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from Transit nodes to Social nodes


Semester 7 Project Document

Sumegha Mantri Exhibition and Spatial Design National Institute of Design Ahmedabad, India April 2010


Now shall I walk Or shall I ride? “Ride”, Pleasure said; “Walk”, Joy replied.
‘The Best Friend’, W.H.Davies.



The act of walking offers a natural pace to sensory perception and a deeper engagement with the surroundings. It is essential for understanding any space. In the ‘Book of Nature’ Ruskin Bond states:

“I believe that the journey is more important than the destination. But, then, I have never really had a destination. The glory that comes from conquering the Himalayan peaks is not for me. My greatest pleasure lies in taking path – any old path will do – and following it until it leads me to a forest glade or village or stream or windy hilltop.”
When on foot, we have the time to perceive things, to have small interactions with those who pass by and more importantly, the time to muse. However, this kind of tramping is not what we do in our cities. Walking in the city usually implies a brisk morning or evening walk or going around in circles in a park, for the few health conscious folk. Else, people walk to get somewhere, and walk past hurriedly without looking and noticing. Children are not encouraged to go out and explore on their own. The wilderness is absent, the roads are crowded and the city is unsafe. It fosters a fast paced habit of walking, when the wonder of a walk is its engagement with its surroundings. Walking and such leisurely walking are important. But of greater consequence is the existence of an environment that supports such saunter.

“That our cities have become mere towns for car driving men, have to be reconquered for those who want to sleep, with an open window, or take a stroll in front of the house, for the women and for the old people and above all, for the children.” Hanns Adrian, ‘The car in the city’.
R.K. Laxman’s illustrations (bottom, left) aptly reflects how are cities are getting populated with vehicles, more so, the car. The car can be viewed as an extension of the private space of the house. A sealed private bubble on the move, far removed from the connect of public transport, cycling or walking. In providing the comfort and mobility required to sustain our lifestyles, it has created air and noise pollution, adversely affecting the quality of urban life. However, beyond these issues, is the matter of urban space. The car has carved out for itself spaces in the limited area of urban fabric – garages, parking spaces and ever widening roads, from what could have otherwise been gardens, parks and other public spaces. Such development has been the guiding vision for long, resulting in cities which are not walk-able. There is a need for our developing cities to avoid getting choked by a car oriented vision of progress, but to form into open cities, where its inhabitants can go from one place to another perhaps by strolling through a series of parks and where the children are free to ramble about and explore things for themselves, not in the confines of garages and parking lots, but in the vistas of parks.

Walking the city: Busy getting somewhere



Parking spaces


1.1 Walking The City

This project has evolved out of the diverse experiences of numerous walks in the city of Ahmedabad. The noise and the traffic often made it difficult to walk on the main roads. Sometimes, there was a complete lack of pedestrian space and walking became a constant negotiation for space with the two wheelers and cars on the streets. On other occasions, a stroll through a quiet residential alley would open into a small park nestled in the locality. Walking through the narrow lanes of the ‘Pols’ in the old city was like walking through peoples

homes. One could smell the cooking and hear household conversations. The old city has a human reference of scale and community life is given importance. The private space of the home overflows into the lanes of the Pols and walking through them is an intimate experience. In complete contrast to this is the isolation that the riverfront offers. Walking on the concrete banks of the Sabarmati sandwiched between gargantuan walls on both banks was equivalent to walking with blinders, unable to see the city around and bereft of natural textures and sounds.


1.2 Ahmedabad City
1. Figure 4-4 :Vehicle per 1000 Population in Major Cities 1990 and 2002. Page 64,Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission City Development Plan Ahmedabad 2006-2012. Prepared By the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority, with Technical Support from CEPT University. 2. Between the years 1971 ad 2001, two wheelers have grown by 3877%, Three wheelers have grown by 1253% and the AMTS buses have grown by 69%. Table 4-2: Total motor vehicle growth and growth of two/three wheelers and AMTS buses in Ahmedabad (1971-2001). Page 62, Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission City Development Plan Ahmedabad 2006-2012. Prepared By the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority, with Technical Support from CEPT University. 3. The Tata Nano, India’s Rs.1lakh ‘people’s car’ was commercially launched on the 23rd March, 2009. “I observed families riding on two-wheelers – the father driving the scooter, his young kid standing in front of him, his wife seated behind him holding a little baby. It led me to wonder whether one could conceive of a safe, affordable, all-weather form of transport for such a family. We are happy to present the People’s Car to India and we hope it brings the joy, pride and utility of owning a car to many families who need personal mobility.” Ratan Tata’s vision. ‘The Debut at last’, Businessworld, 31st March - 6th April issue.

Ahmedabad is the Indian city with the largest density of motor vehicles1. In the last three decades, the growth of private vehicles has been phenomenal as compared to that of public transport 2. This can be attributed to the exponential rise in population and urban migration. Smaller cities are growing faster than the large metros. Economic growth has led to a rise in the middle class and a subsequent increase in their disposable incomes. There has also been a significant shift from the joint family structure to a nuclear family structure in society. These coupled with an absence of adequate public transport infrastructure has resulted in people investing in private modes of transport. The easy availability of loans for such investments has further accelerated the growth private vehicles. Therefore, it is little surprise that cities like Ahmedabad have the highest two wheeler density in the country. Recent developments3 have made the car smaller, cheaper and more affordable. Besides, the ownership of the car has been marketed as a status symbol. As a result of all these factors, people who previously owned two wheelers are now crossing over as small car owners. If such visions of progress continue, the next five years will see the mass motorization of urban India. Cities like Ahmedabad will get choked. Footpaths will make way for wider roads and parks will have to be converted into parking spaces. What is required now is a shift in urban planning and investments to better the infrastructure and facilities of public transport.


The Green Urban Triangle


2. Vision
The vision of Ahmedabad outlined in this document is that of a city without cars. Where parks, buses (BRTS), walkways, cycle-paths and trains form an excellent integrated urban transport system. Free from noise, pollution and traffic jams, the experience of walking in the city would be similar to that of strolling in a park. Such a system would be ecologically and socially sustainable. Public transport fosters interactions amongst people. This would promote a better understanding between them and nurture mutual respect and therefore make for a peaceful and enriching urban environment. The city is about its people. It’s the peoples’ sense of identity, pride and the collective ownership of resources that enriches and maintains the social, economic and physical infrastructure of the city. This pride comes with active engagement. We identify with something only if we share a memory of it. Memories are tied to emotions. Public spaces need to build this emotional connect with the people and provide for experiences and memories to be created. Only then will they come alive, generate a sense of ownership and hence live on. The transit nodes of the system would not only connect the different modes of transport, but also act as social nodes. Active social spaces where people Meet, Eat, Entertain and Travel (MEET). With this background, the project looks the most important transient public space in the city – The Railway Station.


3.The City Strategy

Ahmedabad is situated on the banks of the river Sabarmati. It is a radial city, divided by the river into the old, fortified city on the east bank and the new city on its west bank. This division is not just physical, but economic and cultural as well. Travelling across the city, this difference of the lived texture on both its banks becomes apparent. The divide of the river is punctuated by ten bridges at almost regular intervals. The

Outer Ring road defines the periphery of the city and along with the 132 feet road and NH8, connects the different areas of the city internally and also connects the city externally. The BRTS (Bus Rapid Transit System) has been recently introduced in the city. The first part of phase1 is functional and has reduced traffic and travelling time, besides being a delight to travel in.


Proposal for Trains as a Mode of Urban Public Transport

Trains traversing the city originate at the main railway station in the center of the city (Kalupur).

At the station, the tracks of the local trains are perpendicular to those of the National Railway.

The trains cover the city in three concentric circular tracks – the inner, middle and the outer tracks. Each track has 2-4 trains.

The trains travel clockwise and anti-clockwise on the same track. These trains cross each other at the smaller stations, which are elements of discovery within the urban fabric.

The crossing over – ‘Chiasmata’

Islands - spaces for public art and installations

The horizontal cross Plan

The vertical cross


Islands - spaces for public art and installations Chhatris Chabootras Buffalo sculpture

4.The Railway Station

The mention of a railway station instantly conjures ideas of travel.And travel, denotes distance and connectivity. The railway station in signifying travel also becomes a connecting node for spaces – cities and their suburbs and towns and villages. A train journey brings with itself, an element of excitement, part of which can be attributed to its essentially public nature. The station is a public space. Chaotic as it may seem, it demands an order of time and space. We do not travel alone, but with hundreds of unknown fellow travellers, some of whom we befriend in the course of the journey. The motion provides a view to perceive the transition of landscapes as we reach our destination. This drama of travel is fairly continuous, rhythmically punctuated by pauses at stations.





4.1 Location of the station

The present Ahmedabad railway station was built in the early 1960s. It is centrally located in the city (facing page, top left) and is one of the busiest junctions of western India. The image (facing page, bottom left.) shows the distribution of space in the station complex. The railway station is an opening into the city. It is an important point of entry and exit and in being so, it is an introduction to the city. Around the station, are landmarks that people would identify with and relate to the city. The pair of minarets (facing page, top right) that open onto the first platform are fragments of the city’s political and architectural history. The chimney of the mill in Saraspur (facing page, bottom right.) belongs to the recent past. It stands for the economic and sociocultural identity of the city. Besides being visual landmarks, these symbols introduce the city to the traveller and orient the visitor to the rest of the city.


Old Pla orms

minarets Parking Area

Saraspur Sta on meter gauge

Kalupur Sta on broad gauge Present Pla orms

mill complex

Reserva on building


4.2 The Nature of Space

The station is a linear system of tracks, trains and platforms. Circulation and the distribution of amenities are centered around this linearity of space. At any time, there is a large population using the space and it tends to get crowded. The large volumes of spaces like the main entrance hall help dissipate the feeling of claustrophobia.This volume of the main hall opens onto the long platforms, their lengths covered by corrugated canopies. These canopies are visual barriers and break the connectivity of space. Pair of bridges, one on each end define the limits of the active zone of the station and physically connect the platforms. Spatially, these bridges are long busy corridors, with little view to the platforms and activity below or to the city at large



5. The Proposal

The railway station has been visioned as a transit hub connecting different modes of transport and as one of the social nodes in the city where people can Meet, Eat, Entertain and Travel (MEET). The present arrangement of tracks, trains and platforms has been kept constant and the strategy is designed around them. Part of the proposal is also the adaptive reuse of defunct urban spaces (for eg. the Mill land) in the vicinity of the railway complex. The attempt is to hopefully weave these physical signifiers of history and culture as active public spaces in the urban fabric. Other peripheral amenities (for eg. places to stay) have not been provided for in the immediate design with the hope that demands for such amenities would initiate collateral development around the area. The whole is made up of the following parts. 5.1 The Upper Platform 5.2 The Canopy 5.3 Circulation 5.3a Entrances 5.3b The Ramp 5.3c The Main Hall 5.3d Bridges


Initial conceptual drawing

5.1 The Upper Platform
The local trains travel in a direction perpendicular to that of the national railways, 12m above the present platforms.


This upper platform is supported by a system of arches that span its entire length. The tunnels formed by the arches would be an element of excitement for those on the platforms and in the trains on the lower level.


To have the local trains pierce through the main hall was not feasible. This would make the portal frames of the hall vibrate. The trains would therefore have to enter and exit the station from the Saraspur end.

structure signallin


The freight corridor lies between the third and the fourth platforms. Therefore, the distance between them is greater as compared to the others. To achieve the minimum clearance height required for trains to pass through, the arch spanning the the distance between the third and fourth platform was required to be larger than the rest. For reasons of aesthetics (the proportions of height and span), the second arch rises higher than the level of the upper platform. While keeping the aesthetic and visual language constant, it breaks the monotony of the arches and the structure signals entrance.

ng entrance


Cross section of non-parabolic arches.

Cross section with common base of 2m

Cross section with common base point arches.

Cross section with common base arches.

Cross section with adjacent base arches

Cross section from 3D model

Initial cross section from sketches.


Arch base of 1m on the platform

Arch base of 1.5m on the platform

Arch base of 2m on the platform

Arch base of 3m on the platform

Refinement and iterations of the various arches and the area of contact between the base of the arches and the platforms.
Iterations Final selecion

Distribution of space on the upper platform.


The upper level is divided into two zones – the concourse and the platforms, distinctly demarcated by a pair of larger arches. The concourse is the primary waiting and meeting area. Its a place where people can sit down, wait, have lunch, read a book, meet friends and look down at the expanse of the space below. Small exhibits could be placed here and there could even be short performances on the concourse.

Main Hall

Upper Concourse

Main Hall

Upper Concourse


Local trains originate on the platform that follows the concourse. Arched openings cut across the walls of the tunnel on the platforms below. They function as points or access between platforms and visually frame the span and the activities across all platforms.

Local Train Platforms

Local Train Platforms



5.2 The Canopy

Besides providing protection from the natural elements, the canopy unifies the space. The existing individual canopies on each of the platforms did not allow for a visual connectivity across the span. There was a need for a singular volume that would encase the entire station and maintain spatial unity. The volume was required to make the space feel open, such that people could ‘see the sky and feel the air of the city’. For those entering the station in the trains, the appearance of the canopy from a distance would signify their arrival at the station.


A singular volume that encases the entire station and maintains spatial unity


An exploration of forms for the canopy. The forms in the first row of images was finally selected.


5.3 Circulation

Circulation is about the relationship between movement and pauses in movement. Spaces define the way in which people move and are often ordered around this movement. The adjacent image shows the macro-circulation aspect of the station. The station is a transit hub. Bus stops on both sides and local trains connect it to the entire city. The micro-circulation deals with the movement of people within the space, the connections and accessibility of the different elements within the space. Besides, circulation refers not just to the movement, but the spatial experience and the transition of volumes along the path of these movements. These have been elaborated further in the following parts: 5.3a Entrances 5.3b Ramp 5.3c Main Hall 5.3d Bridges



5.3a Entrances
An entrance is the point of distinction between the inside and the outside. It is an introduction to the space and just like the contents page of a book, it must orient people in space. There are six entrances to the station complex, besides entering the station by the trains. Three from the Kalupur side and three from the Saraspur side.


Saraspur Entrances One of the entrances to the station is through the station building itself. Local trains exiting of the upper platform are elevated above the road. These tracks begin inclining down after they have crossed the road.Those entering the station through this end would have to walk under the tracks. They will see the trains pass overhead.

Kalupur Entrances The right bridge entrance from Saraspur connects right across to the Kalupur end. A pair of escalators and stairs from the side park takes one up to the bridge, through an aperture in the superstructure. The bridge connects to all the platforms below and to the upper concourse. The central entrance at the Kalupur end is from the main hall. It is the primary circulation zone. The third entrance is through the minarets. One of the minarets will have to be shifted from its original position to make this a wider entrance. The minarets mark a dramatic beginning that leads one onto the long curved entrance ramp. In time, people would start mentioning this landmark in their conversations – " िमनार के पास साड़े चार बजे मिलते हैं,”- “lets meet at the minarets at 4.30”.

The local train track separates the other two entrances. Both are inclined ramps that open onto parks on both ends and connect to the cross platform bridges inside the station. The park on the right side is a bus station and the old Mill building has been converted into a café, with the chimney as a landmark. One can walk down the ramp, cross the road and enter a park, go to the mill café and be informed about the events in the city and then board a bus to reach the event.




5.3b The Ramp

The entrance through the minarets gradually leads to a ramp that takes one into the station. The ramp begins to rise gradually amongst the trees on one side and the tracks on the other and turns to reveal the inside of the superstructure. It constantly rises to give a birds eye view of the station and its activities. The ramp enters the superstructure, curving above the first platform, giving a closer glimpse of the platforms and the trains below and the cross bridges and concourse ahead. It continues to ascend to meet the cross bridge and then pierces out of the superstructure into the open, amongst the canopies of trees. The ramp continues further and finally ends in the center of the main hall.



The rise of the ramp is gradual – It grows and pushes itself out of the earth just the way plants do.

Once inside the main hall, the ramp connects to the upper concourse. There is a dramatic transition of volumes, from the low height of the ceiling inside the main hall, to the large volume of the station enclosed by the canopy.





5.3c The Main Hall
The portal frame structure of the hall has been retained. Entrance to the main hall is through the ramp at the upper level or directly at the ground level. The ramp that rises from the minarets ends in the center of the main hall nine meters above the ground, dividing the volume of the hall. It is supported by branching tree like tetrahedrons and its periphery is lined with creepers that come down. This would make people feel as if they were walking under the canopy and shade of trees. The ramp can be reached by pairs of carefully placed elevators and escalators. A flight of stairs just outside the first portal frame has also been provided for the same purpose. The main function of the ramp in this area is to connect to the upper concourse, which is the primary meeting area and the station for the local trains. Generously wide flights of steps and inclined moving ramps connect the ramp to the upper concourse. The main hall opens onto the first platform through two arched doorways, which frame the entrance and are of the same language as the arches that support the upper platform. The doorway just under the ramp opens to reveal a surprise. On its left, the arched openings under the upper concourse form a tunnel and frame the entire span of the station and the activities across it. Outside the hall, on both sides is a grassed landscape with evergreen and deciduous trees. The road that reaches the main hall rises very gently from a distance to meet the steps. A single step demarcates the inside from the outside. Gradually sloping ramps on both ends provide an easy transition for the differently-abled and for those with heavy luggage. Once inside, one would encounter the creepers coming down from the ramp. This unexpected encounter with the living green transforms the entire spatial experience of the main hall and would perhaps influence people to slowdown and look around.



5.3d Bridges

parallel bridges

The main purpose of bridges is to connect. There are two sets of bridges in the station. A pair of bridges parallel to the upper platform and three pairs of perpendicular bridges in between them. The bridges parallel to the upper concourse are placed 65m away from it on either side. They connect the lower platforms to each other and can be accessed by stairs and elevators on the lower platforms.

perpendicular bri


The perpendicular bridges connect the parallel bridges to the upper concourse. They are three pairs, strategically placed such that they can be accessed from all the platforms. These bridges are supported by inclined columns, at the base of which is seating for the lower platforms.


Detail of the parallel bridges and staircase from the platforms.



6. Epilogue

You say they bore their way through hills, They roll over bridges across mighty streams, They crash through forests and vast planes, But at the end of their restless journeyings – Where do they go and finally rest?”
~ ‘Trains’, Humayun Kabir


The complete strategy in drawings




SECTION AA’ - sec on through the main hall and the upper pla orm.

SECTION BB’ - longitudinal sec on of the canopy, upper pla orm and bridges.



Long sec on through the main hall and part of the ramp

Plan of the main hall and the upper concourse.


The Ramp turns and pierces out of the Superstructure


THANK YOU Jignesh Khakhar for guiding not only this, but the earlier projects as well. For his time, trust and incessant encouragement with everything. Tanishka Kachru, for her guidance and valuable feedback at every step and for extending learning beyond the studio and academics. Richard Goodwin for all the inspiration. Yatin Pandya, for his guidance with raw nascent ideas. Rishi Singhal, for showing us photography in a different light. Praveen Nahar, for his insightful inputs in the beginning of the project. Dimple Soni for coordinating the Exhibition Design department. Biju Thomas and all those at the Kalupur Railway Station for giving time and helping me understand the space. Kanjibhai Dasadia for the selfless effort he puts into the smooth running of the studio. Jeetubhai, Jayesh and Paresh Soni for all the printing, photocopying and laser cutting to the most odd of requests. My fellow classmates – Sitangika Srivastava, Upasana Jain, Prathima Muniyappa and Vivek Sheth for sharing thoughts on work and beyond and for their friendship. Sanaa and Akanksha for the many discussions in the studio. Priyanka, Rhea, Vihanga, Samyak, Rhoda, Tanvi and Prerna for making the studio a fun place to work in. Tanima, Kanika, Vasanthi, Tarka, Nikhil, Neerav, Meenakshi, Rakhi, Malika and Maria for their encouragement and enthusiasm. Vishaka and Yash Mantri for sharing the madness and Poonam and Ramesh Mantri for nurturing it.