The Heritage Walk, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Not all heritage walks link iconic monuments nor are they all in the western world. The concern for cultural history is universal. It appears to be especially strong when people see the world around them changing rapidly. The Heritage Walk in Ahmedabad, the major industrial city of the Indian state of Gujarat, was initiated by the Foundation for Conservation and Research of Urban Traditional Architecture (CRUTA). The city, founded by Ahmed Shah in 1411, is rich in historic buildings and places, but the city administration has been unwilling or unable to effectively preserve or exploit them. The city is not on the major tourist circuit ofIndia and many of those who visit are either interested in seeing the Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi or the Modernist architecture of Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn for which the city is renowned.

CRUTA' s goal is to preserve the old, walled city of Ahmedabad sadly often rent by sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslims. The focus of attention in developing the Heritage Walk is not only on the city's major monuments (many Islamic) but also on its pols. Pols are tightly knit, self-contained, cul-de-saced, gated neighbourhoods of caste (and occupation) groups (see Figure 5.8c). The walk begins at the Swaminarayan Mandir in Kalupur and ends at the Jamma Masjid (the City's Friday Mosque; see Figure 5.8b). Along the way, it passes through a series of chowks (squares), linking a number of pols, mosques and temples. It also includes one of the city's outstanding Modernist buildings - the Calico Shop (1962, a shallow domed building designed by Gautam and Gira Sarabhai who had worked for Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesen) - and the Fernandez Bridge, an overpass from which the street-life of the city can be seen below.


Figure 5.8 The Heritage Walk, Ahmedabad. (a) The route map of the Heritage Walk (dots indicate historical sites/buildings), (b) the Jamma Masjid and (c) a pol.

Figure 5.8 The Heritage Walk, Ahmedabad. (a) The route map of the Heritage Walk (dots indicate historical sites/buildings), (b) the Jamma Masjid and (c) a pol.

Little has actually been designed along the way. What has been designed is the idea of the trail not a physical entity. Whether it should be regarded as urban design is a moot point. The identification and publication of the trail has led to a rise in the number of tourists in the area and encouraged CRUTA to catalogue almost 30,000 buildings deemed worthy of preservation in the old city. Perhaps pride in the trail as a community asset can lead to the healing of the deep scars of mob violence in Ahmedabad. Much depends on the leadership role of the middle class in the city.

Major references

Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (c. 2002). The Heritage Walk of Ahmedabad. Ahmedabad: Danapith.

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