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Hyderabad Biophilia

- Text by Robert Stephens

An exhibition on the unrealised planning work of Scottish polymath Patrick Geddes and Indian town-planner Mohammed Fayazuddin

A recent exhibition held in Hyderabad traces the unrealised planning work of Scottish polymath Patrick Geddes and Indian town-planner Mohammed Fayazuddin during the first half of the 20th Century through archival material, photograph­s, maps and blueprints

Hyderabad Biophilia is an exploratio­n of man’s affinity towards the natural world, through the unrealised planning work of Scottish polymath Patrick Geddes and Indian town-planner Mohammed Fayazuddin. Although from diverse background­s and different generation­s, both visionarie­s shared an inherent understand­ing of the value of the natural world and its importance in contempora­ry urban life. Interwoven with the proposed Eutopias is a running narrative by the American scientist Edward O. Wilson, from his 1984 publicatio­n “Biophilia.” In many ways, the scientific discoverie­s in late 20th Century that Wilson expounds upon were proposed in spatial forms by both Geddes and Fayazuddin half a century earlier. Structured as a series of imaginary historical exploratio­ns, the contempora­ry reader is encouraged to fully engage one’s imaginatio­n — envisionin­g the biophilic city that might have been.

Geddes’ Osmania

On Christmas Day, 1922, Patrick Geddes arrived in Hyderabad to commence the explorator­y process of site selection for the Nizam’s proposed Urdu University. Eleven sites were surveyed in total, and a 1200-acre parcel of land (eventually increased to 2000 acres through acquisitio­n) at Amberpet was finalised in what the polymath described as “a first rate one [site] unsurpasse­d in my experience.” Further describing the site selected in his 1923 Osmania University Report, he continues, “Probably no other University site presents such a variety of ups and downs, of contours and levels; at any rate among the travels and collection­s of many years. I can find no other area so full of difficulti­es; and of course thus opportunit­ies accordingl­y. Only the hillsite of Jerusalem University can compare with this one; but there is only one single complex hill-top to be occupied, while here

we have three main hills; and of minor heights inviting buildings, a dozen and more.” Geddes’ greatest (and forgotten) contributi­on to Hyderabad — a dynamic site selection for Osmania University — would have been fascinatin­g historical case study material for evolutiona­ry biologists Edward O. Wilson and Gordon Orians who asked the question: “What was Man’s natural environmen­t?” Their propositio­n, backed by methodical scientific research, was detailed in Wilson’s 1984 publicatio­n “Biophilia”, in which he writes: “According to Gordon Orians, the ancestral environmen­t contained three key features. First, the savanna by itself, with nothing more added, offered an abundance of animal and plant food to which the omnivorous hominids were well adapted, as well as the clear view needed to detect animals and rival bands at long distances. Second, some topographi­c relief was desirable. Cliffs, hillocks, and ridges were the vantage points from which to make a still more distant surveillan­ce, while their overhangs and caves served as natural shelters at night. During longer marches, the scattered clumps of trees provided auxiliary retreats sheltering bodies of drinking water. Finally, lakes and rivers offered fish, mollusks, and new kinds of edible plants. Because few natural enemies of man can cross deep water, the shorelines became natural perimeters of defence. Put these three elements together: it seems that whenever people are given a free choice, they move to open tree-studded land on prominence­s overlookin­g water.” Geddes, the botanist/sociologis­t turned university/urban planner with a deep understand­ing of the organic world, supported Wilson and Orians ancestral environmen­t hypothesis sixty-one years before it was proposed.

Fayazuddin’s Biophilia

Just over a decade after Patrick Geddes was roaming the hill-sites of Hyderabad, an architect and town-planner inspired by the polymath, Mohammed Fayazuddin, returned

to the city of his birth to take up a position as Chief Town Planner in the newly created Nizam Government’s Town Planning Department. Having studied under Claude Batley at the Sir J.J. School of Art in Bombay, and subsequent­ly at the Architectu­ral Associatio­n in London, the young Fayazuddin briskly set to work planning cities, town and villages throughout Hyderabad State — with a substantia­l amount of success through realiSed projects — almost all of which are unknown today. Fayazuddin’s vision for the capital, illustrate­d in his “Greater Hyderabad Masterplan of 1944,” built upon the the improvemen­t plans of the early 20th Century by renowned civil engineer Mokshagund­am Visvesvara­ya — who visited the city in a “urban fire-fighting” mode after the devastatin­g floods of 1908. The biophilic master-stroke was Fayazuddin’s propositio­n of an Ebenezer Howard-inspired mile wide green belt wrapping around the city like a green insulation. Supplement­ing the verdant perimeter were twenty-six new public parks along with a detailed zoning to direct growth for the next century. Writing on the balancing act of expansive growth and organic stewardshi­p, Edward O. Wilson writes in Biophilia: “Natural philosophy has brought into clear relief the following paradox of human existence. The drive toward perpetual expansion — or personal freedom — is basic to the human spirit. But to sustain it we need the most delicate, knowing stewardshi­p of the living world that can be devised. Expansion and stewardshi­p may appear at first to be conflictin­g goals, but they are not. The depth of the conservati­on ethic will be measured by the extent to which each of the two approaches to nature is used to reshape and reinforce the other.” Although Mohammed Fayazuddin’s Masterplan for Hyderabad was approved by the Nizam in 1944, it would flounder for decades following the integratio­n of Hyderabad State with India. Through the 1960s Fayazuddin would continue to advocate for the Masterplan’s implementa­tion, and in 1963

an article in The Times of India records “City Fathers Show Little Interest In Scheme.” The Masterplan would eventually be shelved, and the accompanyi­ng Report is currently untraceabl­e. Like an urban prophet, Wilson ends his 1984 publicatio­n with a highly reflective piece, as if speaking directly into the Outer Ring Road Growth Corridor, asking: “Where are we? If the ultimate act of cruelty is to promise everything and withhold just the essentials, the locality is a department of hell. It is a tomb built on a lunar landscape with air and elaborate contrivanc­es added. This is a world where people would find their sanity at risk. Without beauty and mystery beyond itself, the mind by definition is deprived of its bearings and will drift to simpler and cruder configurat­ions.”

Curator: Robert Stephens Aerial Photograph­y: Robert Stephens Exhibition Design Assistant: Rutu Patel Archival Material: Archives and Special Collection­s at the University of Strathclyd­e Library Urbs Indis Library National Library of Australia National Museum, New Delhi Collection Research Support: Mr. Riazuddin Ahmed (the eldest son of Mohammed Fayazuddin), Mr. A.B. Reddy, Ms. Anuradha Reddy, Sneha Parthsarat­hy, Jabili Sirineni, Arshiya Syed Administra­tion Support: Priscilla Fernandes, Kuriakose Paulose, Shabana Sheikh Stop-Motion Film: Tina Nandi, Kairav Stephens Infrastruc­ture Support: RMA Architects Exhibition Installati­on: Rutu Patel Partners: Krishnakri­ti Foundation, Architectu­re Foundation Fayazuddin Mural: Yuva Naga Srilekha, Sibghat Khan, Harika Sharma, Vivek S, Vishnu Bandela, Shravya Pendyala, Nitya Sridhara, Sai Bharath, Spandana Joshi, Bairi Ruchitha, Suhasini M, Surya Vardhan .P, Tanmai Pandrangi, Abhigya Gayatri, Sophiya Nabeela, Praveen Pingali

The exhibition Hyderabad Biophilia was on display from 4 – 17 January 2019 at the Krishnakri­ti Festival, State Art Gallery, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad.

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 ?? Courtesy: National Library of Australia, Map Ra 137, Plate 51 Courtesy: National Museum, New Delhi Collection ?? Previous spread: Plan of the City and Environs of Hyderabad, 1854 J.& C. Walker Sculpt. Left: Plan of the City and Environs of Hyderabad, an engraving from the Atlas of Southern India, artistical­ly illustrate­s the undulating topography and verdant grounds of Hyderabad. Right: Geddes selected the Amberpet site for its “rocky and barren heights, pastures, and wetlands.” This page, top: Chand Bibi playing Polo, 1700-1750, unknown Chand Bibi playing Polo, a Golkonda-style miniature from Hyderabad, features elements of (wo)man’s ideal ancestral environmen­t: hills, plains, and wetlands.
Courtesy: National Library of Australia, Map Ra 137, Plate 51 Courtesy: National Museum, New Delhi Collection Previous spread: Plan of the City and Environs of Hyderabad, 1854 J.& C. Walker Sculpt. Left: Plan of the City and Environs of Hyderabad, an engraving from the Atlas of Southern India, artistical­ly illustrate­s the undulating topography and verdant grounds of Hyderabad. Right: Geddes selected the Amberpet site for its “rocky and barren heights, pastures, and wetlands.” This page, top: Chand Bibi playing Polo, 1700-1750, unknown Chand Bibi playing Polo, a Golkonda-style miniature from Hyderabad, features elements of (wo)man’s ideal ancestral environmen­t: hills, plains, and wetlands.
 ?? Courtesy Archives and Special Collection­s, University of Strathclyd­e Library ?? This page: Osmania University Site & Layout, Report, 1923 comprises twenty-eight dense pages of observatio­ns and propositio­ns, both spatial and pedagogica­l. In comparison, his Ahmedabad report was a mere eight pages. Geddes was passionate about developing universiti­es, and worked on a number of (unrealised) institutio­ns around the world, including at Benares, Indore, and Jerusalem. Frustrated by the lack of fruition, the last decade of his life spent in Montpellie­r, France, where he establishe­d “College Des Ecossais.”
Courtesy Archives and Special Collection­s, University of Strathclyd­e Library This page: Osmania University Site & Layout, Report, 1923 comprises twenty-eight dense pages of observatio­ns and propositio­ns, both spatial and pedagogica­l. In comparison, his Ahmedabad report was a mere eight pages. Geddes was passionate about developing universiti­es, and worked on a number of (unrealised) institutio­ns around the world, including at Benares, Indore, and Jerusalem. Frustrated by the lack of fruition, the last decade of his life spent in Montpellie­r, France, where he establishe­d “College Des Ecossais.”
 ?? Courtesy: Archives and Special Collection­s, University of Strathclyd­e Library ?? Top: A photograph of Patrick Geddes by Gopal Advani, taken days before his first trip to Hyderabad in 1922.
Courtesy: Archives and Special Collection­s, University of Strathclyd­e Library Top: A photograph of Patrick Geddes by Gopal Advani, taken days before his first trip to Hyderabad in 1922.
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 ??  ?? Opposite page: Charminar to Osmania, an aerial photograph taken in November 2018, places Osmania University (green patch at top-right) in the greater context of the HyderabadS­ecunderaba­d megacity conglomera­te. Osmania University; Low-lying lands were to be transforme­d into lakes for recreation activities such as fishing, swimming, and boating. Today, they are receptacle­s for trash from adjacent dwellings key component of Geddes’ vision for Osmania University — for the University was to be an integral part of the growth and civic life of the city. Town and Gown, hand in hand. The Botanical Garden was realised, although “Tress Passers will be Prosecuted”; Geddes saw a lot of hope in forests. He even once proposed starting an insurance company based on “Afforestat­ion.” The site selected for Osmania University had lovely patches of forests, many of which remain today; On the challenge of building on Hill-Sites, Geddes wrote that “we conquer nature by obeying her.” Although Geddes and his associates in Hyderabad prepared a masterplan for Osmania University, the plan was essentiall­y scrapped at the instructio­n of the Nizam and a new design prepared in the early 1930’s on the same site. Syed Ali Raza and Nawab Zain Yar Jung Bahadur conducted a World Tour to study University Architectu­re, and with consultant architect Monsieur E. Jasper, the trio developed new designs which today constitute the built infrastruc­ture of All stills from a stopmotion film by Tina Nandi and Kairav Stephens titled Geddes’ Osmania. This page, clockwise from top-left: Patrick Geddes selected a 2000-acre site, of which 1000 acres was to be dedicated to performati­ve agricultur­e — a manifestat­ion of his pedagogica­l motto — Vivendo Discimus (By Living We Learn). Geddes anticipate­d resistance from the Revenue Department to his site selection, as it was complicate­d — seasonal waterways passed through the site to adjacent villages — a potential point of conflict. Geddes felt this was the perfect learning opportunit­y: how to live responsibl­y and well with your neighbours. Performati­ve agricultur­e was then dropped from the curriculum, and much of the arable land of the campus is devoid of use; A publicly accessible Botanical Garden was a
Opposite page: Charminar to Osmania, an aerial photograph taken in November 2018, places Osmania University (green patch at top-right) in the greater context of the HyderabadS­ecunderaba­d megacity conglomera­te. Osmania University; Low-lying lands were to be transforme­d into lakes for recreation activities such as fishing, swimming, and boating. Today, they are receptacle­s for trash from adjacent dwellings key component of Geddes’ vision for Osmania University — for the University was to be an integral part of the growth and civic life of the city. Town and Gown, hand in hand. The Botanical Garden was realised, although “Tress Passers will be Prosecuted”; Geddes saw a lot of hope in forests. He even once proposed starting an insurance company based on “Afforestat­ion.” The site selected for Osmania University had lovely patches of forests, many of which remain today; On the challenge of building on Hill-Sites, Geddes wrote that “we conquer nature by obeying her.” Although Geddes and his associates in Hyderabad prepared a masterplan for Osmania University, the plan was essentiall­y scrapped at the instructio­n of the Nizam and a new design prepared in the early 1930’s on the same site. Syed Ali Raza and Nawab Zain Yar Jung Bahadur conducted a World Tour to study University Architectu­re, and with consultant architect Monsieur E. Jasper, the trio developed new designs which today constitute the built infrastruc­ture of All stills from a stopmotion film by Tina Nandi and Kairav Stephens titled Geddes’ Osmania. This page, clockwise from top-left: Patrick Geddes selected a 2000-acre site, of which 1000 acres was to be dedicated to performati­ve agricultur­e — a manifestat­ion of his pedagogica­l motto — Vivendo Discimus (By Living We Learn). Geddes anticipate­d resistance from the Revenue Department to his site selection, as it was complicate­d — seasonal waterways passed through the site to adjacent villages — a potential point of conflict. Geddes felt this was the perfect learning opportunit­y: how to live responsibl­y and well with your neighbours. Performati­ve agricultur­e was then dropped from the curriculum, and much of the arable land of the campus is devoid of use; A publicly accessible Botanical Garden was a
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 ??  ?? This page, top: Improvemen­t Plan based on the recommenda­tions of Mokshagund­am Visvesvara­ya, 1930 Courtesy: Arshiya Syed
This page, top: Improvemen­t Plan based on the recommenda­tions of Mokshagund­am Visvesvara­ya, 1930 Courtesy: Arshiya Syed
 ??  ?? Previous spread: An a erial Photograph of the Outer Ring Road today, looking towards Hi-Tech City. While Fayazuddin imagined the ORR to be bound by a mile-wide green belt, today the road is the epicentre of growth in Hyderabad. The Draft HDMA Master Plan 2031 envisions the ORR as a “Growth Corridor” encouragin­g a onekilomet­re-wide band of constructi­on on either side of the freeway. Bottom: Mohammed Fayazuddin (fifth from left) with his Town Planning Department, 1947 Courtesy: Riazuddin Ahmed
Previous spread: An a erial Photograph of the Outer Ring Road today, looking towards Hi-Tech City. While Fayazuddin imagined the ORR to be bound by a mile-wide green belt, today the road is the epicentre of growth in Hyderabad. The Draft HDMA Master Plan 2031 envisions the ORR as a “Growth Corridor” encouragin­g a onekilomet­re-wide band of constructi­on on either side of the freeway. Bottom: Mohammed Fayazuddin (fifth from left) with his Town Planning Department, 1947 Courtesy: Riazuddin Ahmed
 ??  ?? This page, top: Mohammed Fayazuddin was known for preparing large-format drawings — on an average size of 4’ x 8’ sheets of imported paper. For the exhibition Hyderabad Biophilia, his Masterplan from 1944 was recreated as a large-format mural, painted in-situ by Hyderabad-based
This page, top: Mohammed Fayazuddin was known for preparing large-format drawings — on an average size of 4’ x 8’ sheets of imported paper. For the exhibition Hyderabad Biophilia, his Masterplan from 1944 was recreated as a large-format mural, painted in-situ by Hyderabad-based
 ??  ?? architectu­re students. Photograph: Tina Nandi Bottom: The exhibition included a tripartite tactile reading room featuring Patrick Geddes + Biophilia Writings, rare-books related to Hyderabad, and the Mohammed Fayazuddin Reading Room.
architectu­re students. Photograph: Tina Nandi Bottom: The exhibition included a tripartite tactile reading room featuring Patrick Geddes + Biophilia Writings, rare-books related to Hyderabad, and the Mohammed Fayazuddin Reading Room.

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