Documenting urban open spaces heritage.

Various typologies of public spaces in the city of Delhi were documented by the First Year students of Department of Landscape Architecture, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi with objective to study the spatial organization, relationship to the city and various landscape aspects. The study was guided by Prof. Rommel Mehta, Minesh Parikh, Jasleen Waraich, Nandini Rewari and Pankaj Jain.


The Ajmal Khan Park is located at Karol Bagh — a northwestern part of Delhi. This park was named in honor of Hakim Ajmal Khan, a former President of the Indian National Congress and a founder and chancellor ofjamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi. The park has four adjoining roads and four major public entries from all the four roads. Being located in the middle of low rise high density development of Karol Bagh, Manakpura and Punjabi Basti, the park is thoroughly used by all sections of the people. On an everyday basis, morning and evening activities of walks, exercises, yoga and laughter therapies take place here. Active sports such as cricket, badminton and football are also played in various parts of the park. During hot summer afternoons it becomes a space for relief for people working nearby, who rest under the large shady trees present here. The elderly can be seen during afternoon hours basking in winter sun or chatting in groups under large trees. Large groups of men can be seen playing cards in groups from afternoon to evening hours. Women can be seen in groups and often with toddlers near the children’s play area. The open northwest side of the park is used for marriage ceremonies, political and religious congregations. The park homes many mature shady trees like Peepal, Neem, Ashok and thus are an asset to the site. The general slope of the park is minimal. Irrigation requirement for the maintenance of the park is sufficed by four bore wells present in the site. Several structures — shelters and fountains — dating back to pre-independence time are present in the site. Further aim of the exercise was to improve the edge conditions of the park, make it more cohesive so that it functions like a singular multifunctional public area and not as segregated cluster of open spaces.


Hauz Khas complex in South Delhi houses a water tank; an Islamic seminary, a mosque, a tomb and pavilions built around an urbanized village with medieval history traced to the 13th century of Delhi Sultanate reign. It was part of Siri, the second medieval city of India of the Delhi Sultanate of Allauddin Khilji Dynasty (1296-1316). The etymology of the name Hauz Khas in Urdu language is derived from the words Hauz meaning «water tank» (or lake) and Khas that means «royal» — the «Royal tank». The 700 year old lake, developed by the Khalji Sultans, was fed by trapping the storm water generated in the Southern ridge in an embankment from where it was diverted to the Hauz. Less than a decade ago, Hauz Khas Lakes water table had dropped; its bed was dry and partly concretized. Surface water was not available for restoration. Storm water from 125 ha. Catchment area and treated effluent was directed to Hauz Khas through a series of five check dams in Sanjay Van as per a proposal by INTACH. Due to the ongoing restoration process, the lake has now steadily acquired the characteristics of a natural eco-system. The district park at Hauz Khas comprises of the Deer park, the Rose garden, the Hauz Khas complex, the woodland forests and the surrounding green areas of nursery and children’s park developed alongside. In totality, the site covers an area of 400 acres and has both natural as well as designed landscapes. It is one of the few green areas of the city that is tightly knit in an urban context and yet has not lost its cultural identity. However, the site is in need of proper restoration and maintenance in terms of both its historical monuments as well as the fauna of the lake, the Deer Park and the forest. The restoration of the District park and Hauz Khas; and its transformation into a natural habitat with pleasing visual characteristics will prove to be an important step towards conserving and promoting it as a healthy ecological environmental asset.


Jahanpanah City Forest is one of the biggest green belts in Delhi covering an area of about 464 acres and is a city level reserved forest. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it not only serves as a major thoroughfare connecting two colonies but also links two contrasting income groups of the society. The city of Jahanpanah is originally part of the fourth citadel of Delhi. The city of Tughlaqabad was the initial capital of the Tughlaqs. Mohammad Bin Tughlak after ruling for seven years shifted the capital to Daulatbad, Devgiri, in Aurgangabad District of Deccan. Daulatabad had water scarcity and the people suffered severely. After he realized his mistake, he shifted the capital again to Delhi in 1334 CE. To reduce the suffering of his subjects, he built a new township and named it Jahanpanah which was located between Mehrauli and Siri. Jahanpanah which means «world s asylum» was altogether a new city, different from Tughlakabad which was believed to a cursed city. The forest connects the starldy different neighborhoods of the high class area of Greater Kailash and slums of Dakshinpuri. The historical Tughlaqabad Fort lies in vicinity of the forest towards the south-east. On entering the forest, one can sense the transformation. The air becomes cooler and the heavy traffic and the hustle and bustle of the city seem subdued. The forest serves as the only large open recreational space for the surrounding vicinities. It caters to different age groups and serves as a place for their relaxation and rejuvenation. Jogging tracks, resting spots, children play areas, picnic huts, shelters and a variety of flora and fauna all form important elements of the forest. All activities are sited along the periphery and pathways. The rest of the forest remains untouched and has been conserved. Most of the trail is covered in thick foliage and provides a good respite from the heat. Daily visitors to the forest can experience the changing character of the vegetation while walking from one end to the other. Some areas are quite desolate; hence safety issues are a major cause of concern here. The major challenge we faced while designing the forest was to provide for more functional and social aspects while retaining its original character.


The Mehrauli Archaeological Park (130 acres) lies in the historically rich zone of Delhi. The important structures around the site include Qutub Minar, Adam Khan Tomb, Azim khan Tomb, Ahimsa Sthal, Dadawari Jain Mandir, Madhi Masjid, Dargah Qiitubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, Zafar Mahal, Gandak ki Baoli and several other structures within Mehrauli. Thus, these scattered structures around the site add to the significance benefitting it with cultural aspect and tourism opportunity. The site area is dotted with remains from every era of Delhi’s history — from pre-Islamic to the late Mughal and the Colonial period. The redevelopment of the area and conservation of important structures started in 1997, with collaboration between DTTDC, the State Department of Archaeology, DDA and INTACH. As per the Master Plan, Delhi 2021 Mehrauli area has been identified as a ‘Heritage Zone’. The site falls under South-Central ridge which is termed as a Regional Park as per Master Plan, Delhi. The site faces various issues related to surface drainage and sewer drains, undefined entrances, encroachments within few monuments and nearby site boundary, grazing area and dumping grounds near the site edges and unplanned parking areas and lack of amenities on site. Few monuments within the site are actively used by neighboring residential areas for cultural and religious purposes. Despite these issues, the area also has potential related to easy accessibility, ecological reserve and can be developed as a high tourist destination and for learning Delhi’s historical fabric. Presently, the site’s image is not as an archaeological park. Few approachable areas within the site are used for recreational purposes while the rest of the area remains underutilized. Thus, there needs to be a shift in recognizing the site more for its historical and cultural legacy, from the present use.


The zone comprising of Purana Quila and the Zoological Park is characterized by the planning patterns of various eras including old settlements (Nizamuddin), Colonial era (Lutyens Delhi) and the relatively newer planned areas. The Purana Quila occupies an ancient mound (which conceals perhaps the ruins of the city of Indraprastha). Sher Shah Suri demolished the city of Dinpanah, built by Humayun and on the same site raised this citadel. It is irregularly oblong in plan with bastions on it s corners and in the western wall. The quila has three main gates surmounted by chattris. It is a gateway to Delhis past and a site that has almost always been inhabited for the last three millennia. This is a place with tales of great kings and warriors, a site coveted and fought for, where Humayun gazed at the stars, where Sher Shah Suri gave a new direction to the administration in medieval India and where the Mughals overcame their rivals after disastrous setbacks to eventually build a powerful and enduring empire. The site also has two more city level significant areas — India’s first National Zoological Park and an artificial lake that was originally the moat of Purana Quila. On an average Purana Quila receives more than 800 visitors per day out of which around 25 percent also go for boating in the lake. This has helped in generating revenue for the maintenance of the same. The common entrance zone has issues of segregation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The boating lake and the zoo have tremendous potential of adding more value to the urban open spaces of Delhi and its cultural landscape.

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