The GSFC Township Vadodara India

The Indian government has a policy of decentralizing industries. To attract workers to locations outside their home states, townships have to be built to house them at subsidized rates in attractive surroundings. There are many such towns in India providing for a wide variety of industry types. State governments have followed suit. The GSFC is one such organization. Its township on the outskirts of Vadodara (formerly Baroda) is one

: an industrial township (1964-9)

such company town. It is an example of an urban design where the architect has tried to deviate from the standard norms of company town design.

Balkrishna V. Doshi, the architect for the township, in writing about the design for company towns, noted:

In large township projects where the government controls finance, there is a definite

pattern of rules and conditions to be followed in spite of local needs or changes in the cost of materials. The projects usually emphasize the size and area of rooms rather than living concepts ... As a result housing in India has always remained a package of boxes and not housing (Doshi cited in Steele, 1998: 50).

Many company town plans in India are just taken directly from government specifications without much additional thought. Often the road hierarchy and widths are given and the number of units of each type of housing unit is specified. This was largely true for the GSFC Township but Doshi strove to meet local requirements and paid special attention to the local climate, local traditions and the adaptability of buildings.

The total area of the township is 140 acres (56 hectares) of which half is allocated to parks and a quarter to circulation. The plan takes the form of a superblock with all vehicular traffic entering the interior of the block from a single-circumferential road (see Figure 7.6a). It is a modified Radburn plan (see Figure 7.18a). A network of pedestrian paths links the residential areas to the heart of the site. At the car-free core of the site are the public facilities: dispensary and hospital, kindergarten, post office, a primary, a middle and a secondary school, and some sports facilities. A water tower is a special design feature giving a point of reference to the core area.

The housing types owe much to contemporary modern architecture in India, Doshi's experiences in working with Le Corbusier, and the antecedents of Le Corbusier's work in that of Tony Garnier. The nature of the types and their location reflects the status and income level of their residents within the company hierarchy (see Steele, 1998). At the upper end of the scale families have houses with private gardens located in quiet enclaves. At the lower end of the hierarchy are flats and 'slotted' row houses (see Figure 7.6b). Their designs respond to the spilling out of daily activities into open areas in a manner typical of Indian life. Doshi paid special attention to the creation of open spaces with nooks and crannies. Balconies provide opportunities for diverse behaviours: sleeping out on charpoys, parking motor scooters, chatting and doing light industrial work. In particular, the territorial hierarchy of transitions from private space to public - from steps to ledges to the small street to the square (chowk) is respected. The township is given a visual unity through the use of concrete combined with thick brick walls.

Doshi, as he freely admits, got some things (such as natural ventilation techniques) wrong in his early work. His later townships (e.g. for the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) Township at Hyderabad, 1968-71 and for Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative (IFFCO) at Kalol 1970-3 and 1976) are more sophisticated but follow the ideas he developed in Vadodara. Other Indian architects have picked up the themes much more recently and with greater detail borrowing patterns from the past in a New Urbanist manner.

Major references

Curtis, William J. R. (1988). Balkrishna Doshi: An Architect for India. New York: Rizzoli International. Doshi, Balkrishna V. (1 982). Housing. Ahmedabad:

Stein, Doshi, Bhalla. Steele, James (1998). The Complete Architecture of Balkrishna Doshi: Rethinking Modernism for the Developing World. London: Thames and Hudson.

Figure 7.7 The Lincoln Center, New York with the Metropolitan Opera in the background in 1993.
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