Bombay Baithak: Re-connecting the City Recreation District

Academic guide: Prof. Kiran Pandya

Zameer Basrai was a student at CEPT, Ahmedabad from 1999-2005. Following is a documentation of the final design project.

“Every mega polis works through different districts within it. These districts together provide the image of the city, one that every person associates with and acquires a sense of pride for. The Gateway of India at the southern tip of the (British) Fort on the Eastern harbour of Bombay forms the hub of a recreation district.”

Public Open Spaces in Bombay

Re-connecting the city recreation district

Re-connecting the city recreation district

The intent of the project was to create a physical environment that would facilitate a dialogue between individuals and institutions working in diverse fields concerning the city; offices that are most instrumental in the organization and facilitation of cultural, environmental, conservational and developmental programs, but remain as undercurrents in the city, not being able to gather public support, morally and financially. The proposal stressed on a pedestrian spine, connecting the monument with the rest of the recreation district. The site was located along this promenade.

The Gateway of India jetty

Three Arch: Along the promenade

Three Arch: Along the promenade

The site contained a ruin of an arcaded street and the ground floor of a residential building which was burnt down years ago. This Memory of an existing building was translated vertically into the articulation of the proposed program; a physical and psychical response to an overpowering existing context.

The site: Fragments of an arcade

Response to a historical fragment

The Ground floor was freely accessible to the public, designed as an extension to the arcade, while the new program was suspended lightly from above making  connections through specific elements. The ‘Baithak’ or forum was found as a sunken core of the institution; its heirarchical importance determining the sectional profile of the space. The rest of the institution spiralled up along a ramped walk.

A sunken core and a spiral ramp

The project demanded a clear statement on architectural conservation in heritage precincts. The slender steel structure expressed technologically, a contrast to the stone masonry ruin; while the humility of rhythm and detail addressed it with due respect. The new building was supported on two massive towers which also housed a compacted set of services. The suspended floors thus allowed for clear slab areas wherein exhibitions, seminars, archival data, stalls and offices could be freely organized.

The building was suspended from two massive towers

A clear statement on contemporary conservation practices


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