The New XXI Century Urbanism in Developing Countries. Case Study: India. Part II of II

Alfredo Munoz


Among the motors of urban generation, large scale infrastructures and architecture, we can include the following:

–       Slums regeneration (slum areas) in large cities primarily for residential use.

–       Creation of areas of special taxation for mixed uses, called SEZ (Special Economic Zones)

–       Government grants to the private sector through BOT systems (Build, Operate, Transfer)

The first one occurs in large cities Tier 1, especially in Mumbai and consists of a program of regeneration of large slum areas near downtown. Due to the scale of these interventions, they are divided in micro sectors with public regulation that later are developed by the private sector. Dharavi, in Mumbai, is one of the best examples of this typology which presents a deep social involvement and a big urban and infrastructural impact on dense Indian cities.

The second one occurs in cities from Tiers 2 and 3, where there are large free undeveloped areas in the outskirts of historic cities. Through the so-called SEZ they allow the creation of closed complexes with large fiscal advantages to develop the productive sector, mainly technology services and biotechnology. Around those production complexes (Processing zones) they allow the urbanization of areas complementary to this main “infrastructure”, setting up what is called a non-processing zone consisting of residential areas, tertiary, commercial, etc.

The minimum parcel size to be considered for a SEZ depends on the associate main use (Processing zone), but usually is between 10 and 100 hectares. Currently there are more than 600 SEZ under construction in India, distributed mainly in the largest cities from Tier 2 and 3, which gives a good idea of the huge developing activity taking place in India with this system of colonizing undeveloped space.

Finally, the third engine of development is the creation of infrastructures by the private sector through grants to operate and exploit them for a certain period of time. This system is being used for the development of hard infrastructures like roads, airports, stations, desalinization plants, power plants, etc. but also for soft infrastructures like hospitals or universities.

Given these three new urban grid growth models, we find a completely new model from the typological point of view.

Summarizing urban evolution through History, we find three types of growth:

–       Centrifugal growth. Corresponds to typical patterns of growth of the traditional European city, where urban expansion happens in a more or less radial form, around a predetermined center or downtown.

–       Isotropic growth. Corresponds to patterns of growth used in America and especially in Japan, where there are many centers of equally important that are joined by major infrastructure and green areas, establishing an isotopic network connecting urban nodes.

–       Quantum growth. Corresponds to the new patterns of growth in India and other developing countries, where the nodes are the infrastructures themselves (SEZ, airports, etc) and such points are connected arbitrarily or even are kept separated from the big city networks, due to the lack of overall planning, the financial pressure, and the speed of execution of such nodes. This new typology offers a disjointed network of micro-autonomous cities. The aforementioned separation between governmental regulation and private sector pressure is one of the main causes of this new typology which emphasizes the concept of “non-places” or “free denomination” mentioned at the beginning of this text.

The detailed study of this new type of settlement typical of emerging countries and specifically of India is interesting and offers opportunities to identify a new model of city.

Latino culture has historically had a decisive importance in the settlement of urban patterns at a global level. From urban growth patterns of the Roman Empire, through the renaissance and baroque ideals, or the strong influence of garden cities and grid cities of the 19th Century, the ideas of Latino planning have been always considered revolutionary and have been exported all over the world due their quality and theoretical and practical depth.

Today, we present a new pattern of growth in emerging countries like India which has completely new features and has not yet achieved a precise and accurate model to satisfy all the needs that arise. The opportunity to define in detail those needs, along with the new forms of growth, will give us the chance to apply the historical experience of Latino urban theories in a global context to provide a great added value to 21st century planning in emerging countries. Is in the hands of architects to meet this important need of today…