Urban villages and informal settlements today in terms of human population occupy a Lion’s share of the burgeoning cities. Studies of Architecture therefore no longer remain within the realm of the singular home or the iconic cultural building. In fact, focus has moved away from the shiny object to explorations of the inadequacy of a complex network of infrastructural and social challenges. To empower students of architecture with the ability to decode the human condition in such heterogenic spaces, we at the School of Architecture & Planning, G D Goenka University, envisioned a project which enabled the 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students to share place knowledge. The selected urban village, perched on the south eastern fringe of Delhi, namely Aya Nagar, became the focus area of this study.
Students were divided in groups of different sizes and site visits were conducted wherein by actual engagement with the residents of Aya Nagar, and through the online resources of GREHA, relevant information was gleaned. This data formed the basis of the documentation which examined the multi-layered socio-cultural realities, and is depicted here through graphic representations of different mediums like maps, sketches, drawings, photographs and written matter. The entire exercise was conducted as a vertical studio which brought together students of various grades offering them the opportunity of working together and thereby getting to know each other well. A timeslot in the weekly schedule assured that through presentations and debates a sharing of different experiences came together which would have not been possible otherwise. It was for the first time that an exercise of this type had been undertaken and levels of engagement of students differed across the 3 years to which they belonged. To ensure that the idea of place knowledge becomes contextual, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students placed their respective design projects within this urban milieu.
I take this opportunity of thanking all students and faculty members who took part in this venture and to have made it a success.