Neighbourhood Study

Work is in progress on a study of Lakshmi Chowk and adjoining havelis, an area close to the dargah (tomb) of the Sufi saint Khwaja Muin-ud-Din Chisti.

The historic centre of Ajmer acts as both pilgrimage destination and city centre. However, despite certain infrastructural upgrades, its narrow streets are challenged to accommodate the constant and increasing movement of vehicular, pedestrian and animal traffic. The issues at hand are hugely complex: the historical and intangible cultural significances overlay religions and generations all occupying the same physical space at the same time. Communication is a key concern for those working to improve infrastructural and civic features whilst compelled to respect traditions and both tangible and intangible heritage. A recent example of the kind of problem at stake was the installation of subterranean power lines, which ultimately failed because they terminate at thresholds in the street before reaching end users. Events and ritual calendars may collide with daily routines or extreme weather events. The question of how to better map or delineate these complex interactions becomes a key pre-requisite of successful future conservation planning.

The project aims to develop methods for enhancing interaction between occupants, developers and planners in a city that has almost no accurate maps. This aim to develop community participation in conservation management has a significant legacy in both theory and practice. Here rapid prototype models, both physical and digital are used to record participant contributions, oral histories and over-layered timetables. The aim to transcribe these to a 3D model for public consultation is tested in the context of a small 'Chowk' or public node in the city. The extent of the space leads from a crowded road intersection surrounded with shops and businesses, through courtyards of an adjoining nineteenth century 'Haveli' or courtyard house and beyond that to its private shrine. Using ethnographic methods to collect data and architectural conventions to model and map it, the experimental project is a collaborative one involving students of SPA Bhopal. It aims to develop a prototype for recording the motion of events on a map, while the less obvious static occupations and memories of individuals are sourced and then attached to an interactive model based on a 3d Laser Scan.