Sustainable Architecture(s) - Humane Cities
Heritage roots, future gaze. The dualistic souls of Ahmedabad
A. Tognon & M. Paisana
5:45 pm - 7:15 pm


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India is a country where the drive for modernization is becoming more urgent every day, and this topic is a central debate in the national political strategies. Moreover, the recent pandemic has highlighted the structural fragilities that an inconsistent and inclusive settlement system has created for cities in India as in every other country in the world. This study reflects the considerations developed in ongoing research in the context of the City of Ahmedabad. Ahmedabad is one of the first 20 Smart Cities in India and is inscribed in the UNESCO Heritage list (2017). The city has an intrinsic myriad of tangible heritage elements testified by its historical built form and monumental architecture, reflecting the succession of eras within its intricately layered past. These are strongly associated with the city’s intangible memory comprising its identity, culture, traditions, and its resident communities’ everyday life dynamically. Recent decades have revealed the city’s vulnerability towards the pressures of rapid urbanization. This status is substantiated by the phenomena of depopulation and abandonment of inner-city spaces resulting from migratory flows, overcrowding, lack of resources, and the need for economic growth and modernization. This study aims to understand how the race for modernization on the one hand and the need to understand and safeguard the heritage of a city that witnesses history must be included in the contemporary debate in India. In particular, we want to reflect on what tactics and strategies of participatory planning can be defined in a place like Ahmedabad, a city dense with an urban and social heritage that needs holistic interpretations and new inclusive visions, in order to comprehend how the current condition and our cultural past could coexist in this emerging future.


Prof. Alisia Tognon – Alisia is an Italian Postdoc Researcher and Adjunct Professor at Politecnico di Milano, where from 2009 she is working in collaboration with, partaking in international and national research projects, workshops and conferences. She has constantly conducted extensive research on the enhancement of architectural and historic heritage. In particular her research consists of design strategies, where the cultural identity plays a determinant role.  Her researchers are oriented to understand the role that memory takes into modification and transformation processes, the strong importance of intangible heritage in the contemporary age and the significance of vernacular architecture (case studies: Africa, India). At Politecnico she was awarded her doctorate with honours in Architectural and Urban Design (2016) during the course of which she was a visiting Ph.D. student at the University of California – Berkeley (USA, 2013) and Oxford Brookes University (UK, 2014).  She has also acquired specialized skills in restoration and valorisation of architectural heritage and urban landscapeI holding a Postmaster degree in “Architectural and Landscape Heritage” at Politecnico di Milano (2011). In 2019 she won a Research and Teaching fellow position at Cept University (Ahmedabad, India), where she has been teaching in the Urban Regeneration Studio, choosing the Ahmedabad as case study. Prof. Mariana Paisana Felix – Mariana is an architect from Portugal with an undergraduate degree in Architecture from the University of Lisbon, and a Master in Urban Design from Harvard Graduate School of Design. She worked in India, USA and Portugal focusing on projects of urban rehabilitation and public space requalification. ‘Rés do Chão’, a project she co-created in Lisbon, develops strategies to rehabilitate and activate ground floor and public spaces, strengthening local economies and neighborhood relations. In continuation with these topics, her master thesis looked at markets on public space and their temporal dimension. In 2019 she won a Research and Teaching fellow position at Cept University (Ahmedabad, India), where she is still teaching as a Visiting Faculty. Currently she is also involved in architectural project between Portugal and India.