Ex­hi­bi­tion City Ex­ca­va­tions

Domus - - CONTENTS - Text by Robert Stephens

Ahmed­abad Walls A lit­er­ary-vis­ual sur­vey of a city

The ex­hi­bi­tion Ahmed­abad Walls is a cir­cum­am­bu­la­tion of the Old City through 12 colour ae­rial pho­tographs. In­ter­wo­ven be­tween lay­ers of ur­ban im­agery is Scot­tish poly­math Patrick Ged­des’ Notes on Ahmed­abad from 1915, a pas­sion­ate — al­beit un­suc­cess­ful — de­fence in favour of re­tain­ing Ahmed­abad’s 15th-Cen­tury Walls.

Ahmed­abad Walls is a synop­tic over­view, a lit­er­ary-vis­ual sur­vey of the City Walls from 1411 to 2018. De­scrip­tive archival texts (on tac­tile dis­play) re­count six cen­turies of first-hand im­pres­sions of the ur­ban for­ti­fi­ca­tions, re­flect­ing shift­ing values, pri­or­i­ties, and ad­min­is­tra­tive lead­er­ship. Vis­ual rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the City Walls range from a 16thCen­tury Mughal minia­ture to an early 20th-Cen­tury large-scale tech­ni­cal sur­vey, to mid-20th Cen­tury smallscale tourist guide maps — all of which il­lus­trate the foun­da­tional role of the City Walls in shap­ing Ahmed­abad’s ur­ban and so­cial form. Cen­tral to the his­tor­i­cal sur­vey is Scot­tish poly­math Patrick Ged­des’ three-day cir­cum­am­bu­la­tion in April 1915, and his sub­se­quent town plan­ning re­port ti­tled “Note on Ahmed­abad by Pro­fes­sor Patrick Ged­des.” In re­sponse to a for­mal com­mis­sion by the Gov­ern­ment of Bom­bay, Ged­des’ ob­ser­va­tions and town-plan­ning ad­vice fo­cus on the ques­tion of the City Walls, whether to de­mol­ish or re­tain. Co­a­lesced with the poly­math’s re­port are con­tem­po­rary ae­rial pho­tographs which fol­low his foot­steps around the City Walls, por­tion by por­tion, gate by gate. Although sep­a­rated by 100 years, ur­ban im­agery pro­vides a macro-vis­ual con­text for the de­tails and ideals which Ged­des elu­ci­dates in his early 20th Cen­tury writ­ten re­port. As a for­mat, the ex­hi­bi­tion is a sur­vey of Ahmed­abad’s City Walls, an ex­pres­sion of a con­cept that Ged­des spent much of his life cham­pi­oning — sur­vey be­fore di­ag­no­sis. Ahmed­abad Walls is an aca­demic and artis­tic con­tri­bu­tion to In­dia’s first UN­ESCO World Her­itage City, which lacks a com­pre­hen­sive man­age­ment plan for the Sul­tanate-era for­ti­fi­ca­tions.

This page, top: The City of Amad­abath, a ro­man­tic en­grav­ing heav­ily in­flu­enced by Eu­ro­pean im­agery, is likely the work of an artist who never ac­tu­ally vis­ited Ahmed­abad; 1704, Anony­mous Right: A stu­dio por­trait of Patrick Ged­des with his plan­ning as­sis­tant in Cen­tral In­dia. Ged­des was 60 years old when he first vis­ited In­dia in 1914; Circa 1919 [Cour­tesy: Ar­chives and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions, Uni­ver­sity of Strath­clyde Li­brary] Op­po­site page: Proof copy of the Note on Ahmed­abad, with an­no­tated cor­rec­tions by Patrick Ged­des; July 1915 [Cour­tesy: Ma­ha­rash­tra State Ar­chives, Gen­eral De­part­ment 1005, 1916, S.M 157-169]

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