Surah Mill / Experiments in Anti-zoning

Can the Surah site retain the density & organic form of an unzoned area like Barabazar, while also protecting the open, or “void” spaces, where life flourishes?

The lack of a formal master plan in Barabazar has resulted in a diversity of activities, a fine-grained system of land use, oftentimes overlapping mixed uses, and a vibrant economic street life. Its urban morphology is organic street patterns, dense and dynamic building patterns, and lots of flexibility from unregulated use.

Salt Lake City and New Town, on the other hand, are the result of a formalized, top-down planning scheme, which has resulted in limited spatial diversity and much less density. Morphologically, its straight street patterns and straight building patterns leave little room for flexibility.

We see potential in the organic density of Barabazar to address some of the main challenges arising from India’s high pace of urbanization, primarily, the unrestricted expansion of cities. This proposal is an opportunity to reduce that pressure by building more densely on existing underutilized and undervalued land.
Yet, we are hesitant to fully embrace Barabazar as a formal model. Given the density of activity, common goods, and the open spaces they reside within, are subject to immense pressures and often encroached upon.

As such, we will design what we are calling the void – meaning systems like streets, economic activity, and infrastructure– rather than the form (actual physical buildings) as a measure to ensure the protection of open space.