 978-87-92700-09-4


”Its an interesting account and format because its many personal encounters, people etc combined with period zooming out to theorize what you see and make propositions. All very interesting and relevant to what’s happening in Indian cities. The two cases really represent two totally different conditions in terms of planning culture!
I very much enjoyed the range of issues touched upon and based on first hand experiences! The fine grain reading of issues in the Indian city is an important contribution so is the attempt to connect so many dots to make sense of the moving targets we encounter in Urbanism in India.”
Rahul Mehrotra, Indian architect, Professor and Chair of Urban Planning and Design, Harvard University, July 2014.

Reviews (excerpts)
”Henrik’s observations appear valuable in repositioning important questions and seeking opportunities for creative solutions. […]
India: the Urban Transition could be criticised for leaving aside academic rigour (though parts of it are meticulous cross-referenced), but in doing so it brings to the table the value of a close-to-the-ground, interconnected way of looking at our urban fabric. It celebrates the contributions of people in a way academic literature rarely does.[…]
[T]he book contextualises city making as a complex highly political process and contends that it is the Indian city that can truly be the landscape on which the idea of India, with its diversity, flourishes.[…]
The author’s use of humour and his complete honesty while describing the struggles of Indian cities with development urbanism is worthy of appreciation.”
Mukta Naik, Senior Research Associate at Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, in Urban India, Vol. 34, Issue 1, January-June 2014, National Institute of Urban Affairs, pp. 235-239. Full review

”In an age when star architects dominate our attention, the Danish architect-urbanist Henrik Valeur’s book on India’s urban transition is an important reminder to us of a longstanding parallel history of architecture and urbanism, one where architects tackle social problems through practical engagement with the built environment. […]
Although not intended as a scholarly book, India is well grounded in data, and supported with relevant statistics, footnotes, references, and graphs that prove the great challenges that India is facing in terms of poverty, pollution, housing, water shortage, and so on.[…]
While the statistics make one confront an overwhelming urban crisis in India, through case studies, his intimate narrative orients us toward realistic solutions that can make a difference to improving people’s lives in cities.[…]
[H]e encourages the reader to rethink his or her surroundings and imagine futures that would improve the neighborhood and city for all sections of society.[…]
This well-supported study, excavating some critical problems facing South Asian cities and offering a range of solutions, is a fascinating and invigorating work that deserves a wide readership.”
Preeti Chopra, Associate Professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison, in H-Asia, H-Net, December 2015. Full review

”The book […] is endowed with a refreshing contemporary graphic expression, which serves to facilitate the presentation of the drier end of the material. […] The contents’ different qualities of paper – uncoated, glazed and gray recycled-twig paper – impart a most interesting and varying expression to the book. The cover has been printed on a wonderful piece of uncalendered nutmeg-stained Chipboard; this fashions an exquisite organic frame around the clean and matter-of-fact typesetting.”
Nominated for Best Bookwork of the Year 2015 by the Danish Book Craft Society.

Book description
Development urbanism is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on sustainable urban development as a means to combat poverty and protect the environment in the so-called “developing” world. Based on his experiences teaching, researching and practicing in India, the author discusses some of the problems related to the urban transition of India, including the air pollution, the contamination and depletion of fresh water resources, the precarious food situation, the lack of proper housing, and various environmental and human health problems related to motorized transportation. He also proposes a number of possible solutions, including the use of plants and natural ventilation to create clean indoor air, the revitalization of an existing system of water canals, the creation of vertical kitchen gardens in a rehabilitation colony, a strategy for making an entire neighborhood car-free and a design for self-designed, low-cost housing.

Table of Contents
Preface 6
Acknowledgement 8
The poor are moving to town 10
Indian challenges/opportunities 27
Two cities
Chandigarh – an Indian experience 42
Bangalore – the urban schism 72
Five basics
1. Air
Self-organized green office space 106
2. Water
Running out of water – in India 114
The great potential of Bangalore’s waterways 142
3. Food
Grow your own food! 174
Vertical kitchen gardens 180
4. Housing
Making India slum-free 196
The slum dweller 222
Low-cost garden flats 228
5. Mobility
The horrendous costs of motorized transportation in (Indian) cities 256
Alternatives to the automobile in the Indian city 283
Car-free Sector 19 294
A new voice in urban politics 314
References 330
Index 333
Dear reader, as you may already know, in traditional Indian culture, time is perceived as circular rather than as linear. For me, two circles are being closed with the completion of this book. It was while traveling in India, as a teenager, that I decided to become an architect. I went back to Denmark and began a one-year course in order to improve my grades and get admitted to the school of architecture. But during that year, I began to fancy being a writer, instead, and on the day that I handed in my application, at the admissions office, I had written down “literature” as my first choice and “architecture” as my second. Standing in the doorway that opened into the office, however, I thought to myself: “Well, l took that course because I wanted to be an architect, not a writer, right?” Accordingly, right there on the spot, I crossed out “literature” and wrote “architecture” instead.

More than two decades later, in 2010, I came back to India, this time to teach, to research and to practice as an architect. And by writing this book, which is based on my experiences as a teacher, researcher and practitioner in India, I suppose that I can now call myself a writer, too.

It was a rather concrete and acute reality that I had come back to, as compared with the one I had experienced a long time ago, when I was building sandcastles and dreaming of becoming an architect on a beach in Goa.

A decade after graduating as an architect, I was working with urban development in China. At that time, it was said that 16 out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world were in China. Only a few years later, however, there were six Indian cities that were more polluted than the most polluted Chinese city. This is not necessarily because the air quality of Chinese cities has improved; on the contrary, news reports indicate that the air quality in Beijing, for instance, is worse than ever. However, the air quality of Delhi is even worse.

And air pollution is only one out of many severe problems found in Indian cities today. But who am I to presume that I know the problems of India better than the Indians themselves?

Of course, I don’t think I do, but as an outsider, I might be able to offer a fresh perspective.

My findings and ideas are conveyed through a collection of essays, interviews and opinion pieces, research articles and project proposals, which make up the content of this book. The various pieces and projects were developed individually and at different points in time. For this reason, recurring points come up at various times throughout.

I am discussing some of the basic concerns of human existence and wellbeing in urban settings – these concerns include air, water, food, housing and mobility – and I am proposing a number of possible solutions that address these concerns, using two distinct cities in India as my case studies.

Bangalore in the south and Chandigarh in the north have been shaped by two different streams of Western influence: the former by colonization and globalization, as well as by the ideology of liberalism; the latter by modernism and the ideology of socialism. But taken together, I believe, they embody most of the dilemmas being faced by Indian cities – and by cities in many other countries.

Thus, my hope is that this book may also come to serve as an introduction to development urbanism: the study of how sustainable urban development can be used in the so-called “developing” world as a means to both combat poverty and protect the environment – the two great challenges of our time.

Rural/urban population in India: 1950, 2000 and 2050.

First of all, I would like to thank the many people who are contributing to the ongoing debate about the urban transition of India, on many different levels and in many different forms. It is this debate that has greatly informed the content of this book.

Second, I would like to thank the many people who have contributed more directly to the book’s content through collaboration and conversation. They include members of the faculty and a number of students at Chandigarh College of Architecture; the first Indian chief architect of Chandigarh, M.N. Sharma, and the current chief architect, Sumit Kaur; the activist and founder of Eco & Agro Resource Management, Arshinder Kaur; the permaculture specialist, Rico Zook; my former employee in Shanghai, Sarvdeep Sangwan; the environmentally concerned businessman, Kamal Meattle; the former minister of the Indian government, Pawan Bansal; the slum dweller, Pawan Verma; the retired school teacher, K.K. Malhotra; the professor of landscape architecture, John Bass; the artist and author, Patsy Craig; Radha Chanchani and other researchers at the Center for Infrastructure, Sustainable Transportation and Urban Planning; Professors Sitharam, Chanakya and Ramachandra from the Indian Institute of Science; my former students at Lund University, Ashwin Karjatkar and Shraddha Kapri; researchers at the Indian Institute of Human Settlements; the architect-developer, Vivek Halbe, and other people working at Shrsti Space; the politician, Ashwin Mahesh, and his assistant, Sunil Agarwal; the environmentalist, Lavanya Keshavamurthy; the entrepreneur, Murali Ramanath; the change management consultant, Don de Belle; the artist and founder of Jaaga, Archana Prasad; the development worker and founder of Micro Home Solutions, Rakhi Mehra; and two students of architecture from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, Harman Preet and Sameera Sneha.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the profound impact that Indian people and Indian culture have had on me.

This publication was made possible with support from:
Bergia Foundation
Dreyer’s Foundation
The creation of the content was made possible with support from:
Danish Arts Foundation
Dreyer’s Foundation
Danmarks Nationalbank’s Anniversary Foundation