Gurugram, one of India’s largest information technology, financial, and banking hubs, is also home to the Garhi Lohar community. The Garhi Lohar’s, primarily from Rajasthan, started migrating to Delhi NCR in search of better livelihood a few decades ago. However, with time, the community began settling in small pockets of Gurugram, eventually occupying a 25-acre open lot across sector 56, near Golf Course Road, around 15 years ago. The community, particularly the women, began selling rejected, artistic and inexpensive export handicrafts which attract millions of buyers from Delhi NCR, other states, and even foreign nations every year. Since then, the community and their settlement, popularly recognised and landmarked as the Banjara market, has become one of the most popular attractions of the city with the support of social media and interested millennials. However, due to the community’s encroached nature of the occupancy of land, the local authorities have repeatedly attempted to displace and demolish their gentrified settlement. This has led to the community becoming an underprivileged group deprived of development and municipal infrastructure. Nevertheless, the community’s resilience and the high demand from customers, help them bounce back up soon after displacement occurs. Over time, the popularity of the community has allowed them to expand their roots deeper into the city and sustain themselves regardless of the torments and challenges faced by them regularly.
Besides the popular marketplace that contributes to the overall identity of the city, the community also contributes to the smooth running of nearby residential and commercial areas by providing housekeeping staff, workers, cleaners etc. The community children who are engaged in schooling aided by a few NGO’s are also part of the overall development of the city’s literacy and employment rate. The recurring displacement of this community’s settlement leads to discontinuity in the chain of relationships, disrupting the spatial ecology of the place.
The project is a take on the dilemmas that this community undergoes. It tries to create a stable platform for the Garhi Lohar’s commercial activities and education, in the hope of preserving the community’s cultural essence. A model framework has been imagined for the community to sustain itself in the highly urbanised city of Gurugram. The ultimate aim of the project is to serve as an urban space conservatory, preserving the spatial ecology that has developed naturally over time between the Banjara market, sector 56 markets, and the people it serves. The objective is also to encourage the city’s various strata to coexist without displacing any of them, bridging the gaps between the Banjara’s, millennials and the permanent residents of Gurugram, while attempting to highlight the community’s contribution to Gurugram’s identity and development.
The project is an adaptation of a defunct mall structure constructed in the early 2010s, built in an area of 4000 m.sq., in sector 56, Gurugram. The built structure has been reimagined as a model primarily for the Banjara community in the city. Using the tool of 6 S’s (Brandt, 1994, p.13) namely, site, structure, skin, services, space planning and stuff, the mall has been imagined as a community space, where the Banjara community gets the platform to set up a marketplace and also engage with the multiple community spaces designed such as training centres, office spaces, public plaza etc. The project allows for a safe environment to exist for their children as well, to pursue education on the upper floors. It attracts locals to enhance their skills at training centres while allowing local startups and farmers to grow and sell organic food for the people of the city. It also provides multipurpose halls in the basement where allocated areas can be leased for exhibitions and events. These programs have been integrated with the multiplex which was planned in the mall at the time of its inception. The multiplex and the designed programs coexist and feed into each others success and running by allowing the multiple ecologies to function as one.
The design strategy was to first increase footfall around the building by introducing pauses and activities that would allow people to engage with and penetrate the edges of the site. The reimagined Banjara market has been designed keeping in mind the seemingly chaotic, yet highly organised typology of settlement in which the community thrived and sustained itself while maintaining a healthy relationship with their neighbours. This has been done by introducing an incremental marketplace, where the sellers are free to shape their space of commerce while sharing common spaces and boundaries. These ideas form the core ideology for the project to function to its fullest potential leading to a large number of people engaging with the space. As a result, a viable opportunity is provided to the Banjara’s, vendors, and other local people to learn and grow as individuals and as a community.
The project’s ultimate goal is to develop a resilient and profitable model for integrating the underprivileged and gentrified communities within the extremely urban setup of a city like Gurugram. The project’s programs seek to create a sustainable framework wherein each entity contributes significantly to the three E’s, or the three dynamics of sustainable communities (Barbier, 1987) namely economy, ecology, and equity. The model aims to create a larger chain effect in which the Banjara community can contribute to the development of the city’s culture, infrastructure, social construct and larger identity. The project eventually becomes an integral part of the urban city, serving as an urban space conservatory without displacing or crushing the city’s poor.
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- Bhatia, Shubham. Living on the Edge. The Patriot. 2019.
- Das, Tina. The 15-year-old Banjara market that could become the new Kathputli Colony of Gurugram. The Print. 2021.
- Barbier, Edward B. The Concept of Sustainable Economic Development. International Institute for Environment and Development. London, UK. 1987.