The design was a public service project to demonstrate a pilot landscape initiative on a small part of otherwise, a large lake named Rabindra Sarobar at Kolkata, India. The lake plaza was designed for an area spanning about 25,000 sq. mts. as a pilot project, which had to be further extended by the government. This being an ecological reserve it was imperative to develop an idea that was sustainable. The focus was to sensitively design a park with the use of natural and re-usable locally available materials, enhance the recreational areas, and provide manifold options for the young and old to sit, relax, play and be one with nature.
The other emphasis was to provide a rich belt of diverse flora and vegetation which could attract different varieties of birds and waterfowl species, also giving a textural beauty to the place. The design includes pebbled walkways, designated pedestrian greenways for walking/ cycling, landscaped mounds, seasonal flowers, wild grass, ground covers, murram courts, ornamental shrubs and so on. The place already had beautiful full grown mature trees. Each tree had to find its place in the scheme of design.
Introduction and Location
Located in the heart of the southern Kolkata amidst the frantic pace of the city is an oasis of green quietness, known as Rabindra Sarovar. It is one of the few open spaces in the city and therefore, a very important ecological and socio-cultural reserve. It is labeled as a national lake and is a valued treasure to its citizens.
The total area of Rabindra Sarobar is about 192 acres of which 72 acres is the lake. The lake holds different expression and meaning to both the young and old. Through the day about 10,000 people visit it daily to jog, exercise, sit, relax, meet friends, enjoy nature and witness a variety of bird species.
At present the Kolkata Improvement Trust (KIT), a government organization maintains this recreational asset. With the onset of time, deterioration had seeped into the once charismatic and enchanting space. The lake had undergone a complete ecological degradation. Dumping of sewerage, water contamination, unhygienic environmental condition, decaying vegetation and neglected landscape were some of the commonly identified concerns.
Some Significant findings
· Multiple entry points with no access control of any nature,
· Unguarded vehicular and pedestrian movement around the lake,
· The area around the lake became unsafe after dark due to poor lighting,
· Prevalence of anti social activities after dark,
· Vandalism and inadequate maintenance of hardware,
· Ill barricaded fringes and
· Lack of public signage
The design intent was deliberately kept simple, yet profound. It took up some of the above prevalent concerns and addressed it through a holistic master plan. Detail design was done for the lake plaza area (ie. 25000 sq.mts.). It changed the definition of the way the edges relate to the lake and its pedestrian interface. A language of bollard lights, feature lights, well thought out signage system, public utilities like dustbins, drinking water and toilet structures were put for its uniform adaptation across the lake in its entirety. The dilapidated fountain structure was replaced with a sculpture court inspired by man-nature relationship that eventually became the center stage and a strong visual reference. Locally available materials were used such as murram – the red earth, uprooted tram route cobbles for the hardscapes.
Being a public resource low maintenance landscape was put in place. The pathway design was done with rough stone paver blocks in shades of greys and reds. This was edged with greens sided with sit out spaces along the lake with desired illumination levels.
With a shoe string budget, the design challenge was to make-do with the existing elements like the benches and weather-sheds donated by a few patrons and fountain structure. The pilot initiative truly inspired the government and other stakeholders, its citizens to come forward to contribute energy and time for its upkeep and aftercare. What started as a fun project taken up by us, the enthusiast citizens became truly a public service project.
Rabindra Sarobar – Urban Renewal Project
Anal Vaishnav – Architect and Urban Planner
Nouman Malik – Architect
Mansi Shah – Architect and Urban Designer
Mr. Anirban Bakshi – Architect
Mr. Sumit Dabriwala – Director, Calcutta Metropolitan Group Limited, Kolkata