The Rajasthan Cities Project
The Rajasthan Cities Project // Jaipur
Jaipur founded in 1727 by Jai Singh, is the capital city of Rajasthan, India’s largest state. Designed by the architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, the extraordinary heritage makes it a magnet for tourism. Behind the pink sandstone facades of the medieval city, Jaipur confronts an urgent crisis: the rapidly diminishing supply of drinking water. As a growing city with a population of 3.65 million inhabitants, and expected to reach 5 million in 2030 (UN World Urbanization Prospects), architecture, landscape architecture, preservation and urbanism are essential to redefine a built environment able to support a thriving urban life. The present dilemma is exacerbated by the loss of traditional water soaks – the lakes and ponds that created a threshold between the Aravali hills and the urban perimeter of the city. The loss of this ecological territory – to unplanned growth, and the increasing encroachment on the fragile environment of this desert city, has undermined the already scarce water sources. In the summer of 2019, Jaipur – now dependent on the supply of piped water from the distant Bisalpur dam, was 25 days away from Day Zero – the point where there would be no fresh water available to the city!
The research question for this project is essentially an exploration of urban and architectural strategies that might enable Jaipur to be sustained. In addressing the essential need for harvesting and harnessing the water from the few months of monsoon rain, the project prioritizes the creation of a more equitable city – both in terms of natural resource allocation as well as through a new socioecological framework for the development of egalitarian public amenity. From this inquiry, the project has diagnosed the current condition -understanding the history and evolution of Jaipur, to develop a vision for the future of the city, and propose pilot projects that will test the implementation of this vision. Buildings, public spaces, short / long term urban strategies, and alternative urban infrastructures are outcomes of the project. Exhibiting sensitivity for the extraordinary urban heritage of Jaipur, this project is developing urban infrastructures to enhance the water stewardship of this city. Infrastructural systems for the processing of sewage and solid waste, and an understanding of the systems of energy and mobility- is critical; coupled with the understanding of demographics, economics, governance, and industrial and agricultural production, to generate a robust and holistic role for architecture in the city.
The Rajasthan Cities Project works in a national and international collaborative network beginning with the University of Virginia, School of Architecture and Tulane School of Architecture. Students participated in the research trip and conducted fieldwork in Jaipur (from October 5-13, 2019). The Government of Rajasthan provided information from multiple civic agencies, supporting this research endeavor. The work of the studio was closely examined by experts in the ground in a substantial and inquisitive feedback loop.
The project worked as a research team with members of different seniority, Professor, Research Assistant Professor and Students, combining team and individual responsibilities. The studio followed the methodology of the Yamuna River Project. New Delhi Urban Ecologies (book published by ACTAR in 2018, project website www.yamunariverproject.com). The team examined Jaipur with a multidisciplinary approach. Besides the urban morphology and architecture, the understanding of the city included socioeconomics, ecology, history, infrastructures and all the layers that constructs the complexity of the urban life. International and local experts from different fields were encouraged to respond and contribute to the team’s discoveries and hypothesis.