Exhibition City Excavations
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]