Monday, September 11, 2006

Building regulations in Calcutta

Building regulations in the city would definitely not permit what Unnayan's proposal for canal-side renewal visualised e.g. extensive terraces, open spaces or even such high densities as proposed in the mixed use complexes.

Thus, small plots with small box-like structures is all that the regulation ions can promise. All kinds of detailed regulations on internal spaces and mandatory lines would also affect the project. Arcades as proposed would be unthinkable. Hence there is a case for reviewing the entire body of regulations, towards transforming these into something that positively encourages urban renewal and architectural excellence.

The kind of complexity and richness suggested in the Unnayan proposal is very difficult to achieve under the existing regulations. There are very few qualified people running the building department in Calcutta Municipal Corporation, and they are incapable of conceiving the scope of architectural design. The sole motivation is to increase the pressure of restrictions and thus enforce a clamp-down on errant developers. Errant developers are not dissuaded by this and buildings still collapse thanks to incompetence and corruption. The final result is enforcement of mediocrity. With no scope for excellence or aesthetics or urban environmental quality.

Thus the Unnayan proposal is something that highlights the existing limitations of the system and challenges these. Even if the proposal is never accepted, it remains as a document that can strike at the conscience of the city.

I am grateful to my friend Devananda Chatterji, architect, who was responsible for developing the renewal proposal on behalf of Unnayan, for his clarifications on this subject.

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