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Living in Ahmedabad in the ’90s as a student of design, I was often outdoors—sketching, photographing or observing life at Teen Darwaza, Rani no Hajiro, the pols or the Sunday Market on the banks of the Sabarmati river. While the city seeped into me through those years, I returned to it after 12 more to find that I could not put together the familiar pieces of that beloved old map. Imagine then, my pleasure at receiving this slim book that took me on 12 walks through Ahmedabad, discovering heretofore unseen pearls and rediscovering the old hat.
Mapin’s A Walking Tour: Ahmedabad by Matthijs van Oostrum and Gregory Bracken lists walks that are categorised into broad, interconnected areas, quite literally walking you through the city’s stories through its buildings, spaces and monuments. Short write-ups on the sweep of architectural styles to be found in Ahmedabad, its history, a summary of Gandhi’s association with the city, and crisp, practical advice on getting around lend a rounded comprehensiveness to this book.
While there is a sprinkling of delicate sketches in every section, I dearly wished for sketches of some elements of architecture (how does a buttress or a jharoka look?). Perhaps these features could have been pointed out if the sketches had been captioned. Readers unfamiliar with the glossary may be left wondering if they are looking at a sketch of a chabutara or a chowk. There is no mention that Gautam Sarabhai—the mathematician who designed the Calico Dome that is no longer extant (look under Kavi Dalpatram Chowk), and B.M.Institute of Mental Health—was the designer of the NID building along with his sister Gira Sarabhai, who had trained in the offices of Frank Lloyd Wright. The outdoors-indoors links and horizontal spread of the building that houses India’s first design institute is clearly influenced by the architecture of Wright, who had also been invited to design a building for the Sarabhais in Ahmedabad. Sadly, that was a miss for the city that treasures buildings by some of the greatest Modernists simultaneously with gems dating as far back as the Solanki period. This book will lead you to them.
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