Rarely do people happen upon a true microcosm, a location that perfectly encapsulates the depth and diversity of a larger idea – in this case the idea of urbanization. On our second day in Delhi we visited Hauz Khas Village, and from the moment we walked down the packed road we were captivated by its conflation of contradictions. Hauz Khas Complex was, 700 years ago, a university and urban space based besides a man-made lake. It ruins now sit in the middle of one of the Delhi’s burgeoning social and fashion hubs – Hauz Khas Village.
During our visit we were able to observe and compare the outcomes of two of Delhi’s many booms over its 1300 year old history. In particular, our focus was on trying to understand the shape and form urbanization can take as a city grows. In Hauz Khas Village, on the one side are the standing ruins of an ancient planned city, with its sustainable infrastructure and socially conscious urbanization. On the other side is the ongoing, unprecedented, and unchecked growth of one of the largest cities in the world. The clash is not just between modern vs. old, but also between two different visions of a city.
In comparing the two, we are able to understand that a city’s growth is fueled by both structural support and an inner desire of its citizens to build. Despite the clash of antiquity and modernity there are many similarities between the old and new ‘village’ (if you can call a densely populated area in the middle of a metropolis of 45 million people a village). Both have prospered from a congregation of different ideas and cultures – previously from around the region and now the world. Most surprisingly, the space has managed to keep its charm of a communal ‘village’ over its hundreds of years of growth.
As the world continues its march towards an urban majority, it is important that we treat new and old cities differently. New cities need to reflect the needs of their times and people, and not be imitations of other cities. As Delhi, and other ancient cities, continue to grow they must be mindful of respecting and incorporating their history and heritage into their growth.
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