Creat. Sp.

Re-Planning 'Planned' Public Spaces: The Neighborhood Market of Sector 15 in Chandigarh

Niyati Jigyasu

PUBLISHER The Author(s) 2014. This article is published with open access at

From the Greek Agora till today, market places have always been an important component of a city's public realm. These are the community 's 'open-air living rooms which, while contributing to the city's economic growth, are platforms for unhindered social and cultural public interaction, and, even serve to encourage upward mobility in society. However, concepts of the public space in planned cities, especially the utopian productions of the 20th Century, are more focused on the physical and visual aspects of public space, and activity patterns regulated by the designer's vision of ideal societal behavior. Time, on the other hand, has shown that most of such planned spaces have performed differently, transforming in response to market forces and users predilections, thus highlighting the indispensable need for inclusiveness in urban design. Chandigarh, India's iconic 20th century planned city, is no exception. While many elements of the original plan had proved to be fairly robust till recently, one of the first ones to defy and demolish the planners' perceptions was the Neighbourhood Market. Over the years, the cumulative effect of several 'unplanned' (and, thus, unforeseen) user groups, activities, societal and technological advancements has transformed each of the markets in distinctive manners. Today, the challenge of accommodating various socio-cultural and economic groups, creating inviting and safe public spaces, satisfying the high end retailer, and supporting small-scale, informal commerce, while adhering to the "Chandigarh Edict", continues to confront planners and administrators. Clearly, some critical re-thinking is in order. This paper is based on an academic exercise undertaken by the author in 2011. Taking the particular case of 'Sector 15', the objective was to understand the nature and causes of various transformations of the neighbourhood markets of Chandigarh, and, to explore pragmatic design possibilities of creating a stimulating and comfortable urban centre which, while respecting the intent, spirit and framework of the original urban concept, would give due credence to the present-day needs of its multiple sets of stakeholders.

Page(s) 105–125
ISSN Print : 2321-3892, Online : 2321-7154
DOI 10.15415/cs.2014.21006

Cities evolve over time, and even an iconic planned city like Chandigarh is subject to constant transformation. The neighbourhood markets have leaped beyond their boundaries in terms of their clientele reach, people’s perception and its original design. Since change is bound to happen, it would be more advisable to address the issues and work towards an acceptable contemporary solution. Informal markets, or hawkers and peddlers, are very much a part of the Indian market culture, and cannot be wished away through ‘visionary’ policies of a ‘City beautiful’ – the tag attached to Chandigarh almost since its inception. Accepting their existence and making allowances for their needs in the design solution may well be the answer

A comfortable and stimulating public realm requires detailed attention to the structure of a space and the elements within it. This involves hard and soft surfaces; appropriate planting; surfaces for pedestrians and surfaces for vehicles. Issues such as security, public art, street furniture, lighting and signage should also be considered at the same time. Attention to these details in the form of design and policies for future follow up will work towards maintaining the imageability of the street.

Analysis of successful communities increasingly point to a direct and quantifiable relationship between economic success and the quality of the public realm. Carefully designed, well-managed places are not merely a desirable outcome of successful economies; they can also be a significant driver of such success (English Heritage, 2006). A successful market is the one that is succeeds in its economic, environmental and social aspects and can sustain all three over the long term.

The design and re-design of the public realm involves many issues and challenges due to the multiple roles played by various stakeholders, often with conflicting interests. The neighbourhood market of Sector 15 in Chandigarh already has a major foothold in the economic sector and does not need any planning strategies to bolster this. But, working towards a solution that can address the present needs of the users and create a universally accessible, lively, attractive, comfortable and safe environment for all is the need of the hour, and has been (hopefully) addressed by the exercise presented in this paper. Iconic though it is, Chandigarh’s Master Plan is static. What is important is that we do not allow it to distort our cognisance of the developing real-life city.

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